2012-10-18 / Front Page

Council OKs $50,000 for affordable housing

Approval is last significant decision for outgoing panel
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

The outgoing Town Council has agreed to pony up an additional $50,000 to help rescue the affordable housing project slated for 2 Hammett Court, thereby bringing the taxpayers’ stake in the project to $188,500.

In March, the councilors authorized $138,500 to help build the five apartments for developmentally disabled adults in the Bridges to Housing and Employment project.

But on Monday, Church Community Housing Corporation project manager Christian Belden came back to Jamestown for more money.

The reason for the new request, he explained, was because the lowest construction bid came in $100,000 higher than the construc tion budget.

Belden said the housing corporation, which is the project’s development consultant, has also applied to Rhode Island Housing’s Thresholds Program for $50,000.

He asked the council to chip in $50,000 extra to cover the balance and also to improve the chances Rhode Island Housing will step up.

“The Thresholds Program has already awarded $348,000 to this project so reducing the amount of the additional request would increase the likelihood of receiving the remaining gap funding,” he wrote in a letter dated Sept. 28 addressed to the Town Council.

Belden said he anticipates Rhode Island Housing will chip in additional money. If the money can be obtained, construction can start this fall.

As another financing option, Belden said, the housing corporation was also looking at extending the term of the loan from the Federal Home Loan Bank.

In the letter, which was included in the meeting correspondence, Belden laid out the financing problem. When the project went out to bid, he said, the lowest offer came in $175,000 over the budget. The housing corporation worked with contractors to “value engineer” the work, and new low bids were received. But the result was still a $100,000 gap between the budget and the lowest bid.

According to Belden, two design changes – the addition of a fire suppression sprinkler system and landscaping work, which was suggested during the public comment period – accounted for the higher than expected construction costs.

However, he said, even with the higher costs, the price per unit came to $37,500.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said the deal remains a good bargain for the community. Jamestown is gaining affordable housing and paying only 14 percent of the costs.

“Of the total $1.3 million budget, the town’s share is just 14 percent,” he said. “We are a minority partner.”

Keiser also said the price per unit for the project is substantially less than the $66,000 price per unit at the Swinburne affordable housing project.

Councilor William Murphy wanted to know why Belden didn’t apply to the town’s Affordable Housing Committee for the additional $50,000, instead of the councilors.

“They’re inactive right now,” Keiser said. He did not elaborate on the housing panel’s status.

Belden also had said he wanted to have the commitment from Jamestown in hand when he meets with officials at Rhode Island Housing’s Thresholds Program.

The new council will not be elected until Nov. 6 and its first meeting is not scheduled until Nov. 19.

Town Council President Michael Schnack asked about the impact on the municipal budget if the councilors opted to award an additional $50,000. Keiser said the additional award would reduce the affordable housing budget to $80,000.

“That comes out of this year’s budget?” he asked. Keiser said it would.

Schnack said he wanted to go ahead and approve the extra $50,000. The addition of new units would help Jamestown ultimately reach the goal of 10 percent affordable housing.

After a brief discussion, the council voted 4-0, with Councilor Robert Bowen absent, to approve the $50,000 request.

In other business, the councilors voted to reschedule the public hearing on liquor license renewals to Nov. 19. Also, Murphy had asked Keiser if the sitting council should vote to advertise the new ordinance legalizing in-law apartments, which the Planning Commission recently approved in draft form.

The new council, which will be elected on Nov. 6, will ultimately vote the ordinance up or down.

But, Keiser said, there was a procedural problem about placing the advertisement now. According to Keiser, the Planning Commission drafted an accessory apartment ordinance earlier this month, but that draft omitted reference to the Jamestown Comprehensive Community Plan.

“The planning board needs to take it back,” Keiser said.

Finally, the councilors awarded the bid to repair the outhauls and dolphins at Fort Getty and West Ferry to Reagan Construction Corporation for an amount not to exceed

$64,645.

Town Engineer Michael Gray said three bids were received ranging from $64,645 to $131,700. He was pleased with the lowest bid, which came in substantially lower than the $100,000 estimate.

“The project has been in the works for some time,” said Gray, who attended Monday night’s meeting and recommended awarding the job to Reagan. He said the money will come from the Harbor Commission budget.

Murphy made the motion to award the bid, which passed with Councilor Ellen Winsor abstained.

The bid award was the sitting council’s last official action. The meeting adjourned at 7:30 p.m.

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