2013-11-21 / News

Councilors join campaign to install barrier on Pell Bridge

Town administrator will ask for support from other cities and towns
By Margo Sullivan

The Town Council agreed Monday to support the efforts of the Prior family to improve safety on the Pell Bridge, and will ask officials in the other 38 cities and towns to do likewise.

Attorney John Murphy represented the Prior family at the Nov. 18 meeting. He presented the council with a resolution to request the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority to prioritize median barriers on the bridge and ask police to enforce the speed limits and traffic rules.

The Prior family has been pressing the bridge authority to improve safety on the Newport span since a family member, Kenneth Prior of Jamestown, was killed in a head-on collision after a speeding vehicle crossed into the opposite lane in October 2012. Prior’s family maintains the death could have been prevented if the bridge had median barriers.

According to Murphy, a study by the bridge authority shows a history of crossover accidents on the bridge. “The collision was predictable,” he said.

Prior’s brother and sister attended the meeting. His brother, David Prior, said the median barriers are actually made of rubber and would not be too heavy for the span to support.

“The bridge will bear the weight,” he said. “It will save people’s lives.”

Councilor Thomas Tighe asked if Jamestown could send the resolution to surrounding communities and ask for their support.

“I would appreciate that,” Prior said.

“Let’s send it to all the communities in Rhode Island,” Councilor Mary Meagher said. “We need their help.”

Council President Kristine Trocki read the resolution and the council unanimously voted in favor. Town Administrator Kevin Paicos said he will present the resolution Friday at a professional meeting for the state’s municipal executives.

“We’ll prepare a cover letter and some information,” he said. “We’ll make sure we get some very widespread notice.”

Paicos said the bridge should have median barriers. “It’s mystifying to me why the bridge authority has dragged its heels,” he said. “People’s lives have been sacrificed.”

Paicos said his goal would be to see the barriers installed by the next running of the Pell Bridge race.

In other business, Recreation Director Bill Piva updated the revenue numbers on the Fort Getty season to include expenses.

The resulting bottom line indicated the town made more money on the Fort Getty campground this season when compared to a year ago, Meagher said.

“We made an additional $17,000,” she said. “The town netted $332,631. We made more money than last year with less folks.”

Earlier, Finance Director Tina Collins reported the campground revenues had declined $22,000 compared to last year, but indicated the number captured the gross revenues. Expenses had not yet been calculated.

With all the numbers available, Piva said last year’s expenses ran around $134,000. In 2013, expenses came in at $100,160.98. In most cases, the cost reductions reflected the shortened season. Last year the camp was open 144 days, but this year, the RV park was open 123 days.

Costs for electricity, gas and water declined as a result, Piva said. The councilors also eliminated a clerk’s position that had been funded at $20,000. Parks and rec staff filled in for the clerk by taking campground reservations, and according to Piva, there was a loss of efficiency. Trocki said she wanted staff to weigh in about the season because the changes were significant.

Once campers “got over the initial shock,” Piva said, he thought the season “went great.” Specifically, he added, there were fewer parking problems and less congestion around the boat ramp.

Overall, Piva said, the changes appeared to have benefitted the taxpayers. Meagher said Jamestown’s campground was competitively priced compared to Middletown.

“Middletown charges $37.50 a day for their seasonals, so we’re actually cheaper per day,” she said.

Also, the pavilion at Fort Getty saw increased use, Piva said. When landscaping changes are incorporated at the pavilion, the town may be able to increase revenues, according to landscape architect

Arek Galle.

Galle updated the councilors about the costs to improve the site. The first phase would cost around $280,000, while the second phase would run around $380,000. Per square foot, the project will cost about $14, he said. Galle’s estimate includes a 10-percent overrun, but not permitting costs.

Councilor Eugene Mihaly asked if the estimates included the value of labor the Public Works Department would contribute. No, Galle said. The estimates were essentially the cost of materials plus work that would have to go out to bid.

Galle suggested the next step would be to obtain permits from the Coastal Resources Management Council and the state Department of Environmental Management.

According to Town Engineer Mike Gray, the road repairs and drainage work are necessities. He said there is money in the Fort Getty budget to start the permitting applications.

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