2011-02-24 / News

Two locations approved for new pavilion

By Phil Zahodiakin

The Jamestown Town Council this week selected a pair of finalist sites for the structure that will replace the Lt. Col. John C. Rembijas memorial pavilion, which was destroyed by a recent storm and has since been demolished.

Although there was sentiment for a lofty perch overlooking the West Passage, the councilors voted 3-1 – with one abstention – to narrow the options to the original location and the nearby volleyball court.

The vote was taken at the end of a marathon meeting on Feb. 22. However, it wasn’t clear that there would be any vote at all, because there were so many choices before the councilors, including a large number of architectural sketches projected on a screen by Department of Public Works Director Mike Gray.

Most of the architects who submitted the sketches were present for the meeting, although the councilors didn’t discuss the drawings except to note some design elements that they particularly liked; for example, timber-framing, open gables, a scissors-truss elevating a roofline, and a masonry knee-wall encircling the pavilion in one of the drawings.

Additionally, there were residents who expressed the view that the Council should delay its decision on a site until hearing their opinions during the facilitated Ft. Getty workshop in April. But Council President Mike Schnack decided that the councilors should vote on a site, or sites, without delay.

The sketches were all attractive, and some of them will be submitted in what will amount to an architectural competition – although it looks like simplicity will be more important than features and amenities when the vote is taken.

In his comments on the three potential sites, Gray said that the original location has the disadvantages of high wind, a vulnerability to flooding, a long walk to restrooms and very little in the way of water views. On the plus side, it still has its slab, which would run $30,000 to $40,000 to build elsewhere, and it could almost certainly be built without any permitting obstacles from the Coastal Resources Management Council.

The disadvantages of the volleyball site – besides the necessity of pouring a new slab – are a 100-foot longer walk to the beach and the necessity of relocating the volleyball court, although the site is less prone to flooding and has far more expansive water views.

Councilor Bob Bowen felt that the Council should keep the possibility open of selecting a site atop the hill overlooking the present location. However, as Gray pointed out, the main drawback of an open-air pavilion on that site would be significantly greater discomfort from the wind that already exists at the base of the hill, where the original pavilion had stood. Additionally, said Gray, the hilltop site “is disconnected from parking and bathrooms.”

Schnack said, “I like the idea of moving the pavilion out of the flood plain and keeping it simple. Some amenities are key, and others could be added later. If we issue a [request for proposals] to come up with designs, its costs, and its locations, we could pick from [those submissions].”

Councilor Bill Murphy reiterated his previously stated view that the replacement should not be “overbuilt,” although he also ascribed this viewpoint to “the people I’ve been talking to downtown.”

Councilor Ellen Winsor pointed out that “the people who attended the Friends of Ft. Getty Meeting [on Feb. 19] had a wide range of opinions, and then there’s the upcoming charrette,” which will allow residents to express those views directly to the Council.

Councilor Mike White said that the wind issue, in his view, eliminated the hilltop site from consideration, and offered a motion for the town to develop a request for proposal for the original, and volleyball, sites. Bowen voted against the motion, and Winsor abstained.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said he was waiting for the respondents to the Ft. Getty Workshop request to submit additional information, so the Council had to delay its selection of a facilitator. The Council did, however, vote to adopt a resolution in “support of a partnership with the Narragansett Indian Tribe,” which is intended to formally demonstrate “that we are willing to resolve” the issues arising from Narragansett concerns about potentially insensitive treatment of burial artifacts unearthed during public and private sector construction projects.

In his brief report on the recent Congress of Councils in Fall River, Mass., Keiser said that the event, which he attended along with Bowen and Winsor and Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero, yielded “a well-rounded discussion.”

He added that Newport will host the next Congress of Councils in May, and that the attorney representing Fall River in its fight against the proposed LNG facility, Dianne Phillips, “has taken a lead in this issue.”

In other business, Keiser informed the Council that Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist “will be visiting Jamestown on March 8, at 6 p.m. to discuss the state’s educational initiatives [in the Council chambers] and the event will be open to the public.”

He also informed the councilors that the requested revisions to the request for proposals soliciting hardware and software quotes for live video streaming of Council meetings are not yet ready.

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