2009-03-05 / Front Page

Council votes in favor of Jamestown Arts Center

Dec. 31 deadline to purchase of property
By Adrienne Downing

The Town Council gave the go ahead at its Monday night meeting for the town to enter into a purchase and sale agreement with the Jamestown Arts Center for the town-owned property at 44 Southwest Ave.

The council, by a unanimous vote, gave Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero and Town Administrator Bruce Keiser the authority to sign an agreement with the board of the JAC, with the addendum that the group would close on the property by Dec. 31, 2009.

The original proposal submitted to the Council said that the closing would take place within 30 days of the final approval for all permits, and the issuance of a construction loan or receipt of donations suffi cient for the acquisition of the property. JAC agreed to pay the full $540,000 appraised value of the property, with $440,000 being paid at closing and the balance of the purchase price to be paid to the town over 60 months at 3-percent interest.

Keiser said the agreement represented a "win-win situation for the town and the arts center." The terms, Keiser said, would provide the water fund with adequate funding to meet projections for water fund debt service.

Town Councilman Robert Sutton said he liked the proposal, but he felt the 30-day after permit approval window for closing was too vague to protect the town's interest. "I would like to have a date for the closing," he said. Sutton ultimately agreed with Keiser's suggestion that allowing JAC approximately nine months to work through the planning and permitting process was reasonable.

Councilman William Kelly said he was glad the proposal met the standard of "highest and best use for the property," but cautioned that the current council was only in office until November. "This council is open and willing to work with you, but the council changes in November and that may not be the same with a future council," he said. "I would get your gear in motion and try to have this to us sooner rather than later."

JAC representative Diane Grippi told the council that the board would be working as expediently as possible to move the process along. "The sooner we close, the sooner we can start renovations," she said.

Support for bridge authority

A bill up for discussion in the Rhode Island General Assembly would dissolve the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority and turn control of the Newport Claiborne Pell and Mount Hope bridges over to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Sutton said.

He sought Town Council approval to convey to Jamestown's state legislators that the town would not support any legislation that takes away RITBA management of the bridges. "RITBA has been a very good neighbor to Jamestown and we need to be aggressive in our support of them," Sutton said.

Kelly voiced his concern that should control of the Newport bridge fall to the state, that the bridge may not be adequately maintained. "I am concerned that the tolls would go into a black hole somewhere in the state and the revenues would not be pumped back into the bridge itself," he said.

Keiser said the town has enjoyed a "superb relationship" with the turnpike authority. "It is much better to have a local presence instead of one that is in Providence," the town administrator said.

The council voted 5 to 0 to send a letter opposing the legislation.

Police station renovations

In his Town Administrator's report, Keiser said that 28 general contractors attended a meeting about the police station renovations and that he was hopeful that there would be competitive bids for the project.

The deadline for bid submission is Tuesday, March 17, and Keiser anticipates awarding the bid at the April 6 Town Council meeting.

Landfill water

quality monitoring

In response to a request by the Town Council that he look into the possibility of reducing the frequency of water monitoring at the former landfill, Keiser reported that according to Department of Environmental Management regulations, the tests could not be reduced until the landfill was capped.

The town pays $32,000 each year for quarterly testing and monitoring of the site. Keiser said that two years after the town had capped the landfill and implemented storm water containment, DEM permitted the tests to be performed twice a year saving the town $16,000 per year. The town is at least two years from totally capping the landfill, so Keiser said the option could be explored for the final six years of the mandatory 30-year testing requirement.

Councilors Sutton and Kelly questioned whether, after 16 years of nearly identical quarterly test results, the town could petition DEM for a reduction. Keiser said "it may be worth a phone call to check."

Resident Susan Little said in open forum that there are enough small elevations and inconsistencies in the testing that it is worthwhile for it to be continued on a quarterly basis. "The whole purpose of the testing is to provide early detection if there is a change," she said.

Little suggested the town look at bidding out the testing process in order to save money on the testing instead of just relying on the town's consultant to provide the testing.

In other business, the council:

• Rescheduled Town Council budget workshops for Monday and Tuesday, March 30 and 31.

• Voted 5 to 0 to approve the request by Father William O'Neil of St. Mark Church to waive the user fee for Fort Getty Pavilion for the church's 100th anniversary celebration.

• Voted 5 to 0 to approve the holiday license renewal applications for Lucky Ridge Co. LLC dba: Spinnaker's Café Mobil Unit, Trattoria Simpatico Inc dba: Trattoria Simpatico, and Ace's Pizza Inc. dba: Ace's Pizza.

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