PORTSMOUTH — Now that negotiations with two parties interested in fixing the town’s broken wind turbine have broken down, the Town Council is sending the project back out to bid.
In 2007 voters approved a $3 million bond issue for the turbine, which sits behind the tennis courts at the high school. It’s been idle since June 2012 due to a broken gear box, and the town has been weighing its options ever since.
In December the town received four responses for its request for proposals (RFP), two of which were deemed worthy of further negotiations. Since then, however, Town Planner Gary Crosby said negotiations broke down as the two sides got closer to the contract language. “Things got a little dicier and they just couldn’t follow through,” Mr. Crosby told the council Monday night.
He requested that the council put the RFP “back on the street.”
“We’ve been speaking to a couple of interested parties who did not respond to the (original) RFP but are very interested in doing so (now),” said Mr. Crosby, adding that he’d also like to see the RFP amended to include “broader responses.”
He said he wants to put the matter out to bid for three to four weeks and then negotiate with the interested parties. The council approved his request unanimously.
Also Monday night, the council discussed an April 30 letter it received from the R.I. Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding the proposed tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.
In response to an earlier letter from the council that questioned the bridge’s environmental impact statement, DOT Director Michael Lewis wrote that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued a revised decision approving the impact statement. “The decision concurs with the findings in the report that tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge will not create any significant environmental impacts,” Mr. Lewis wrote.
He added: “FHWA has recommended several measures to enhance the overall effects of the addition of tolls on the bridge, including traffic monitoring, cost mitigation for the Little Compton School District and a fare structure that addresses repeated, daily trips over the bridge.
Council members were not impressed. Member Keith Hamilton pointed out that the FHWA’s revised decision was made “the day after” the Town Council voted to file suit in U.S. District Court in a bid to stop the tolls from going in. (The town is trying to get other municipalities to join the complaint.)
“I don’t think they are listening, at all. And this is the tip of the iceberg,” Mr. Hamilton said. “People are going to wake up one day with tolls in their backyards.”
School budget presented
The School Committee formally presented its proposed $37.42 million budget for 2013-2014, which represents a 0.4 percent decrease over the current spending plan.
“For the first time in recent history we’re presenting you a level-funded budget,” Supt. Lynn Krizic told the council.
Although there’s no increase over the current budget, the spending plan includes the district’s first all-day kindergarten program, plus curriculum initiatives so the schools meet national standards, she said.
Chris DiIuro, school finance director, said the schools expect to lose nearly $250,000 in state aid and about $133,000 in federal impact aid. Still, costs were made up in other areas, including about $115,000 more in tuition expected next year due to an increase in the number of Little Compton students attending the high school. The district also saved nearly $900,000 in employee benefits, mainly in health care costs, said Mr. DiIuro.
Despite the rosy news, School Committee Chairman David Croston warned that it will be difficult for the schools to come back year after year with a level-funded budget.
School expenditures are projected to increase by 1.8 percent a year, according to a handout provided to the council. Based on a projected 2.5 percent annual increase in the town appropriation, as well as forecasted decreases every year in state and federal aid and local revenue, the schools could be running a deficit of $400,000 in fiscal year 2015, $600,000 in 2016 and $900,000 in 2017.
“We believe our existing surplus ($3.3 million) will carry us through FY17 with the investments we want to make,” said Mr. Croston.
After that, however, the School Department may face a $1 million “structural” deficit, he said.
“It’s not something that’s immediate but it’s something that we have to think about longterm,” said Mr. Croston.
The budget for
Show-cause for Beach House
Sitting as board of license commissioners, the council unanimously approved Acting Police Chief Jeffrey Furtado’s request to schedule a show-cause hearing for the Beach House nightclub, where 17 Roger Williams University students were arrested for underage drinking on April 25.
“They were before the council back in 2010 for a similar infraction,” said the police chief.
The hearing, which will determine is any action should be taken against the establishment’s liquor license, will be held during the council’s June 10 meeting.
Congrats to Sharon Bissonnette
The council presented a proclamation to Sharon Bissonnette, a longtime Portsmouth resident who was recently named 2013 Middletown teacher of the year by her peers. Ms. Bissonnette is a speech and language teacher at Aquidneck School.
Schultzy’s gets license
The council granted a victualler license to Schultzy’s Snack Shack, a new restaurant and cafe located at 346 Park Ave. in Island Park.
The business is located in the same building inhabited years ago by Pete & Flo’s.