2018-04-19 / News

Bridge authority, town at odds over annual payment

BY TIM RIEL

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority plans to withhold $49,000 from the town to recover costs associated with its scrapped plan for a Taylor Point solar farm.

The quasi-state agency, which is headquartered on East Shore Road, is exempt from paying property taxes to the town. Because the town provides public safety for the agency, however, the bridge authority makes annual payments in lieu of taxes. Since 2012, the five payments have ranged from $27,000 to $29,500, although there has been no formal agreement since 2010.

Buddy Croft, executive director of the bridge authority, confirmed the authority’s plans to withhold this money.

When the agency approached the town with plans to construct solar arrays near the eastern foot of the Newport Pell Bridge, local environmentalists opposed the plan because a forest would have to be cleared. The town councilors agreed, urging the bridge authority to look at an alternative site at the Dutra farm tucked between the end of Eldred Avenue and Route 138. Ultimately, however, that site was determined unfeasible by the agency’s solar provider.

After the town threatened litigation regarding zoning jurisdiction at the Taylor Point site, the bridge authority decided to kill the project. That decision was announced earlier this month.

When a $30,000 bill was sent to the agency in February for 2017 services, however, Nota was told engineering and design fees stemming from concerns by the town total $49,000.

“We revised our original plan to try and address the council’s concerns,” Croft said.

According to Nota, the bridge authority will not make a formal request to withhold the money; instead, it will refuse annual service payments until the full amount is recovered. Annual payments will be re-established at that time.

Republican Councilman Blake Dickinson said the town should not be responsible for this $49,000 because the authority misread the town’s support and went forward.

“The bridge authority was somehow given the impression that this was an OK project,” he said. “They made all of their own decisions. They incurred the risk by doing it.”

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