Town housing response misses mark
New Shoreham Town Manager Ed Roberge delivered the bad news to the Town Council on Monday night: there was only one response to the Request for Proposals for the town’s housing initiative, the proposal was $800,000 over budget, and beyond the project’s timeframe. Roberge noted that the town’s first RFP round did not net a single response, so the document was revised and sent back out again.
New Shoreham voters authorized $1.5 million at the May 7 Financial Town Meeting for financing the construction of town employee housing at the Thomas Property on High Street. The project involves constructing two buildings: a single-family dwelling, as well as a four-unit apartment building on the existing duplex’s footprint.
“The first attempt didn’t solicit any responses” from prospective contractors, said Roberge, during his update on the town’s housing initiative. “So we revised the document and sent it back out, and received one response last Wednesday.” The proposal amount “was in excess of what we have for available funds. And we need to look at what other options that we have.”
“So we had one bid” on the project, said Councilor Chris Willi, who asked if the proposal was close to the $1.5 million approved by taxpayers at the FTM.
Roberge said the proposal amount was “$2.3 million. So we need to understand why, because there’s not a lot of detail in the proposal regarding the building program. I think it’s based on a square footage assumption. We need to drill down into the details of that.”
Councilor Sven Risom asked Roberge if the respondent proposed a prefab construction, or stick-built structure. Prefabs are buildings that are fabricated in a factory and then installed on a site, while stick-built is a structure that is built from materials on the site.
“What we’re assuming is that it’s stick -built,” said Roberge. “And part of the evaluation process will be to look at those two alternatives.”
Risom asked Roberge if the contractor’s proposal would create a timing issue for the project.
“The timing is a concern,” said Roberge, who noted that the prospective schedule in the proposal was from Jan. 2019 to August of 2019, which would be three months over schedule. The goal of the project was to secure housing for Roberge and his family by May of 2019, when Roberge must vacate his leased apartment on Water Street.
Resident Bill McCombe asked if the $1.5 million could be used to purchase an existing property. In response, Roberge said language in the FTM warrant “ was very specific,” so changing that language would require authorization from taxpayers at another FTM.
Former Town Manager Nancy Dodge, who was in attendance, said, “The timeframe is something you can’t adjust to this one bidder, because then it would substantially change the framework of the bid.”
“That’s correct,” said Roberge. “That’s an accurate evaluation — both cost and schedule. All of that is being evaluated.”
Dodge suggested that the town look at the existing stock of houses on the real estate market — “at a level where there still might be some funding to do the Thomas Property afterwards. But I don’t think you should waste a whole lot of time. Just get out there and start looking at options.” She said the town could hold a special Financial Town Meeting for funding a revised housing initiative project.
“Is there a way to construct one building, and not the other” at the Thomas Property, asked Willi.
Roberge said the RFP described the town’s intentions for the project. “We would start with building the single-family residence, and have it delivered by the end of May of 2019. One was deliverable by May of 2019, and the other (four-unit apartment building) by April of 2020. We anticipated that that would be the likely schedule.”
Roberge is going to evaluate the proposal, including meeting with the prospective contractor, and report back to the council with his findings.
After the meeting, Roberge told The Times that the town was “in the review process,” and noted that the town is looking at the “scope, budget and schedule. It is a qualification-based selection process review that is underway. Staff and I are reviewing the proposal, and we want to be fair and expedient in our review. ”
During the meeting, the Town Council unanimously approved (5-0) executing a resolution for the issuance of bonds and notes in an amount not to exceed $1.5 million for financing the housing initiative. First Warden Ken Lacoste made the motion that was seconded by Willi.
CAI network financing
Construction of the Community Anchor Institution broadband network is underway. During Monday’s meeting, the council unanimously approved executing a resolution for the issuance of bonds and notes in an amount not to exceed $550,000 to finance construction and implementation of the CAI network. Lacoste made the motion that was seconded by Second Warden André Boudreau.
The total budget for the project is $675,000, with $125,000 being contributed by the Block Island School, Medical Center and the Island Free Library. The CAI network will connect the school, Medical Center, library, Town Hall and Public Safety Complex to the fiber optic strands embedded in National Grid’s sea2shore cable. The CAI network has a Jan. 1 target completion date, with the goal of expanding broadband island-wide at a later date.
West Beach Revetment
The Town Council unanimously approved executing a resolution for the issuance of bonds and notes in an amount not to exceed $1,995,000 for financing the West Beach revetment project. The landfill stabilization work got underway during the third week of September, and it is expected to be completed in May of 2019.
Southeast Lighthouse restoration
The Town Council unanimously approved waiving the building permit fee of $4,170 for restoration of the Southeast Lighthouse. Gerald F. Abbott, President of the Southeast Lighthouse Foundation, said in a Sept. 19 letter to the council that the savings could be used to fund restoration of the tower’s cast iron decking or associated elements. Lacoste made the motion that was seconded by Willi. Councilor Martha Ball and Boudreau were recused.
Update on Old Island Pub
The Town Council, acting as the town’s liquor commission, granted the Old Island Pub permission to stay closed from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30. According to a Sept. 18 memo submitted by the Gaffett family, the permission comes with the understanding that the OIP will be open on Nov. 30, if not earlier. “We expect that our construction will be completed during this autumn season, but out of an abundance of caution we are asking for permission to remain closed until November 30th.”
The Town Council discussed adding the following items to future agendas: transportation, road and safety issues, Old Harbor parking, meeting with Police Chief Vin Carlone, in-house technology, and surveying town-owned land that has not been surveyed.
The next Town Council meeting is Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.