WARWICK, RI — After Matthew Yehle and his neighbors waited months for the city to patch a pothole at the end of Meadow View Avenue, he repaired it himself, then learned the road belongs to Harbor Lights marina.
Yehle said that to work out his frustration, he joked on Facebook about billing the materials and labor to the city.
“Please let me know where to mail the bill for the $179.12 I spent at Lowe’s for 12 bags of QPR asphalt patch (and yes I have my receipts). And based on the town rates, I’m pretty sure this would have required 8 city employees and about 5 hours of labor (factoring in the allotted break every 15 minutes). So call it $1500 or so for billed labor. Checks payable to Matthew Yehle for $1679.12,” Yehle wrote.
Yehle said he, his fellow homeowners and the local school bus driver started calling the City to request a repair when the school year began in the fall. He said that over the last 10 years calls to the city have resulted in repairs on the street.
But the street doesn’t actually belong to the city, according to the Mayor’s office.
“This is a private driveway and not a City street, and therefore does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Works,” Mayor Solomon’s office replied when asked about requests to repair the road.
The street was part of the United Electric Railroad (UER), platted in 1935 and contains Leroy Avenue along with Paine Street in the surrounding area.
During the platting process, the UER retained ownership of the parcel until 1939, which is the earliest recorded title card on record in the Department of Public Works. When these portions were sold by the UER, lots 196 and 66 were both created and are contained in plat 377. The current property owner is Harbor Lights Marina, which took possession of these lots in 1976, according to the Mayor’s office.
“One of my priorities as Mayor has been to address infrastructure concerns,” Solomon said in statement about the issue. “With the City Council’s 8-1 approval Monday night of my Roadway Improvement Initiative, in the spring we will begin paving roads, converting street lights to LED technology and making other safety and aesthetic enhancements to our city streets. While the resident’s action to repair the pothole is commendable and the City is sympathetic to those who travel along the road in question, we are unable to spend city funds to repair a private roadway.”
Joe Noel, CEO of Harbor Lights, said he remembers when his dad, Philip W. Noel, bought the property. He said it’s been the City of Warwick, not Harbor Lights, making those repairs Yehle mentioned.
“No, in actuality, that is something that has been handled by the city before the marina ever owned that road,” Noel said.
Noel said previous repairs have been handled by the city under Mayor Scott Avedisian’s administration, but not since Solomon took office. Noel said the city’s usual role in maintain the road probably “just kind of slipped through the cracks,” as the new Mayor and new DPW director got settled.
Noel said he, his father and Solomon have agreed to meet about the road maintenance in the spring, since both elder and younger Noels are out of state for the winter.
Noel said the city’s practice of maintaining the road makes sense to continue, since it’s used by about 60 families, as a school bus route and provides quicker access for area fire department and police department calls.
“It doesn’t make much sense for us to have to maintain it,” when the street is so vital a public resource.
Noel said he hopes the city will agree to continue maintaining the road, which, aside from the pothole Yehle patched, is in very bad shape. Also, he said, “We’ve been paying taxes on that road for a long time.”
Yehle said he doesn’t expect either the city or Harbor Lights to pay him for the work. He said he was just making a joke about the situation. But, he said, all the attention is a nice change of pace considering the last few months with no word on the road repairs.
“I guess it does feel good to be heard,” Yehle said.