2008-01-31 / Front Page

Council sees presentation on highway barn project

By Tom Shevlin

Several diverse topics made up the agenda for Monday's regularly scheduled Town Council meeting, beginning with an update on the town's highway barn project.

The town has received and reviewed 13 submissions from contractors to design/build the highway barn. "We are currently evaluating the proposals and plan to interview four to six respondents and make a recommendation to the Town Council sometime in February," Keiser wrote in a report to town councilors.

Town Engineer Mike Gray engaged councilors in a lively giveand take during a presentation detailing the potential look and feel of the highway barn on Taylor Point. Gray used a recent trip to Central Falls' newly constructed garage facility as a reference for councilors to draw on during the 45-minute presentation.

Input from councilors was mixed and abundant, focusing on topics such as heating, exterior design elements, and office space.

Gray responded to the council's input by assuring them that their ideas would be reflected in the town's request for proposals.

Coyote management Numi Mitchell, chair of the Nar- ragansett Bay Coyote Study, provided a report to Town Council members detailing the island's coyote population. Mitchell will present her findings to councilors at their next regular meeting in February. The town and island schools have jointly funded the NBCS research at a level of $5,000.

North Road bike path

Federal budget constraints are impeding the planning and scheduling of a project to construct a crossbridge bike path from Saunderstown to Jamestown, according to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser. However, because the North Main Road section has been determined to be the least expensive and easiest to construct, the town was able to reach an agreement with the state Department of Transportation to construct the Jamestown portion of the proposed path.

Budget workshops

Budget season is beginning. Keiser also reported that he will submit a proposed budget to councilors no later than Tuesday, March 4. Keiser said he will schedule a series of workshops prior to his presentation to the council during the month of February

Groundwater study

funding request

Town councilors revisited the issue of funding a groundwater study to determine, among other issues, if the island could contain a significant supply of untapped water. The $300,000 funding request by the town Planning Commission has been subject to frequent delay since it was proposed in 2006.

Town Councilor Robert Sutton wondered if the study was needed. "What would a study that tells us that we live on a rock...tell us?" Sutton asked.

According to Keiser, the promise of the study "would be to find us that pool of gold" in the form of subsurface fractures that are large enough to change the town's safe water yield.

Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski was skeptical. "Of all the wells dug on this island, don't you think someone would have found a well that would yield 50 gallons a minute?" she asked. Sutton agreed. "I don't think that there's anything you can learn from $300,000 that 2,800 wells can't tell you," he said.

Councilor William Kelly had a different take. "I have no problem spending $300,000, so long as it's someone else's money," he said.

Open forum Susan Little of North Main Road inquired about the cost of the Central Falls highway garage used in Gray's earlier presentation. According to Keiser, the city spent approximately $3 million to build its highway garage.

Ellen Winsor, of 736 East Shore Rd., reminded residents that an EPA sponsored hearing regarding the town's possible designation as a sole source aquifer was scheduled for Feb. 13 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the library.

Also in the open forum, Rep. Bruce Long (R - Jamestown, Middletown) provided an update on the happenings on Smith Hill and his continued opposition to diverting revenue generated from the Newport Pell Bridge to the operation and maintenance of the Mt. Hope Bridge.

Long reported that he has introduced legislation intended to counteract legislation submitted by Rep. Raymond Gallison (D - Bristol) which seeks to block efforts to re-toll the Mt. Hope Bridge. Long said he believes ultimately another bridge will have to be tolled, whether it's the Mt. Hope Bridge or the Sakonnett River Bridge.

In other news, Jamestown stands to see a decrease of $31,000 in state funding, according to Long. "At this point, I stand opposed to that. Jamestown didn't contribute to the state budget shortfall, and shouldn't be responsible for making it up," he said.

Long also said that he had been approached by the Conanicut Island Art Association to reintroduce legislation for the creation of a Jamestown Arts District. The matter will be taken up by councilors at their next meeting on Feb. 11.

He said that he was working with Jamestown's Substance Abuse Task Force to address the abuse and availability of alcohol to teens.

Using a cell phone while driving would be banned if Jamestown's eighth graders ran the state. Long said that Jamestown's eighth grade class spent the day as state representatives during a trip to the statehouse where they banned text messaging and cell phones while driving.

West Ferry Lease

The town has reached an agreement with Dutch Harbor Boat Yard for the continued operation of the town-owned facility at West Ferry. According to Keiser, the town has signed a one-year lease for 2008 with two additional option periods thereafter for two and five years for a total possible eight-year lease contingent on the satisfactory completion of the lease terms by DHBY. According to Keiser, the town has already received the first year's lease payment in full for $12,500.

East Ferry use

After a lengthy discussion between councilors and members of the Harbor Commission, the Town Council resolved on Monday to allow the town administrator to identify a 40-foot span on each side of the town-owned woodpile pier at East Ferry for use as a fishing area, as well as the possible addition of 80 feet of touch and go space. Keiser was also instructed to work to identify critical repair needs for the woodpile pier that can be addressed in the near future.

In other business:

Keiser reported that a bid has been awarded by DOT for the repair of the Conanicus Avenue seawall and sidewalk.

Keiser also said that he was planning on setting up a meeting with National Grid to discuss the feasibility and cost to bury overhead wires in the town's business district.

Town Councilors unanimously endorsed a resolution expressing their support for a state wide $15 million bond issue to be placed on the November ballot for the preservation of open space. Rep. Long, who spoke in favor of the bond issue earlier in the evening, said that he had sent a letter to Gov. Carcieri expressing his support. "Even in bad times," Long said "it's money well spent."

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