Proposals sought for Cherry Hill Lane project

For constructing five affordable homes
Thu, 03/14/2019 - 6:30pm

The Block Island Housing Board said requests for proposals for its Cherry Hill Lane project became available on Friday, March 8, and the project is already generating interest from contractors. Proposals for the $1.4 million project are due back at Town Hall on April 26 by 3 p.m. The RFP package is available on the town’s website under request for bids and proposals.

The board revised its initial RFP and is seeking a contractor, or contractors, to construct five single-family dwellings on its 4.5-acre Cherry Hill Lane affordable housing subdivision property, located off of Cooneymus Road. The RFP consists of two parts: one for site work, including the foundation and landscaping, and the other for construction of the dwellings, either using the stick-built method or modular construction.

The board was open to having one or separate contractors fulfill the two parts of the proposal, and break ground some time in 2019, with completion of the entire build for occupancy by May 15, 2020. The project calls for the construction of three Cape-style three-bedroom homes and two ranch style two-bedroom dwellings.

This is a second go-around for the board, as the lower of two bidders during an initial round of bids in the fall was $800,000 over budget. The board did not disclose the budget in its initial RFP. This time around the board stated in the opening paragraph of the RFP that the “budget for completion of the project is not to exceed $1.4 million.”

At its meeting on Tuesday, the board’s clerk, Bonny Ryan, said she sent out letters to 225 prospective contractors per a contact list provided by board member John Spier. She also said contractors have already expressed interest in the project. She noted that a Newport-based contractor, who built modular homes on the island in 1990, said that, ‘He’s going to get the bid, because he loves it out here.” She added: “So we are getting responses.”

“That’s great,” said board member Rosemary Tobin. “It sounds good. We’re already getting more interest than the last round of bids.”

Pappas said all of the RFP information, including infrastructure plans and architectural drawings, are available on the town’s website. “I’m really hopeful with the responses we’re getting so far.”

The Housing Board will be reviewing the bid proposals for the project at its April 30 meeting.

Bills before the state legislature

Board member Millie McGinnes informed the board that house bill H 5397 before the state legislature “would exempt the Housing Board and other non-profits who are deed restricting property for affordable housing, from paying the Rhode Island transfer tax on the sale of a property. The current tax is $4.60 per $1,000 of purchase price, which is paid by the seller.”

McGinnes said it would be a “more global benefit” for the homebuyer, and “The Housing Board would save the payment of the tax on the unit sales and be able to put that into subsidizing the current project, or put it towards a future project.”

“It’s a good bill,” she said. “I think we should ask the Town Council to support it.”

The board voted unanimously (5-0) to send a request for support of the bill to the Town Council and State Rep. Blake Filippi. Chair Cindy Pappas made the motion that was seconded by Spier. Housing Board member Michael Kiley was absent.

McGinnes also told the board that bill S 0452, introduced on Feb. 27 by Sen. Susan Sosnowski, was going to be heard before the state legislature. The bill states that “workers and their families residing in New Shoreham who earn less than 140 percent of median income” could qualify for affordable housing, versus the state’s percentage of 120 percent. The bill would increase the pool of applicants on the island. Pappas said a board member should be present when the bill is heard.

New board member needed

In other news, the Housing Board is looking to fill a vacant seat on its board. Pappas asked the board members to come up with the names of some people who might be interested in serving. “We should shoot some names out.”

Spier brought levity to the discussion, noting that when Kim Gaffett was on the Town Council a long time ago she said they would reference the phone book when trying to find people to fill a seat on a commission or board.

In response, Pappas asked if “Kim would entertain” serving on the board. “I’ll be happy to ask Kim if she would like to serve,” she said.

“She’s the most overqualified candidate for almost any position,” said Spier. The board agreed.

Tobin said the board should seek candidates who have acquired affordable housing, rather than someone who is seeking affordable housing.

Pappas also felt the board was “getting a little heavy on real estate agents.” She said it would be nice to fill the seat with someone who possesses a “financial acumen.”

“I feel like every board that I’m on, we’re always looking for a financial person,” said Tobin.