2008-03-13 / Front Page

Town receives $540K appraisal for old town offices

By Sam Bari

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser reported at the Monday meeting of the Town Council that the old town offices at 44 Southwest Ave. were recently appraised at $540,000 by an appraiser hired on the town's behalf. Keiser and Town Tax Assessor Ken Gray engaged Hogan and Associates of Middletown to handle the appraisal.

The $540,000 appraisal is dramatically different from the $425,000 assessment by the Church Community Housing Corporation's appraiser, Keiser said. CCHC offered the town $425,000 to purchase the Southwest Avenue property to build a nine-unit affordable housing facility on the site.

Keiser said he would discuss the matter with CCHC. He also said that the town always felt their appraisal was low. Additionally, Keiser said he would address the issue of an archeological study with CCHC as well as the Narragansett Tribe because the area is known for having remains that by law cannot be disturbed.

Harbormaster's boat

In other business, Keiser reported that Ribcraft of Marblehead, Mass., the builder of the harbormaster's boat, agreed to have the repairs completed by April 1 so the boat would be ready for service during the upcoming season. Keiser also said he made an appointment to meet with the company at the end of March to discuss who was responsible for the $25,000 to $30,000 worth of needed repairs.

The 21-foot, 3-inch long by 8- feet, 6-inch beamed patrol boat was made by Ribcraft at a cost of $97,920 to the town. A month after the boat was first put in the water, it was hauled for routine maintenance. Extreme galvanic corrosion was discovered causing the antifouling bottom paint to peel and the gunnels to separate from the hull.

Beavertail license

Keiser reported that he had discussions with the state Department of Environmental Management and the Coast Guard concerning the licensing of the Beavertail Lighthouse. He said the Coast Guard suggested that the town send a letter to terminate the present license so it can be transferred to the DEM. He said the letter would also define the secondary role the town wishes to take in the maintenance of the facility.

He went on to say that the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association wants to play an active role in managing the maintenance.

They would like to hire a caretaker and establish a caretakeremployee relationship to have someone present at the facility at all times, but not as a permanent resident. Keiser said the Coast Guard appeared to be receptive to the idea, but they want everything in writing.

Councilman Robert Sutton asked Keiser if he was supportive of the idea and Keiser said "most definitely." Sutton said that was good because he "doesn't see the state as being responsible for maintaining the property."

Recreation director recommended

Keiser said that he was recommending interim recreation director Bill Piva to the permanent recreation director position.

Public hearing

The council voted unanimously to open a public hearing to solicit comment concerning the proposed amendment to chapter 26, Fire Prevention and Protection, Article 1.

The proposed amendment for residential smoke and carbon monoxide detectors would require every request for a plan review for one, two or three family dwellings by the Jamestown Fire Department to be accompanied by three complete sets of building plans, a completed plan review application form, and the appropriate plan review fee.

After extensive discussion by the council, with input from residents Susan Little and Ellen Winsor, Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero recommended that he discuss the matter with the town building inspector because of opposition to the idea of three complete sets of building plans required for each plan review.

Council members Barbara Szepatowski and Robert Sutton both questioned the necessity of complete plans that would be costly for large homeowners. Sutton said that complete building plans could number in the hundreds of pages. Szepatowski said that she thought complete plans being distributed to various departments represented a security issue for homeowners if the plans were accessible to anyone for the asking.

According to the proposed amendment, one set of plans would go to the fire department, another would be kept by the building inspector, and the third would go to the electrician.

Several variations of one complete set of building plans and two sets of simple floor plans were discussed. Szepatowski motioned to continue the discussion at the next meeting after Ruggiero and Fire Chief Jim Bryer discussed the matter with the building inspector. Council Vice President Michael White seconded the motion and the council voted unanimously to approve.

Tax free art district

In unfinished business, a proposal by Representative Bruce Long (R- Middletown/Jamestown) to introduce legislation for a tax free art district was discussed further. Council members appeared to be uncertain about the scope of the tax-free exemption. Some thought it was for sales tax only and others thought it was for both state income tax and sales tax. Long's proposal was for exemption from both.

After lengthy discussion on the matter, the council agreed that the entire island should be declared an arts district because so many artists work out of home-based studios. However, they did not believe artists should be exempt from income tax, nor did they think the legislation would pass.

Long said that he would work with Keiser and Ruggiero to eliminate the income tax portion from the proposed legislation and have a draft prepared for the March 25 meeting. The council voted unanimously to include the matter in the agenda for the next meeting.

Expansion of charrette approved

The council voted unanimously to approve the expansion of the downtown charrette from Clinton Avenue to Green Lane and update the design guidelines. A fee of $5,000 would go to the firm of Donald Powers Architects for a total fee not to exceed $98,000.

Open forum

Ellen Windsor reminded the council that anyone wishing to support the sole source aquifer designation for the island only needs to send a letter by regular mail or e-mail with their name and address to Karen McGuire at the EPA saying that they support the designation.

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