Employee housing, school safety, parking lot renovations

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 5:15pm
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Town Manager Ed Roberge said that while his office is continuing to work on the employee housing initiative that has been approved for the Thomas Property across from the Block Island School, he is now favoring a plan to split the two building projects so they have two separate timeframes.

The proposal calls for a single-family home and a multiple-unit dwelling to be built on the property, but a lack of interest in the project by local contractors when the bids first went out last September has caused Roberge to retool the project so that the single-family will be built first, possibly in the spring. The entire project was approved by Block Island voters with a budget of $1.5 million.

At the Town Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 5, Roberge said he would be working with the designs for the Cherry Hill Lane affordable housing project on Cherry Hill Lane — the bids for which are currently under review due to the fact they came in much higher than the project has been budgeted for — to see if those designs can be incorporated into the Thomas property project. Roberge said the plan will focus on building the separate single-family home, which will be occupied by the Roberge family, by spring, and to start the multiple-unit dwelling, which would be occupied by town employees, sometime in the fall.

Accordingly, the bid proposals for the project will also be revamped.

According to Roberge, who spoke with The Times after the Monday meeting, the new proposals will feature a “fixed design” for the proposed singly family dwelling, in the same way that the Cherry Hill Lane RFPs also went out with a fixed design for contractors to consider.

“There wasn’t an overwhelming response to the design build approach” when the RFP was issued in September, said Roberge. “But with a fixed design they’ll know what’s involved with the project.

Roberge said that after the RFP is sent out he expects the bids to come back “within the next few weeks. Hopefully we will get some good interest.” The previous lone bidder’s prospective schedule would have run from Jan. 2019 to August of 2019, putting the project three months over schedule.

Since Roberge needs to vacate his rental apartment on Water Street in May of 2019, the goal has been to secure housing for him and his family by that time.

As for the consideration of purchasing an existing single-family property to meet the town manager’s housing needs, Roberge said, “We did look at, and assess, several properties that were attractively priced, but there were concerns regarding the parcels of land.” Roberge said those concerns could mean additional costs for purchasing a property.

Roberge said the new proposal for the Thomas Property made better sense than purchasing an existing property “over a 20-year life cycle. It will be more affordable in the long run.”

Resident Peter Wood asked “What is the future of the parking lot at State Beach? Will there be a barrier between the road and the lot?”

“There will be rails between Corn Neck Road and the parking lot, and mid-rails between the two lots,” said Roberge. “In the spring we’ll lay all that in.”

“Plants?” asked Wood. The rosa rugosa that had been growing between the parking lot and Corn Neck Road had been relocated near the walkovers south of the parking lot.

“There will be a small strip of plantings between the road and the parking lot,” said Facilities Manager Sam Bird. “It’ll be narrow. It’s a tight fit.” Bird said after the meeting that the railings and the plantings would likely be installed in the early spring.

There was a also a brief discussion about the status of new locks on school classrooms at the Block Island School. Both Roberge and Bird said the bids for the project had gone out and that all locks should be replaced by the end of January. — With additional reporting by Cassius Shuman