2007-09-20 / Front Page

Water treatment plant project set to begin

By Tom Shevlin

Improvements to the town's water treatment plant are set to begin early next month, according to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser.

The improvement project, which was part of a 2004 $6.2 million water improvement bond issue, will feature state-of-the-art technology that is expected to operate at 99-percent efficiency. That means the town would lose only 1 percent of the water treated, as opposed to the 15 percent now lost during the treatment process.

The improvements are needed to ensure that the town complies with current water-quality regulations that the existing plant cannot meet.

Construction on the project is expected to take approximately 20 months and will be conducted by environmental engineers Weston and Sampson CMR Inc., of Peabody, Mass.

The North Reservoir was down 44 inches at last check, according to Keiser, who reported in place of Department of Public Works Director Steve Goslee. However, Keiser noted that Goslee, who was away on town business, had based his report on observations taken prior to last week's rainfall.

Should the reservoir continue to drop in excess of 48 inches, the next level of the town's water restrictions will kick in. This includes a prohibition on all commercial and non-commercial car washing.

Commission discusses

permit process

In a round-about discussion focusing on what was described as a "merry-go-round" issue, town councilors debated how to best streamline the town's zoning and water permitting process.

Council President David Long who described the town's current permitting process as a "merrygo round" said he wanted to give applicants a clear place to start the application process.

Just where to begin proved difficult for councilors. According to Keiser, Town Zoning Official Fred Brown had indicated that the process should start with water and sewer commission approval prior to moving on to the zoning board. Keiser said that per regulation, applicants must first secure access to water and sewer usage before zoning review can begin.

"To me, it should start at water and sewer," Keiser said.

Councilman Michael Schnack offered a different opinion. Schnack posed that anyone within the jurisdiction of the town water system technically has access to town water. Further, Schnack said that because the design process often undergoes changes due to zoning considerations, water and sewer commissioners could not be assured of the application's final water use.

"Until they go through the [zoning] process, how are we supposed to determine whether they can have approval?" Schnack asked.

Councilor DiGiando acknowledged both sides and expressed his desire to help reduce the consultative cost of development for island residents by streamlining the permit process, but suggested that the issue be tabled until more information could be presented.

Councilors agreed that the matter needed to be further discussed with town zoning, building, and legal staff. It is scheduled to be taken up at the next meeting of the commission in October.

Town rejects Christian

programming request

Town Councilors unanimously rejected a request from a Providence based non-profit center that was seeking approval from the town council to install a radio transmitter on top of one of the town's water towers.

The Mother of Life Center, a private 501(C)3 pro-life counseling and assistance center for pregnant women and girls operating under the teachings of the Catholic Church, submitted correspondence to the council notifying the town of their request in July. On Monday, their request was denied.

The Mother of Life Center had hoped to begin broadcasting non-commercial Christian programming on FM frequency 88.7. However, according to Council President David Long, the nature of the organization and its programming was a matter of concern.

"I don't think it would be appropriate for the town to enter into this agreement because of its religious affiliations," Long said. "If we do this we would have to do the same for every other religious group or special interest."

Council Vice President Julio DiGiando agreed and went on to reiterate his concern over the still undetermined affects of electromagnetic radiation on nearby residents.

Meanwhile, Councilor Michael Schnack said that he felt it would be inappropriate for the town to give away valuable antenna space at no charge when it maintains leases with several other private interests.

Other business

• Councilors heard an update on plans to construct several affordable housing units at the town property on Southwest Avenue. According to Keiser, Church Community Housing, which wants to develop the property, recently completed an environmental study which indicated that there were more wetlands than had previously been anticipated. There has been no clear word yet whether Church Community Housing, which had previously been passed over for a state affordable housing grant, should expect to receive funding.

• Councilors also approved the application of Christina Moorehead (owner: Nancy Moorehead) of 11 Watson Avenue for utility expansion/change of use permit.

• Waived the sewer hook-up fee for Alec Broers for an addition to his residence at 32 Mt. Hope Ave.

• Briefly heard an update on the outstanding lease payments by the Dutch Island Harbor Corp. to the town. According to Keiser, the town had sent notice to the lessee and was awaiting a reply.

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