Parking, trail access eyed at water plant
Sitting as the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners on Tuesday, the Town Council reviewed the plans for parking and public access to the trails and osprey viewing area across from the water treatment plant on North Main Road.
The plans, submitted by Public Works Director Steve Goslee and town engineer Michael Gray provide for two new parking spaces, bringing the total to three.
The council members discussed at length the location of the parking spaces to best serve visitors and not interfere with the Jamestown portion of the planned bike path connecting Jamestown to Saunderstown. Gray said the plans provide adequate width for the bike path and the parking places were designed so cars would not have to back out on to North Main Road to exit the area. The proposed bike path will be located on the west side of the road.
Gray suggested consulting with state Department of Transportation officials to get their input before proceeding. Town Council member Robert Sutton suggested that a call be made to the DOT to ask their requirements for site distances where the speed limit is 40 miles per hour and then design the plans accordingly.
Sutton said that submitting completed plans would get a much better and faster response than asking DOT to help design the project. "If you go in without a complete design and ask them what to do, they probably won't be much help. But if you submit completed plans, they'll have something tangible to evaluate," Sutton said.
Town Councilor Barbara Szepatowski suggested reducing the speed limit on North Main Road on the north and south approaches to the marsh area.
Goslee agreed that slowing the traffic was a good suggestion because cars constantly "fly by at 50 to 60 miles an hour."
The other council members agreed.
In other business, the review of rules and regulations of the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners was given a continuance until the March 17 meeting when coun- cil member William Kelly would be present. Kelly is out of town for several weeks. The commission did however, set the date for the public workshop on the matter for March 13.
Council members voted unanimously to approve the Patricia Tuff application for a water service connection on Walcott Avenue. They also gave unanimous approval for a water connection for the town at Freebody and Bay View drives, which would serve the new highway garage, once built at that site.
The council further discussed a proposed purchase and sale agreement the town received from affordable housing developer Church Community Housing Corp. concerning the appraisal of the former town office at 44 Southwest Ave.
Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said the appraisal of $450,000 for the property should be checked for accuracy. Although the town has been doing business with CCHC for years, the appraisal was done by the buyer's appraiser and should be verified, he said.
Keiser also said that he discussed the matter with tax assessor Ken Gray and they decided to engage an appraiser that Gray knew who was knowledgeable of the area and commercial values.
The CCHC proposes to purchase the property for $450,000 and add two new structures to the property for the development of nine residential units at the site. The project is tied to the development of six additional units at the Conanicus Avenue housing development for a total of 15 new units. CCHC is tying the two developments together to be eligible for state and federal funding.
Sutton said that he wasn't convinced that the CCHC proposal was the best choice for pursuing an affordable housing project. He said that getting all the required approvals to even start the project, as well as state and federal funding, was time consuming.
"I'm not saying that everyone doesn't have good intentions," Sutton said. "But this has all the earmarks of a project that could take years and possibly never get done. I think we should look at some alternatives.
"We have a piece of property worth $450,000 and $160,000 to develop affordable housing. Why don't we see what we can do with that money ourselves, and get something done. Even if we only build two units, that will be two units that we don't have now. Then we can say that we did something and move on to do something else. Projects like this just have a tendency to lose momentum and get bogged down," Sutton said.
Town Council President Julio DiGiando cautioned the fellow council members about being too hasty to give up federal money. He said that looking at alternatives was not a bad idea, but suggested that the town see where the CCHC proposal goes.
Szepatowski said, "Why not see if someone else is interested other than CCHC?"
Sutton then suggested that no matter who gets involved, "we must set a timetable for getting the project completed."
Keiser said that the project has been evaluated by the state and the feds for subsidy dollars. "If we can agree on the price, I see no reason why we can't set benchmarks for performance."
Council members agreed to discuss the matter further after the town appraisal figures were made available.
In an unrelated matter, DiGiando swore in Officer Joel Pinocci as permanent Police Sergeant in a ceremony at the beginning of the meeting. Sgt. Pinocci is celebrating 10 years with the department next month. "After 10 years, it feels great to move up," Pinocci said. "I look forward to continuing service with a great department."