2007-06-28 / About Town

Authority's sale of property to town a good neighbor gesture

By Dotti Farrington

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said last week that he was sorry that his comments in mid- June about delays with a decision on a site for a new highway barn were interpreted by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) as blame for the delays.

Keiser said his comments were meant to detail the time needed to pursue various aspects of barn decision making and his comments to the council were not intended to be blame the authority for the way it was handling its role.

The town has been talking for two decades about choosing a location for a barn to replace a small town garage in disrepair at Fort Wetherill.

David Darlington, chairman of the authority, said June 20 that he was upset that Keiser's comments were reported as blame of RITBA officials for delays in getting information.

Darlington said the town had not used authority offers to conduct special meetings if necessary, as well as other efforts to respond to the town's request. "We could not have done anything else to be more available," he commented.

Darlington also reviewed legal and engineering costs needed to investigate "bogus claims of dumping on the land." The study some months ago disclosed no dumping or existence of pollutants. The town asked for the study after a resident reported improper disposal of paint or chemicals during maintenance of the bridge.

The RITBA chairman said the authority originally priced the land for the town at $125,000 to include all future costs that might be incurred by bridge officials. The town chose to negotiate the terms.

The bridge authority considered a 50 year lease at $5,000 a year and the town countered with a 20 year lease at $7,000 a year. Darlington said both sides had negotiated strongly. He said RITBA was not looking to sell any of its holdings, but considered the town request "as a good neighbor." He said a lease was not in the best interests of the authority.

At its latest meeting, RITBA agreed to sell the land for $97,500, including costs to date, and terms that provide that the town will pay any other legal and engineering costs that might be incurred by RITBA to complete the transfer.

Bridge authorities did not itemize the land, legal and engineering costs. Darlington noted that two appraisals were reviewed, as well as costs. He said RITBA's terms were extensive and included consultation about barn design because the deal would put the town barn so close to the bridge deck. He said the town needs to be aware of such factors as snow and ice removal flinging material onto the barn roof.

Darlington said the town could not expect the bridge authority to take responsibility for such future events and the town would need to design its building to reflect awareness about such factors.

The authority action included a stipulation that the land would revert to RITBA if it were not used.

Involved is 6,000 to 7,000 square feet of land, to be fixed exactly based on barn design coordinated with space for bridge maintenance needs. The land is near Bayview Drive and near the Newport westward bridge abutment. It would be used in conjunction with abutting town property at Taylor Point where the town has its sewer treatment plant.

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