Water company turns on the tap ...sort of

Fri, 06/10/2022 - 3:00pm
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The Block Island Joint Water and Sewer Commissions have been able to issue water allocations to two applicants that were denied previously due to lack of available capacity during the months of June and July.
“I’ve thought about this a lot,” said Water Superintendent John Breunig. “My thoughts are, we approve these two with the capital improvements we made this year.”
The two applicants are the Seacrest Inn on High Street and Island Home on Beach Avenue. The Seacrest asked to come on town water when the well started experiencing contamination last summer. Island Home, under new ownership, is to be demolished and the inn and employee housing buildings rebuilt. The new owners would like to install the necessary piping during construction. The plan, put forth by 585 Beach Ave LLC, which is owned by the DiBiase family, is waiting approvals from the Planning and Zoning Boards.
The budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes money for the re-drilling of well six, and the increase in water storage from 300,000 to 500,000 gallons. They also hope to implement some summer water restrictions to conserve water, although those appear to be on hold until at least mid-July.
“We’re taking a risk, but these aren’t massive accounts,” said Breunig.
“I feel like it’s a well-thought-out plan,” said Water Commission Chair Brad Marthens.
“What happens if somebody else comes in?” asked member Tom Doyle.
Breunig indicated that any new commercial applicants were likely to be denied as had the Seacrest and Island Home, due to the lack of available water to be allocated at the time. “We’ve already done it. We’re going to do it again later this evening.”
“Later this evening,” turned out to be when Breunig recommended a denial for the 5,910 gallon per day request by the Manisses Hotel for the 30-room addition they wish to add to the hotel. That amount is more than the total available for commercial users for this summer, and the Water Commission had already denied a request from Lark Hotels for a larger allocation for “Surfside,” where they would like to build a 120-seat restaurant.
These and other applicants have been placed on a waiting list. The list is helpful for planning purposes and Breunig said he’s had “more requests for water in the last year than in the last 10 - maybe 20 years.”
Help is on the way, though. The Rhode Island Water Resource Board has purchased a property on behalf of the Water Company for an additional well field. Information Quick Solutions, the web-based service used by the Town of New Shoreham to document land transfers, shows the closing occurred on May 18, at the price of $1,325,000. The seller was the Donald R. Schmidt Living Trust.
The property at 810 Off Sands Pond Road (Plat 9, Lot 87) is 6.8 acres and has a small, two-bedroom ranch-style home on it that was built in 1930. The latest tax assessment, done in 2018, shows a value of $1,542,000, of which $1,427,000 is for the land, according to Vision Appraisal. The house itself, which has no heat, is slated for demolition.
“This is a massive win,” said Breunig. He especially wants to thank Kathleen Crawley of the Water Resource Board and the Schmidt family, especially as the market values on Block Island continue to rise and the property most likely could have sold for more on the current market.
The deal was a long time in the making according to Breunig. “It’s the end for them, but the start for me.” A lease agreement needs to be entered into with the state, and planning for the property is included in the upcoming fiscal year’s budget.
“It’s a huge win for the island,” said Breunig.
Even though water is tight, the department is willing to give allocations for fire suppression systems. These systems do not use water regularly, and if there is a fire, much less water is used in the long run than without such a system. A large fire during the summer could wreak havoc on the supply. In that spirit, the Water Commission
approved an allocation for a fire suppression system for the High View Inn on Connecticut Avenue.
On the sewer side of things, the current phase of the pipe relining in and around Bridgegate Square was completed on Tuesday, June 7. Sewer Superintendent Dylan Chase reported that the project went smoothly and all the area businesses affected were very cooperative and none of them experienced any back-ups when the sewer was shut off. In all, approximately 1,300 feet of “slip-lining” was performed, with 650 feet on Ocean Avenue, 100 on Dodge Street, and the remainder on Corn Neck Road.
This was a bit more footage than expected, and that and the added expense of having Community Service Officers perform traffic duty, led to some extra costs.
The department wasn’t so lucky when it came to bidding for the Old Harbor pump station project. There was only one bid received, from Hart Engineering Corp., and it came in at $1,838,000. This exceeds the amount estimated for the project of $1,393,000.
Chase said he “didn’t think taking a loan out is appropriate,” and instead, he and the town engineer, Jim Geremia recommended making some adjustments to the scope of the project to get the cost down. They recommended removing the HVAC upgrades, interior painting and other items to reduce the price by $301,000.