CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article reported the sewer project had been approved. It has been moved into the pending file, meaning it’s continued without a specific hearing date set.
WARWICK, RI — The City Council OK’d a motion to finish repairs to Lippitt Park, and to advance a resolution awarding the 900-house Bayside sewer project to D’Ambra Construction Monday night.
The sewer resolution passed unanimously.
Regarding the Lippitt Park resolution, Councilman Timothy Howe and Councilman Jeremy Rix seconded the motion, which passed, with Councilmen James McElroy and Anthony Sinapi voting against.
The council also passed PCO 17-20, allowing vendor bids within 7 percent of the lowest bid to be considered for city bids.
“It will become something we can use in the next meeting when we get it signed by the Mayor,” Howe said.
The council also unanimously approved $80,000 in police educational expenses.
Finance Committee discussion/approvals
During the Finance Committee, the following bids were approved, and later passed by the full City Council:
2020-291 Fire apparatus repair – Department requests that bid cap be expanded from $50,000 to $80,000 expires June 7, 2021. Outside repairs funding has been largely expended, leaving $10,000 in the account, for the services of New England Fire Equipment & Apparatus Corporation of North Haven, CT, Five Star Fire, 45 Brainard Rd. of Hartford, CT, Minuteman Trucks, 2181 Providence Hwy. Walpole, MA, and Coastal International, 17 O’Kefe Ln.Warwick, RI.
“The need is ongoing so we want to make sure we can keep moving forward with it,” said Christi Moretti with the Public Works Department.
The motion passed unanimously in Finance, and was later approved by the full Council
2021-058 Elevator Maintenance & Repair Asking for a $2,000 increase, from $15,000 to $17,00 to repair an elevator lift at Thayer Arena. The motion passed unanimously.
2021-087 – Oakland Beach Boardwalk Improvement Asking to award contract for $140,738 to Mill City Construction, Inc., of Lincoln RI to replace wooden portion of Oakland Beach boardwalk, installed in 1996. “The wood hasn’t been replaced since. It’s become a hazard,” said Bill Facente, Community Development office, paid for by Community Development Block Grant Funds.
2021-088 – Planting and Landscape improvements, Conimicut Village – Facente said the contract is $6,000 to Yard Works Inc. of Warwick to finish landscaping begun in Conimicut Village, paid for by Community Development Block Grant Funds.
2021-100 – Underwater search and Rescue – WPD Maj. Lori Michailides told the Finance Committee that the second of two boats donated to the city by the DEM requires minor repairs to put it on the water, costing $8,000, to be awarded to West Marine Pro, 500 Westridge Dr., Watsonville, CA
Pension board transparency proposal
During the Finance Committee meeting, Councilman Ed Ladouceur discussed changes to the pension board’s practices he said would make it easier for people to learn about the board’s business and the performance of the pension funds, mainly by asking Tony Tranghese, from Fiduciary Investment Advisors, to regularly answer questions before the City Council.
“The average member is not going to be leaving work to attend the pension board meetings,” Councilman Ed Ladouceur said, explaining his reasoning behind seeking a regular report from the pension board to the City Council.
Both Councilman Steve McAllister and Councilman Tiimothy Howe expressed caution about adding the requirement, asking to see the change in writing first. Councilman Anthony Sinapi suggested both moving the meeting time, which he allowed had likely been attempted, and also allowing people to submit written questions to the pension board. He said that way, the questions would be asked while everyone who can answer them would be in the same room.
“It makes sense to make it transparent, don’t get me wrong, but I think there’s other ways, more simple ways, of doing it,” Sinapi said.
Roger Durand, commenting on the discussion, said taxpayers, who pay two-thirds of contributions to the pension funds, should have a “seat at the table” during pension board meetings. He also said the idea of attending the meeting to ask questions isn’t realistic, because his and other residents’ question about the pension fund’s rate of return was ignored during a recent meeting.
“You can’t ask questions at all,” Durand said.
Durand also suggested that end-of-quarter reports on the pension fund should be posted on the city’s website each month.
“I have done numerous public information requests, and you’d be shocked with the answers I get. That’s a public document, we the taxpayers are subsidizing the most on these pension plans. So that particular information from Fiduciary Investments, and that’s the gentleman you’re referring to, should be published on the city website the month following the quarter,” Durand said.
Ladouceur said posting such reports has been suggested and has been discussed.
Durand pointed out pension funds are a major cost for taxpayers, at millions per year, and should be a priority for all council members. “And I don’t understand what the hesitation is,” he said.
Ladouceur made a motion to hold the issue until Oct. 5, which was seconded by Councilman Timothy Howe and passed by the full Finance Committee.
Lippitt Park repairs
The Finance Committee also considered a resolution calling for the full repair of Lippitt Park, damaged by a vehicle crash six weeks ago, and not yet fully repaired, which presents a safety hazard in a tripping risk from raised asphalt.
Ladouceur said he recalls the insurance adjuster award for the damage was about $4,600.
“They have replaced one 8X8 stanchion, wood stanchion. They have replaced two bicycle racks” Ladouceur said. He said there is another stanchion damaged and damage to the asphalt that has yet to be remedied.
“I’m not asking to rebuild Lippitt Park,” he said, he just wants the park repaired. Lacoucuer said he’s sent numerous requests to finish the repairs, which have been ignored.
McAllister made a point that the city had begun repairs.
“They have not been working on it for months,” Ladouceur said. “This isn’t some project that’s going to take months, or days. No, this is going to take a few hours. Get in a truck, get a couple of people over there, pull out the 8X8, put a new 8X8 in, and patch the asphalt,” Ladouceur said, “That’s what my constituents deserve, that’s what you would deserve, and that’s what you would expect.”
Howe mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic might have slowed down repairs, as some things have been during the health crisis.
Ladouceur said that’s not the case, he pointed out there is asphalt available since there are road repairs underway in the city.
Gail Dusseault of Katy Avenue commented that the sea wall at Lippitt Park is also falling apart, which presents a safety risk as well.
Sinapi remarked that bringing the issue to the full Council, instead of through informal means, sets up a precedent where such problems will be expected to become full Council matters.
“When I have a collection of emails requesting things to be done and they’re not done, my last resort is to bring them here, on a resolution. And if that is troubling to some folks, sorry. But if I can’t get them resolved and I can’t get answers to the emails, and I can’t get the repairs made, then, we’re going to be bringing them right back.”
McAllister seconded the resolution, with he and Howe voting in favor for the resolution.
Sewer project opposition
Michelle MacMahon of Linden Avenue spoke against the sewer project in Bayside during the finance committee meeting.
“It is socially unjust to have a sewer project force me and many others out of our homes. It is unconscionable to put this heavy financial burden on us, who are mostly low, to middle-income residents.
She said there’s no “bottom line” information on the cost of the sewer project, which has outraged and worried her and her neighbors.
She said the cost of sewers installed in her neighborhood would burden her if she stayed in her home and if she tried to sell. She noted that pushing through the project and the potential $30,000-$40,000 in costs to homeowners during the pandemic-instigated recession and job losses.
“That amount of money is going to change the rest of my life. It’s going to decide if I can buy another house, it’s going to decide when and if I can retire,” she said.
Lacouceur noted during discussion that in the event people’s cesspools fail, they will face similar, if not more costly, work, and that state law is phasing such systems out at any rate, leaving little choice but for Warwick homes to make the switch to sewers. After the meeting Councilman Jeremy Rix echoed that observation.
Rix said the costs of sewers can be passed on to the next homeowner, and also, “If they have a cesspool or failed septic system, they will be forced to pay for that then and there. And if they don’t pay for it, their home would not be occupiable,” Rix said.