Housing delaying Manager’s start
It’s been over two weeks since the Town Council named Edward Roberge as the town’s new Town Manager, yet Roberge and the town have not come to terms on a contract. First Warden Ken Lacoste told The Block Island Times that the reason a contract hasn’t been signed is that Roberge hasn’t yet found housing on the island.
“Contract negotiations are on hold,” said Lacoste. “(Roberge) is trying to determine what it’s going to cost him to live out here.” The main sticking point in negotiations is that “he needs to know he’ll have an affordable place to live so that he can focus on doing his job. The problem is finding year-round housing.” Roberge is planning on moving to the island from his residence in Bow, New Hampshire.
When asked if he thought it was “concerning” that Roberge hasn’t yet found housing, Lacoste said, “It’s not alarming. It’s concerning in the sense that it takes some time to find housing. It’s creating a normal amount of anxiety. It’s an important issue as it relates to his expectations and the cost of living.”
As for what the town is doing to assist Roberge in his search, Lacoste said, “We’re working on a couple of leads. We’re hoping we may be able to find something this week, or next week. At this point we’re positive about it.”
Lacoste told The Times that Roberge would be visiting the island on Thursday, Oct. 12 to search for housing. The First Warden placed a letter to the editor in this week’s newspaper appealing to the “Block Island community” for help with the search.
Roberge said he “reached out to area realtors, as well as joining and placing a notice on the Block Island Bulletin Board. The response was quite positive — thanks to the Block Island community for making me feel quite welcome. However, we are still looking for housing. The Town Council has also been actively seeking housing options as well — their efforts are well appreciated.”
“What I am experiencing are the same challenges that folks who live and work on Block Island today experience,” said Roberge, “so I can appreciate their concerns for affordable, year-round housing. This is an issue the Block Island community has been grappling with for some time. A long-term, sustainable solution is needed — I hope to be in a position to help those discussions with residents and the Town Council.”
“My sense is that if the right place popped up tomorrow then we would probably finalize contract discussions,” said Lacoste. “He would very much like to be here.”
Lacoste said that the lack of available year-round rental housing on the island is “a wakeup call.” The lack of housing is something that plagues the town when it comes to the hiring of contractors or town employees. The Town Council has placed the matter on its agenda and is attempting to address the issue.
Lacoste said in the future the town could perhaps provide a stipend (for the Town Manager) and housing like most colleges do to accommodate its employees’ needs.
“It would have to be reasonable rent because the town would be paying for it,” he said.