Warwick, RI — The City Council tackled the remainder of department reviews during Monday night’s budget hearing, with three councilors expressing disappointment that paving funding, a routine sticking point, is dropping $1.3 million to $1 million.
Councilman Edgar Ladouceur said he was, “Very, very disappointed,” that the paving budget had reduced to $1 million from last year’s $2,373,000.
“I have not had one constituent call me and tell me to stop fixing roads so they can see a break in their taxes,”Ladouceur said.
Eric Earls, Warwick city engineer, told the council there are 400 miles of road in the city. At $1 million, he said, the DPW can resurface about 7.5 miles of road, or do a complete rebuild and only cover 3.5 miles.
That’s not enough funding to get all the city’s roads repaired every 15 years according to the city’s plan, said Councilman Steve Merolla. “We can’t achieve that by putting $1 million in,” he said.
But, Earls said, some of the recent rebuilds are expected to last up to 30 years.
Councilman Joseph Gallucci said there were 21 areas near Rte. 5 and Crowne Plaza where roads were in poor shape. He said a better deal needs to be worked out with National Grid, which is pledged to resurface roads where they do utility work. “To say that all they’re required to do is patch over what they did is not in the best interests of the city,” he said.
Solomon agreed National Grid’s work has been poor quality when they fix a road they’ve done work on. “I get noting but complaints about perfectly good highways that are destroyed because they come in to put in the hookups,” Solomon said.
Increasing funding for road repair has been a perennial budget sticking point for the city council. In 2015, the Council added $1.3 million to the paving budget, bringing it to the current 2016 level of $2,373,000. In 2014, the Council added $597,929.31 to the paving budget, bringing that line item to $1,047,929.31, but that was successfully vetoed by Mayor Scott Avedisian.
Warwick Police Chief Col. Stephen McCartney also spoke about increasing demands on police personnel for court appearances thanks to new rules and increasing demands for detail officers due to several construction projects throughout the city.
Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson’s asked about the increase for the Court Time -Police II line item, up from a 2016 expenditure of $64,139 to $80,000.
“That’s because the court has established a certain policy,” said WPD Dep. Chief Michael Babula, requiring every officer on a call to show up in court when a case goes to trial, and scheduling five trials for the same day, even though they only usually get to two. “But because of that our court costs are increasing rapidly.”
Warwick Police Chief Col. Stephen McCartney said he’d had a promising conversation with the judge about the situation, hoping to reduce the demand on officers’ time in the future.
Vella Wilkinson also asked about the increase for Temporary Services – from $30,000 to $45,000. Babula explained the line item is for a temporary employee to fill in for an ill civilian detail officer to schedule police details, a crucial position at the department. Babula said the single position is probably not enough, since Babula and Maj. Robert Nelson are also taking some of the work.
“The number of details we’ve done has doubled,” said Babula. McCartney said the department is averaging more than 50 details a day in the city, because of several construction projects in the city, including the airport expansion and the Apponaug Circulator Project.
Warwick City Council budget hearings continue tonight at Warwick City Hall, 3275 Post Road, at 5 p.m.