Special meeting to be set for water main project
The Town Council approved language that will ask registered voters to approve financing 25 percent of the cost of a water main project that is one of the primary water distribution systems for the entire town. The language will appear on the warrant at a Special Financial Town Meeting that will specifically address the project, which the council also approved at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 3. Although the meeting was approved, it has yet to be scheduled.
While the cost of the project is estimated at about $2.3 million, that pricetag — and the town’s financial support — could be cut by about $1 million if a federal loan the Water Company is applying for comes through.
Water Company Supt. John Breunig said the High Street/Payne Road Main Replacement Project is important to the entire town, not just customers of the water district. If the pipe failed, he said, it would affect, among other facilities, the Block Island School and the Medical Center. “Two important buildings right there,” said Breunig.
“You’re talking about a significant impact if there was a catastrophic failure of the water system,” said First Warden Ken Lacoste.
“This involves our entire system,” said Breunig.
Breunig said this section of pipe is the last section of the original water system to be upgraded. “This is the last major piece of the distribution system that the town originally purchased,” he said. “Everything else has been replaced.”
Councilor Martha Ball asked how much road work was involved.
“It’s extensive,” said Breunig. He said, “$700,000 of this is roadwork. It’s hard to swallow, but typical of this kind of project.”
The Water District is applying for a grant through the USDA Rural Development Water and Wastewater Program that could cover up to 45 percent of the project through a combination of grant and loan monies. If the USDA funding comes through, it would cover about $1 million of the project’s cost. That would leave about $1.24 million to be covered by the town and ratepayers. If the USDA funding does not come through, the support from the town would cover 25 percent of the $2.3 million.
Breunig said the project is the largest in the history of the Water Company, and would mean incurring more debt than all of its previous projects combined.
Town Finance Director Amy Land said “The water company has to secure this (funding) authority whether the town participates or not. They still need to go through this process.” Breunig said getting the Special Financial Town Meeting scheduled was critical for securing the USDA loan. “Waiting until May would jeopardize the 45 percent” grant funding, he said. The District would plan to hold a special meeting before March 19, 2020 to keep the application in play.
If the USDA grant proves successful, the total amount of town participation would be $309,375.
The council approved a motion for scheduling a special financial meeting, as well as approving the language that will go on the warrant to approve 25 percent of the cost of the project. The date of the special town meeting has yet to be set.
Town Manager Ed Roberge said that town support was “appropriate. This is good for the community, and hats off to John for chasing the grant.”
Congratulating the Lady ‘Canes
The weather grew cold outside on Monday night, Dec. 2 at Town Hall, but the Town Council started off its meeting with a warm introduction for the Block Island School Girls Varsity Volleyball Team for its accomplishments this past season.
Second Warden André Boudreau shared his thoughts and support for the island team.
“Tonight, it’s all about the girls. You’ve done a great job, and we wanted to take a few minutes to recognize some really good things that have happened in our community,” Boudreau said. “You guys really do know how to make your community proud, and we needed to recognize you for that.”
The Lady Hurricanes Volleyball Team consisted of nine players and went 16-1 during the 2019 season. Player recognitions included Division III first team accolades for Savannah Brown, Sophie Mott and Mikheala Brown-Padien, Division III second team included Moira O’Neill and Charlotte Hall, and all-tournament Division III players recognized were Savannah Brown and Charlotte Hall.
Savannah Brown, grade 11, was named Division III Player of the Year. Coach Rob Martin was named Division III Coach of the Year.
The 2019 team included players Amira Veldman-Wilson, Alison Pineda, Moira O’Neill, Charlotte Hall, Sophie Mott, Savannah Brown, Lucy Rigby-Leather, Mikheala Padien-Brown and Stella Gockenbach.
Martin and assistant Coach Ben Foster also chimed in on watching the team grow over the year and the accomplishments they shared.
“I will never forget the first time our future champions stepped onto our court. What I saw was a collection of young ladies, from different grades, different cliques, different lives... all I see is a family,” said coach Martin.
The girls varsity volleyball program was created in 2018 and finished its first year with a 7-9 record while making it to the quarter-finals, for which they received the 2018 sportsmanship award, said Martin.
The ladies were congratulated with warm smiles and acceptance for their great contributions this year.
Evaluating moped language
In other news, the members of the Town Council delayed reviewing new language in its moped ordinance that is designed to eliminate moped training activity on public ways. Town attorney Kathy Merolla had expected to attend the meeting, but boats had been cancelled.
The new language was suggested by Roberge, with input from the moped rental company owners.
The language included in the proposed ordinance states that “[t]he use of public property by this license (holder) is expressly prohibited. The following activities shall not take place on public property including Town owned parcels, public rights-of-ways, sidewalks, parks, beaches, or boardwalks... displaying motorized bicycles, tricycles and/or scooters for rent, training and instruction including explanation of State and local laws and regulations on use of the motorized bicycles, tricycles and/or scooters for rent, and washing, cleaning and maintenance of said vehicles.”
Roberge said the new language reflected “elements that were the most problematic: the training, the cleaning and washing of units within the street itself, all of the activities... those are some aspects that have come up throughout the years that we are trying to address in some sort of fashion.”
This item was continued to the next meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 18 when Merolla is expected to be present. Councilor Chris Willi, referencing the continued discussion, said, “I agree. We have to have a counselor here.” Councilor Sven Risom was also absent.
If the proposed moped language is approved by the town, all five moped companies on the island will adhere to its provisions.
Interim town manager search
Before its regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m., the Town Council held a review of the applicants for the position of interim town manager in closed session. Four people have submitted applications, and Boudreau noted that none of the applicants were island residents.
Applications for the position were due at the close of the day, Thursday, Dec. 5.