2011-07-21 / Front Page

Town signs three-year agreement with Central Landfill

By Phil Zahodiakin

The Town Council this week voted to renew its contract for solid waste disposal at the Central Landfill, raising expectations that the council is poised to launch a debate on ideas to increase the town’s recycling rate. The vote was one of several decisions that set the table for progress in resolving long-standing issues.

The council met on July 18. Some of the issues addressed during the session were revisions to the harbor ordinance, a contract for video-recording council meetings, and repairs to the East Ferry and Dumpling Drive seawalls.

The three-year agreement with the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation will run through June 30, 2014. It caps at 1,703 tons the amount of waste that the town can dump at the regular $32-perton rate – or 134 tons less than the cap in the current agreement. The tipping rate for municipalities exceeding their caps is $46 per ton.

“It is costing the town over $18,000 a year for excess tonnage,” Town Administrator Bruce Keiser told the councilors, noting that the town’s 25.5 percent recycling rate “is the norm for Rhode Island towns.” Because the state has increased its target 32 percent recycling rate for household waste to 35 percent, the town will probably pay even more for “excess” waste disposal in the future.

But the $18,000 that Jamestown is currently spending “is money that should be recaptured,” Keiser said, pointing out that the town’s Recycling Committee “is looking to come forward to the council soon” and present its recommendations to increase the town’s recycling rate.

The committee has been working on recycling ideas for a long time, having started its work on Dec. 16, 2009. Keiser said the panel has voted down a proposal to require the purchase of special bags for trash disposal at the transfer station, with the idea being that the additional cost of these bags will encourage people to fill them up less quickly with materials that could otherwise be picked up in curbside recycling.

Keiser said that the use of special trash bags was adopted by South Kingstown 18 years ago and “there were about three weeks of complaints before everyone decided that they loved the system.”

Councilor Bob Bowen, who was serving as the acting council president in Councilor Mike Schnack’s absence, said, “We need to hold a workshop to find out why the committee rejected [a proposal for the use of special bags].” But that’s not the only town panel that the council will be waiting to hear from, having decided to send the Harbor Management Commission its latest package of revisions to the Harbor Management Ordinance.

The council decided to keep its earlier, June 20 public hearing on the harbor ordinance open indefi- nitely, which means that a final decision on the controversial changes might not be reached until the fall – or more than 18 months since the revision process started at the commission.

Under the newly tweaked revisions, which the commission is expected to start debating during its Aug. 10 meeting, mooring fees would not exceed the average rates for the state’s coastal communities (and they are currently 80.5 percent of the state average); any annual budget proposal from the commission would have to include a five-year capital improvement budget (thereby providing the council with an idea of future needs and priorities); the commission’s operating and capital budgets would be consolidated as a single-enterprise fund; and lease payments from publicly owned harbor assets would be viewed as “a discretionary revenue source to fund harbor projects.”

A proposal for video recording, and possibly video streaming, council meetings is another 18-month initiative awaiting action by the councilors. Several vendors have submitted bids for hardware and software services. Under the lowest of the bids, the town would have to spend $25,000 in start-up expenses and $6,500 a year in recurring fees. There is also an offer from On the Record Media president Sav Rebecchi, who is already recording council meetings for his Jamestown Record website.

Rebecchi has offered to provide the town with full, unedited recordings that would be uploaded from his server and embedded in a webpage created by the town for its homepage. Rebecchi has also offered to provide the town with DVDs of every recorded council meeting for the town’s archival purposes, which Rebecchi says he has already been doing free of charge.

However, rather than voting on the offers submitted to the town, the council decided to delay a vote yet again – this time to find out if it would be permissible to use the state’s municipal technology investment grants for the annual $6,500 in fees that one of the vendors would charge.

Bowen hinted at his frustration with the delays when he said, “I guess we’ll continue this for another 18 months.”

Councilor Mike White asked Keiser to share his personal preference among the choices. Keiser started by saying, “This is delicate.” He then proceeded to say that his preference would be Rebecchi’s offer because, he said, “I’m cheap, so the no-cost option is the best way to go.”

Keiser also pointed out that he hasn’t heard from any residents asking the town to present meeting videos differently from the presentation on Rebecchi’s website. Keiser added that residents going to the town’s website wouldn’t know that the video recordings originated from the Jamestown Record server, and that Rebecchi’s single-camera recordings are “adequate,” whereas the two-camera system offered by the other vendors “wouldn’t be cost-effective.”

In other business, the council:

• Decided to spend $64,183 to repair the Dumpling Drive seawall with 950 square feet of Contech “segmental retaining wall.” If the system and its installation prove satisfactory, it will be used to replace 784 square feet of the East Ferry seawall at a cost of $58,897. The two estimates represent a cost increase of $65,000, which arose when the engineering firm estimating the work factored in the wave action to which the walls would be subjected. Councilor Ellen Winsor voted against the expenditure, saying that she wanted more bids and that she disliked the appearance of the retaining-wall system.

• Tweaked the language in the agreement to merge the Fire Department with the town’s Emergency Medical Services. Under the changes, the property tax abatement has been revised from the older $75,000 assessment exemption (which was mistakenly used in the agreement) and replaced with the existing $700 tax abatement for Fire Department volunteers. The changes also clarify that the tax abatement for EMS volunteers applies to both spouses (if both are volunteers) rather than a “family unit.”

• Approved an expenditure of $276,000 for repaving or repairing parts of Howland Avenue, West Street, Friendship Street, Harbor Street, Buloid Avenue, Bay Street, and the intersection of Dewey and Decatur streets. The money will also pay for road leveling along various stretches of North Road between America Way and Route 138, along with sidewalk reconstruction between West Ferry and North Road.

• Passed a resolution which commits the town to submit an application for Jamestown to become a Preserve America Community. Preserve America encourages communities to protect and safeguard its historical resources by seeking grants for preservation projects. Town Planner Lisa Bryer explained that, when the town applied for a federal grant to fund its inventory of historical properties in Shoreby Hill, “part of the requirements for the grant was applying for membership in Preserve America.”

• Agreed to welcome the Potter League for Animals to make a presentation to the town on its services. Keiser noted, however, that after his earlier discussions about using Potter’s services to house stray animals, the North Kingstown Town Council reversed its plan to shut down its animal shelter, which means that Jamestown will keep using the North Kingstown shelter, when necessary, at a flat rate of $22 per day. But, “there are some monies available if there is a range of other services that we are interested in,” Keiser said.

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