UPDATE 2:46 p.m: The city advised motorists crews are repairing an unrelated sewer main break in the vicinity of Warwick Veterans Middle School on West Shore Road.
The road remains open to two-way travel, though the westbound lane is presently closed. Repairs are expected to be completed within the next several hours. No disruptions in service have been reported.
WARWICK, RI —Failing city infrastructure left residents in two areas of Warwick without water Sunday night when two water main breaks occurred simultaneously.
Water Department layoffs last year meant minimal manpower was available to fix the breaks that occurred at roughly the same time on both Dahlia Street and at the corner of Brunswick Drive and Cape Way Road.
Mayor-Elect Frank Picozzi, who visited the sites of both breaks Sunday night, called the situation a “worst-case scenario.”
When Picozzi arrived at the Brunswick break, he told the Warwick Post the water had been turned off in the area and National Grid was there locating and marking the gas lines. When he arrived at the second site, Sewer Department employees were marking the sewer line, while a water department employee was searching for a valve to shut off water to the street.
In April due to budget concerns, Mayor Joseph Solomon proposed union officials have city workers forego a scheduled pay raise to avoid layoffs. The union rejected that option, saying it was presented to them as a “take it or leave it offer” and they were pressed to give an immediate answer despite asking for additional information from the administration which they never received. Fifty city workers were laid off.
Last night the city’s highway department teamed up with Water Department employees to assist with the repairs.
When asked, Picozzi told the Warwick Post he’s going to work on a plan to try and remedy that situation so residents won’t feel impacts like they are with last night’s breaks.
“After taking office I’m going to work on a plan, a lot depends on the financial condition of the city,” he said. “With the current staffing levels, the city is not able to provide the services that residents are entitled and we’re not equipped to handle emergencies.”
Water Main breaks aren’t new for the city of Warwick. City officials deal with water main breaks a few times each year. In 2018, 154 feet of sewer line collapsed the day before Thanksgiving causing detours and closures for repair well into 2019.
When that repair was complete, Solomon said he would pursue a proactive plan to prevent future water main breaks. Picozzi says it’s something he’ll be looking into himself.
“I don’t know of these plans but will look into it immediately,” he said. “Our infrastructure is old and failing and we need a comprehensive plan of action.”