Council considers site survey for Weldon’s way
In a Wednesday, Oct. 2, Town Council work session, the council received several updates from Town Manager Nancy Dodge, including a suggestion that the town apply for a low-interest loan in order to perform maintenance to Weldon’s Way. Dodge said the loan could also cover the costs of a site survey that would aid the town in alleviating traffic congestion that occurs there. First Warden Kim Gaffett thought it a “good idea,” and the other councilors agreed. The deadline for the loan application is Oct. 18, according to Dodge.
Dodge also reported that she met with members of the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) about the erosion at West Beach, near the town transfer station. “The western slope has eroded considerably after Hurricane Sandy and the following storm Nemo,” said Dodge. “The slope has to be re-stabilized... we’re going to have to find that money for a survey.”
Also, Dodge said repairs to the dunes damaged after last year’s Hurricane Sandy will be repaired, with work hopefully to begin in the next few weeks. Repairs will include extending armor stone (to protect from erosion) in the area across from the Beachead Restaurant, as well as re-planting dune vegetation.
For building a new boat ramp in New Harbor, Dodge said an engineer recommended that the town use a concrete-block material called Armortech. She said the engineer will be returning to look at the area’s water depths and slopes in order to put together bid specifications for the ramp.
For building a new picnic shelter at Ball O’Brien park, Dodge said she is still waiting on updated design plans from the contractor, South County Post and Beam. Councilor Norris Pike asked how long the contractor has had the information to do the work, and Dodge said since August. Pike added, “It sounds like they need a little hounding.”
Town Councilor Chris Warfel said that freight charges from ferry company Interstate Navigation did not seem to reflect a 34 percent “across-the-board” increase as Interstate had proposed in its recent rate case to the Public Utilities Commission. Warfel felt that there were different increases for different items. He asked if the town planned to do a cost of allocation study on freight in collaboration with Interstate. First Warden Kim Gaffett said Interstate did a cost study before the rate case — the 34 percent increase was added on to the rate charges after that study was done, and Gaffett suggested this might explain why it seemed prices changed unequally. There were no further updates on this.
Dodge said she had a conversation with some town department heads about potentially using “green” (environmentally friendly) cleaning products and fuels. After contacting Road Crew Chief Mike Shea about using green fuels, Dodge said he had a list of green products he has used in the past, and was not satisfied with them. Warfel suggested Dodge ask if Shea would try other products, if free samples could be obtained.
Both Dodge and Warfel reported on work that is being done by the Washington Regional Planning Council (WRPC). The WRPC is looking to do the following: establish “group purchasing” with other local towns, aiding towns to purchase streetlights, helping towns with their revaluation process, and providing better technology support. Dodge suggested that some of these options might apply better to mainland towns, not Block Island because of its remote location.
A possible meeting with representatives from Rhode Island Resource Recovery Center (RIRRC) about establishing a composting program on Block Island was discussed.
Town Council updates
Councilor Warfel prepared a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), asking for a “cell/communication tower assessment.” Warfel explained this assessment is to evaluate “how profitable the cell tower is,” to make sure the town is receiving the proper amount in tax revenue from the cell tower, which is located behind the Block Island Power Company. The council agreed to send the RFQ to the town’s Electric Utilities Task Group (EUTG) for review.
Using town buildings as housing for interested town residents was also discussed. The council agreed to review a list of town buildings, and establish a list of any buildings that could be used for housing.
Also discussed was the idea of putting out a possible RFQ for individuals who have expertise in various areas such as technology and boat transportation. Warfel suggested this would provide the town with a list of potential experts if an issue arose when they were needed. During this agenda item, the council also spent some time talking about Internet-related issues around the island.
The council agreed to address the issue of establishing drain basins in the Great Salt Pond, and noted the council should meet with the Committee for the Great Salt Pond about this issue.