2007-06-14 / Front Page

No decision on highway barn

Real estate issues postpone council discussion
By Tom Shevlin

The status of the town's highway barn project remains unresolved after this week's Town Council meeting.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser acknowledged the high level of frustration over the barn project and Council Vice President Julio DiGiando, who presided over the meeting in the absence of President David Long, apologized to residents for the delay. It was reported that until the council was provided with additional information, no decision could be made.

Keiser offered a two-fold explanation for the town's delay. First, Keiser reported that due to a proposal recently received by the town for the purchase of Lot 47, state law requires the town to issue a general Request for Proposals (RFP). Even if the RFP results in an accepted offer of purchase, it is still subject to the council's decision on the barn location and approval by voters. According to DiGiando, should the council ultimately choose to site the barn at Lot 47, any accepted bid for that property would be voided. Keiser added that the agreement would also be nullified should the Taylor Point location be selected by the council, but rejected in a referendum.

The second reason for the delay also involves a real estate transaction. This time in regard to the town's proposed purchase of property from the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA). According to Keiser, the RITBA board had not yet met to discuss the transaction and a deal had not yet been finalized.

Although no decision on the barn had been made, the town is on track to schedule a referendum as early as late August thanks to the two resolutions submitted to the General Assembly last week by state Representative Bruce Long (R-Jamestown, Middletown).

Long, who attended the meeting, again assured the council that that he and state Senator Teresa Paiva-Weed were committed to ushering the council's resolution through the legislative process by the end of the session, providing "full home rule" to the council once the town's administrative issues are fully addressed.

Long Reports In

At Monday's meeting, Rep. Long addressed the council in the open forum and reported on several legislative efforts including efforts to address coastal residents' problems with homeowners insurance. Long said he has been working with a committee of lawmakers to reduce the rate of non-renewals and cancellations experienced by coastal residents.

According to Long, legislation had been introduced to the House corporations committee to amend existing law to make it harder for insurance companies to engage in non-renewals and cancellations based solely on location. In addition, Long also reported that he had introduced legislation dealing with hurricane risk assessment modeling, which insurers use to determine rates. Long said the legislation would create a state modeling review commission to provide oversight on private risk models and could lead to a broader regional commission and increased cooperation between coastal states. According to Long, the bills are expected to pass the House, and will likely pass the Senate by the end of the legislative session, which is scheduled to wrap up within two weeks.

In other matters, Long reported on a school transportation bill, which would allow smaller vehicles, such as minivans, to be used in the transport of a limited number of students to and from school and provided an update on the town's proposed arts district, which was recently heard in committee. Long reported that although the arts district bill does not currently have the support of the House, it maintains the support of the Senate.

Also in the open forum, several residents voiced their concerns over an array of topics from the highway barn to the littering and illegal traffic at the base of the Jamestown Bridge.

+ Mary Webster of Mount Hope Avenue chastised the council for acting in a "shamefully political," manner for ignoring the consensus of the town's highway workers who expressed support for locating the town's highway barn at the transfer station, in considering the sale of Lot 47 to a private landholder.

+ Bob Dolan of Coronado Street voiced his concern over the challenges faced by the state's homeowner's insurance climate. Dolan cited a Boston Globe article in which it was reported that hurricane predictions were unreliable in determining coastal impact risk assessments.

+ Leo Irava of Riptide Street reported on trash and vehicular problems near the Jamestown Bridge. Keiser responded that he has reached out to DEM, which owns the land in question, for both short and long-term solutions.

+ Raymond Iannetta of North Main Road asked the council to consider additional costs to locating the highway barn at Lot 47, including expenses on work to Summit Avenue should environmental restrictions prohibit access through the landfill; septic system installation; upgrades to the electric system; installation of a dry fire suppression system; and the installation of an oil-separation apparatus.

In other business, the council also approved a proclamation declaring the week of June 17 Jamestown Graduates Week honoring graduates of "every level of achievement," and:

+ Awarded a bid to Donald Powers Architects not to exceed $63,000 for a Zoning Ordinance Update and Design Project Guidelines Project in preparation for the Planning Commission's upcoming downtown charrette workshop in September.

+ Tabled until the next council meeting a bid for Geotechnical Engineering Services for construction of a forty foot tall salt storage building at the wastewater treatment facility house by GZA Environmental for an amount not to exceed $4,500.

+ Approved a request for proclamation by Councilman Bill Kelly honoring Ellicott and Mary Wright and Patrick and Jemma Driscoll for their generous donation for the protection of land at Fox Hill Farm.

+ Presented Awards of Recognition to members of the town's emergency shelter team which took part in a recent emergency management drill. Chief of Police Thomas Tighe presented special awards to Nick Logothets, director of emergency services for the American Red Cross and Deb Tanner, executive director of Seniors Helping Others for their efforts in overseeing the exercise.

Logothets and Tanner presented awards to island volunteers who participated in the Jamestown Emergency Management Agency shelter operations: Mary Berthelot, Kathy Devellis, Shelter Manager Joan Fink, John Fink, Mary Kelly, Lewis Kitts, Joan McCauley, Fred, Samra, and Sarah Pease, David and Michael Robinson, Barbara Szepatowski, Anne Tighe, Chief Thomas Tighe, and Nancy and Richard Ventrone.

Awards of Recognition for the donation of food to volunteers during the drill were also presented to Phyllis Bedard of Trattoria Simpatico, Fred Bingell, of Freddie's House of Pizza, Charles Masso of Chopmist Charlie's, and Joseph Madeiros of the Portuguese American Citizens Club.

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