$11 million in bond issues for voters to consider

High speed internet, a water main replacement, and road improvements
Thu, 07/23/2020 - 5:00pm

High-speed internet

The highest-profile bond issue in the town this year is the proposed high speed internet project. Although the bond question will ask voters to approve an $8 million price tag, town Finance Director Amy Land has said that is an “up to” cost that will be offset by taxes, fees, and the possibility of some significant federal funding.

Land has been part of a team that has been untangling the thorny issues that surround getting a town owned and operated internet project up and running.

Land said that the town “expects to have just about everybody online at the beginning of June of 2021. The drops” — the technology that connects each house or building to the system — “will be done at the same time as the main infrastructure.”

Land said that there are a total of 1,686 connections, but whether each of those connections will subscribe to the internet service is unknown at this point.

Water main replacement project

During the most recent meeting of the Water Commission, Water Supt. John Breunig stressed that the upcoming Financial Town Meeting on July 27 was an important one for his department.

On the ballot that evening is a question regarding funding of the $2.3 million High Street/Payne Road water main replacement project. Breunig has stated in the past that this is the most significant project in the history of the department.

At the FTM, voters will be asked to fund 25 percent of the total cost of the project. The reason this is going to all town voters, even if they are not connected to town water, is that “this is the replacement of an aging piece of infrastructure that services the entire downtown area. The failure of that pipe will result in a shutdown of the entire distribution system,” said Breunig. Breunig is also applying for a federal grant that will offset as much as 45 percent of the project’s cost.

Given that the question on the water main project will come after the vote on the islandwide high-speed internet project, and also after the regular FTM meeting at which voters will vote on the municipal budget, Breunig asked that those in attendance stay for the entire meeting to vote “yes” on the project.

The FTM will be held on Monday, July 27 at 7 p.m. at the Block Island School.

Roads Project

Highways Superintendent Mike Shea is requesting $1 million in bond authorization for the purpose of repairing and upgrading town roads. 

According to a memo from Town Engineer Jim Geremia, “At this time, the Superintendent of Roads has identified three segments of town roads that are in need of repair. The proposed work for these segments of roadway focuses on rebuilding the road, improving the structural integrity of the road, reducing the stormwater run-off from the road, improving stormwater treatment, and widening of the roadways where necessary.”

According to the memo, the three segments of roadway improvements are:

1. The Pilot Hill Road Improvements Project will begin at the intersection of Payne Rd. and Pilot Hill, going south for approximately 2,010 linear feet, terminating where the roadway transitions back to gravel.

2. The Old Town Road Improvements Project will begin at the intersection of Center Road and Old Town Road, going east for approximately 1,100 linear feet.

3. The Connecticut Avenue and Old Town Road Improvements Project will begin at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and Connecticut Avenue, going south for approximately 1,150 l.f. toward the intersection of Old Town Road and Connecticut Avenue. (The intersection will be re-paved). The project will then continue east on Old Town Road for approximately 720 linear feet to terminate at the Mill Pond Culvert project.

Geremia said “the town has submitted these projects to the state to be placed on the state’s Priority List for Roads and Bridge Improvements. The placement of the projects on the State’s Priority List will allow the Town to secure low interest loans through the State’s Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB) funds.

If approved, this authorization will be combined with last year’s $1 million bond authorization for roadway improvements, Geremia wrote.