A busy year ahead for Jamestown
Today, we are in countdown mode. The clock is ticking steadily as the year 2009 winds down to when the big ball drops. In this issue of the Jamestown Press, we take a look at the year that was. As years go, 2009 was no different than most and was filled with lots of news – good and bad. We had plenty to write about.
At midnight tonight, the New Year takes over. 2010 promises to be just as newsy.
We start the year with the budget workshops, as the Town Council and School Committee prepare their annual budgets for voter approval. The New Year will also include negotiations on three town employee contracts.
When it comes to balancing our local budget, we can expect little or no help from the state. It will be harder than ever to maintain our local services and keep our facilities up to date without taxing ourselves to the max.
An important way of keeping the cost of services low will be to start charging user fees and outsourcing whenever possible. Charging at the transfer station, a “pay as you throw” plan, is one way to help balance the budget. Other town services could possibly be outsourced to private vendors at a reduced cost to the taxpayer. The choices may not be easy, though.
You might say that 2010 could be the year of the wind turbine in Jamestown – that is, after we decide where we should place a new wind turbine. The Wind Energy Committee wants to erect the electricity-generating device at Ft. Getty, but one wonders if it would make more sense to place the turbine at Taylor Point, where we already have plenty of infrastructure, such as the bridge, highway barn and the wastewater treatment plant. Why ruin the view at Ft. Getty?
There is also a possibility that the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority would like to build its own wind turbine. Instead of building two small wind turbines, perhaps the town could join forces with RITBA and construct one great big three-bladed green machine.
While we are on the topic of Ft. Getty, let’s talk about what we’re going to do with the park. Ft. Getty is a jewel in the rough that is now pretty much a summer haven to a bunch of off-islanders. We could certainly make the place more attractive and useful for the people who live in Jamestown. Why should we maintain the cheap seasonal sites for a few squatters when other opportunities abound?
What if we made the campground smaller and opened it to everyone who wants to pitch a tent or park a travel trailer with a two-week limit on their camping stay? Then the town could build an event hall on the big hill (what a view!) – a place where people could hold weddings and bar mitzvahs and other parties. If we sold the old highway barn at Ft. Wetherill, we could use that money to build the event hall and make other improvements at Ft. Getty. Rent from the event hall would make up for the loss in revenue at the campground, if there is any. The campground is an important revenue stream to the town.
The big elephant on the island is the water and sewer puzzle, an issue that most people don’t understand – yet it played a major role in the recent Town Council election. It will be interesting to see how this council handles the problem. Debt service on the current bond issue means that water users will continue to see their rates increase by 8 to 10 percent every other year. The town needs about $15 million in improvements to the municipal water and sewer lines that have yet to be upgraded. The present plan is to upgrade the pipes at a rate of about one street per year.
Then we’ve got the 60 some miles of island roads to maintain. About 30 to 40 percent need serious maintenance work and the town is able to resurface a few streets annually. One suggestion is that the town float a bond issue for $2 million that would fund repaving about 10 miles of the worst roads on the island.
Another task ahead for the town is the closure of the landfill on the North End.
These are just a few of the issues facing Jamestown in the year ahead. As always, it is important that you stay informed on the issues and provide your input to the decision makers. Here at the Jamestown Press, we plan to keep you up to date on the news. Have a happy
— Jeff McDonough