Council tackles fishing safety and biking issues
The Jamestown Town Council this week supported proposals to increase safety for people cycling across the island or standing within range of flying fish hooks on the East Ferry pier.
The May 17 meeting also featured a presentation on the arguments against liquefied natural gas deliveries through the bay, and an update on the budget adjustments that local residents hope to enact at the Financial Town Meeting.
Town Administrator Bruce Keiser outlined the requested adjustments – also known as warrants – that island residents have registered for the June 7 financial meeting. The four warrants registered as of the council meeting would, if adopted by town voters:
• Decrease the town budget by $320,676 to $8,273,162 (through a warrant registered by the Jamestown Taxpayers’ Association).
• Decrease the school budget by $115,288 to $12,144,363 (also through a JTA warrant).
• Increase the town budget by $75,069 to restore full funding for the animal control officer position (through a warrant registered by Joan Dupee).
• Limit to $86,000 the total salary and longevity payments paid to the chief of police (through a warrant registered by Sam Paterson).
A fifth warrant was registered the day after the Town Council meeting. It would adjust the capital budget upwards by $9.8 million to fund construction of two wind turbines – with the money coming from a combination of grants and debt, but not from taxes. That warrant was registered by Don Wineberg.
The LNG presentation was delivered by Christopher Gray, chairman of the locally-based LNG Working Group. The issues raised by the presentation are among the principal concerns that the town and any interested parties should use, said Gray, to influence state and federal administrators, legislators and regulators to oppose the LNG terminal proposed by Weaver’s Cove Energy for a site in Mt. Hope Bay.
Gray stressed that the issues he was underscoring explain the logic underlying the assertions in a Working Group resolution, which has been offered for adoption to all of the town councils in coastal communities whose way of life would be affected by LNG tanker transits. (The resolution has been adopted by Portsmouth and Warren, thus far.)
The Working Group has performed a risk assessment of the transits, and the findings, said Gray, indicate that the tanker transit realities with a “high” risk of adverse impacts are terrorism, bridge security, bridge traffic delays, local security, sailboat events and Jamestown ferry service (which is provided by Conanicut Marine Services during the summer).
Gray also stressed that the Working Group opposition to the terminal is not driven by the risks of LNG; but, rather, the risks of delivering liquefied gas in close proximity to towns with dense populations – and in waters with a long history of coexistence among the many users of Narragansett Bay.
The Working Group, said Gray, does not see any possibility of such coexistence with LNG tanker transits, which will require enforceable “security bubbles” around transiting tankers – along with stationary tankers offloading gas at the proposed berthing terminal.
In fact, he said, the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators has established as one of its standards a criterion saying, “‘LNG ports must be located where they do not conflict with other waterway uses – now and into the future’” – and another which says, “‘Long, narrow inland waterways are to be avoided due to greater navigation risk.’”
“It is interesting,” said Gray, that “Weaver’s Cove is a SIGTTO member and a signatory to the standards – and yet it ignores these very same standards.”
The Town Council is about to start the selection process for members of the Jamestown LNG Threat Committee, which will apprise the councilors of developments in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission review of the Weaver’s Cove permit application. A notable development revealed at the council meeting is a National Parks Service warning to FERC that NPS will oppose any LNG facility posing an environmental threat to the Taunton River, which has been granted a Wild and Scenic Rivers designation – and whose Fall River shoreline would host the LNG storage terminal.
Council member Ellen Winsor, who co-founded the Working Group in October, 2009, said it would be beneficial for the two LNG panels to cooperate in some way, going forward.
Bowen replied by noting that the Threat Committee will serve as the official LNG advisory panel for the town, adding that he “appreciates the hard work and expertise” that the Working Group has invested in its efforts to quantify and qualify the risks from LNG transits.
Former council member Bob Sutton presented a final report on a much more benign type of transit: bicycling.
Sutton chairs the Jamestown Bike Path Design Committee, which has been charged with proposing a bike path from the western to eastern sides of the island, and his committee’s report lays out the final template from the Jamestown Bridge to Taylor Point.
Starting from the eastern end of the bridge at Rt. 138, the path would run south via North Main Road; east across the southern end of North Pond; south along an open field to Eldred Avenue; and east on Eldred Avenue to East Shore Road.
The path would require, among other things, the construction of a bridge over the North Pond spillway – along with a proposed reduction to 25 MPH of the North Main Road speed limit for a halfmile north of the water treatment facility.
During discussion, Sutton dismissed any concerns about the threat of pollution from cyclists throwing trash into North Pond, pointing out that a chain link fence would be built along the shore of the pond.
He also acknowledged that the committee didn’t perform a census to gauge the number of bikers who would use the path, adding, “I have a sense that there are many cyclists on the island who would use the path – and [building the path] is just a good thing to do. The federal government has encouraged people to use bikes as a way to exercise and as a public policy to get people out of their cars.”
Sutton didn’t provide an estimate for the cost of the path, although he said, “It’s not a high cost item by the standards used by government officials, and there is nothing inherently expensive in the proposal. But neither is it free. I wish we didn’t have to bridge the spillway, but we do. However, [the costs will be] especially manageable because the town owns most of the land the path will travel.”
Bowen said he was pleased with the report, and the council extended the charge of the panel to launch a detailed design for the project – which would also enable the group to come up with a cost estimate.
The most challenging discussion of the council meeting involved the risks to bystanders from people casting their fishing rods off the East Ferry wood-pile pier.
Local attorney John Murphy, who represents Conanicut Marine Services, addressed the council to say that it was the town “that decided to make [East Ferry] a mixed use facility, and those uses are potentially inconsistent activities. Fishing is good, but it needs to be regulated by rule or ordinance. A policeman walking along the pier would help, but you have to do something about the potential dangers of casting. Your tenant wants to work with the town.”
Bowen, who has served on the Harbor Management Commission, said, “The commission can- not come up with a plan to regulate casting.”
However, to address the issue as quickly – if not as comprehensively – as possible, the council tasked Keiser with the job of developing the text for cautionary signage that would be posted at the East Ferry pier this summer.
During the Town Water and Sewer meeting, which preceded the council meeting, the commissioners accepted for consideration a Winsor proposal to establish a “think tank” to address the capital demands that the town’s water and sewer infrastructure will impose over time.
“The future is coming at us quickly,” said Winsor, who proposes to charge a nine-member panel with, among other things, searching for “creative funding opportunities” such as public-private partnerships with universities and foundations; reviewing policy issues with a bearing on infrastructure maintenance; and reviewing the latest technologies available to repair and maintain the water and sewer system, including advanced approaches to asphalt replacement – which will be a costly piece of any replacement initiatives.