2008-07-17 / Front Page

Council debates issues concerning East Ferry

By Sam Bari

When the Town Council addressed a letter from the chairman of the Harbor Management Commission at Monday night's meeting, Councilman Robert Sutton let his frustrations be known.

The letter, from harbor commission Chairman Michael de Angeli, refuted assurances he made to the council at an earlier meeting that the $1,200 the Harbor Commission had requested would be used to get bid specifications for the Wood Pile Pier repair project.

However, in a July 8 letter to the council, de Angeli sent a different message. The letter said:

"As you will recall, the Jamestown harbor commission recently requested and received permission of the Town Council to spend $1,200 of the JHC funds on an estimate of the cost to repair the Wood Pile Pier. Incidentally, this cost did not include a full bid package; I may have misled you in this respect. The bid package will cost approximately $10,000, which is typical for this work."

Sutton said the Wood Pile Pier project was something the council discussed and approved months ago. "Then we discussed it again and approved it again last month," Sutton added. "Now this letter is telling me that we were misled."

"This is why things never get done. Projects go back and forth between sub-committees, commissions, and the council, and nobody is really sure of who is in charge," Sutton said.

"Volunteers should never be in charge of the bidding and completion of any construction project. The harbor commission should make its recommendation to the Town Council," Sutton said. "If it is approved, the town engineer should send it out to bid, and the right departments should oversee the actual work. That's what they are paid to do. And they should all ultimately be responsible to the town administrator who brings everything before the Town Council," he added.

"You can't have a volunteer organization take charge of a project. We pay a town administrative staff to oversee these things," Sutton repeated.

Council President Julio DiGiando supported Sutton and said that although Town Engineer Michael Gray was in charge of putting together the bid package, he was not certain of who he should report to. He said that Gray was put in a funny position. He should only have to report to the Town Administrator.

After an extensive discussion, Keiser said he would respond to de Angeli's letter.

Establishing a policy for bidding and completing projects was scheduled as an agenda item at the July 28 council meeting.

In another matter, Councilman William Kelly questioned Town Administrator Bruce Keiser about line items in the budget regarding the town's recycling program. Keiser updated the council about the state of the program.

"The town has reduced its solid waste disposal by 375-tons since last year," Keiser said. "However, we are still 800-tons over the residential tonnage cap."

This translates to $44,800 when calculated at $56 per ton, which is the rate for anything over the cap. Tonnage under the cap is calculated at $32 per ton, Keiser said. "The town is down 23 percent and I am confident that the goal of a 40-percent reduction can be met so we can take advantage of the monetary benefits," he added.

The Town Administrator's report

Keiser received a letter from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) concerning the Conanicus Avenue seawall repair project. This project had been slated to begin earlier this year; however, the DOT has extended the limits of the repair work southerly in the vicinity of Emerson Road. The project area has been expanded to address additional sections of the seawall and sidewalk that are in deteriorated condition. New bids will be solicited this month.

In the May 21 issue of the Press, Town Engineer Michael Gray was quoted as saying, "RIDOT engineers have taken a look at the broad picture and have planned for the future. They believe the most prudent thing to do in the best interests of safety and economy is to rebuild 300-feet of the seawall outside of the present wall to double the strength."

This was not mentioned in the letter to Keiser. The letter from RIDOT Acting Deputy Chief Engineer Robert A. Smith addressed repairing "portions of the Conanicus Avenue seawall and adjacent sidewalk."

In another matter Keiser reported that the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority unanimously approved the revisions for the highway barn project at Taylor Point. Construction will begin the first week of August.

Keiser announced the hiring of Deborah Tungett as new teen coordinator. Tungett will replace Melissa Minto who has resigned to pursue graduate studies at Cornell University. Tungett will assume full-time duties on Aug. 1, upon Minto's departure.

Legislative update

Two pieces of legislation that have a direct positive impact on Jamestown passed into law at the conclusion of the 2008 legislative session.

Net metering legislation will allow a city or town that operates a renewable energy producing facility to sell back to the electric supplier the amount of power it produces, in excess of what it uses, at the same price it pays. The Town Council will consider recommendations from the Jamestown Wind Energy Committee, and the voters will ultimately decide its fate.

Legislation titled Estates in Real Property, introduced by Rep. Bruce Long (R. Jamestown-Middletown) and Senator Teresa Paiva Weed (D. Jamestown-Newport) will continue the land covenants and deed restrictions on property formerly owned by the Commerce Oil Refining Corporation. West Reach Estates and East Passage contain ponds and dams that must be maintained by their respective associations, as was mandated by the Town Council of 30 years ago. The current Town Council endorsed the legislation.

Underage Drinking legislation was recently signed by Governor Carcieri. The legislation was designed to close loopholes in the present legislation that penalizes minors for being intoxicated even if they do not have an alcoholic beverage in their possession. The legislation also imposes stricter penalties for underage possession of alcohol and for adults allowing minors to drink on private property.

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