2008-10-30 / Front Page

Jamestown Art Center to bid on old town offices

Council offers support for project idea
By Sam Bari

The Jamestown Art Center expressed interest in buying the town property at 44 Southwest Ave. at Monday's Town Council meeting.

JAC Vice President Liz Congdon and Jamestown architect Peter Twombly of Estes/Twombly Architects presented their proposal to the council to renovate the former town offices for use as an art center.

Reading from a prepared statement, Congdon said that JAC believes that renovating the site for an arts center would be the very best use for the build- ing. An art center would offer the town employment, education, internship and mentoring as well as enhance the community's sense of identity.

The center would be open to all artistic disciplines and would be used for theater, music, dance, and writing as well as the visual arts for teaching, performing, and exhibiting.

Twombly presented the council with a set of preliminary floor plans and renderings of the renovated building and surrounding grounds.

Twombly said he had toured a number of prospective buildings with JAC President Kate Petrie and Congdon and he felt that the Southwest Avenue facility stood out amongst all he had seen. "It solved many of the problems," he said. "It has parking, some outdoor space, and a central location."

Congdon mentioned that the JAC has been looking for a building for about a year and a half.

Council President Julio DiGiando said that ads would have to go out to allow public response. "You do understand that you will have to bid along with everyone else," DiGiando said. "We can't just sell it to you."

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser made it quite clear that the town expected a minimum of $550,000 for the property to service the debt load. Petrie said that she was well aware of the town's expectations from meetings the JAC had with Keiser concerning the sale of the facility.

Councilman Robert Sutton said, "I think it's a great idea - a perfect use for the property. As long as the town is not expected to participate in a financial way, I definitely support it."

Councilman Bill Kelly said, "It isn't just a high bid that is the deciding factor. The use of the building plays a major role in the decision making process. I give you high marks for best use. It makes an awful lot of sense to me."

DiGiando, Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski, and Councilman Michael White also voiced their enthusiasm for the project.

According to Congdon, the JAC has been given . . . "great and continuing support from the Rhode Island Foundation." She said donors have enthusiastically responded to the project.

The town is requesting proposals from potential buyers for the former town offices at 44 Southwest Ave. until Nov. 25 at 2 p.m. The 2,784 square foot main building that has been used in the past for both offices and residency, is situated on 1.45 acres of town owned land. The property is zoned commercial limited and is adjacent to residential properties on three sides with wetlands at the rear of the parcel.

Award presented

Town Administrator, Bruce Keiser on behalf of the Town Council, presented Public Works Director Steve Goslee with the PISCES award for drinking water excellence.

Last week Bob Varney, the director of the EPA's Region One office in Boston, along with Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Department of Environmental Management Director Michael Sullivan presented the award to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser.

Keiser said that the award belonged to the town water and sewer employees for their outstanding efforts to improve and maintain the town water and sewer infrastructure.

Project updates

According to Public Works Director Goslee, the concrete placement at the water treatment plant is complete. The electricians have begun to wire devices and equipment, and the National Grid has placed the transformer. The overhead crane is complete and work has commenced on the soffit and roof. Additionally, the filter manufacturer has begun installation of the filter equipment, he said.

Goslee reported that installation of discharge piping for the golf course is ready to proceed. A capped end will be left for the town to relocated the displaced pipe from the highway garage project, he said.

Representatives from Clean Water Finance and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) were onsite on Tuesday to inspect the project.

Ads approved

The council voted unanimously for the town administrator to place newspaper advertisements announcing Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for the sale of the former town offices property at 44 Southwest Ave.

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