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Letter: We need to be on guard for what government is up to

Posted 5/25/20

To the editor:

As a young octogenarian, I read with interest that our state and federal governments are raiding the public’s treasury again and inflating our expectations of …

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Letter: We need to be on guard for what government is up to

Posted

To the editor:

As a young octogenarian, I read with interest that our state and federal governments are raiding the public’s treasury again and inflating our expectations of progress. 

My oldest memory goes back to RIDOT’s promise to widen/upgrade East Main Road. That promise was made at Portsmouth Middle School auditorium in 1975. The construction was to begin within two years. We are still waiting. I must give them credit for the improvements of the section of East Main Road north of Cozy Corner and the pedestrian friendly traffic and strategically placed signal light construction at corner of East Main Road and Union Street. We are still waiting. Forty-five years.

Another memory I have is the Town Center project (complete with roundabouts and sidewalks). This dates to about 2003. RIDOT said construction would begin in two years. Shortly thereafter came the announcement that Sen. Reed’s office had procured almost a million dollars for engineering. What happened to that timetable, where is the money? 

There are three senior living facilities in this area, one medical clinic, and two pharmacies. And other assorted facilities that are elderly attractive. Perhaps the pedestrian friendly traffic signal at Union Street could be moved to the corner of East Main Road and Immokalee Drive. As a resident of Immokalee Drive, I am self-appointed observer of this situation. This project is 17 years old. Our town fathers can provide us with the auto accident history of Quaker Hill.

The recent announcement that our Congressional delegation and Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank have come up with $600,000 of our money to study the West Side utilities must be examined in the context of the first two paragraphs of this letter and other items.

The Navy has recently announced that tank farms 3 and 4 and the Burma Road south of Green Lane will be kept for Navy use and not excessed. Remediation of tank farm 1 has been put off for some time. PFAS has been identified as containment and is known to have been used in this area. How many times have we been told that the transfer of the “backyard” is imminent? 

Readers of this letter should be advised that RIDEM endorsed and promoted a plan to gather sewerage in Island Park, Portsmouth Park and Common Fence Point, and then pump it to the Melville area along the railroad tracks to a treat plant to be built somewhere in the area of Melville. This would have cost $145 million (2007 dollars; it would be $200 million in 2020 dollars), plus interest plus operating costs. With sewerage, they thought we could promote economic development. 

The legislature quickly approved authority for Portsmouth to go out to bond to pay for this ineptness. The proposed study does not mention the age of the sewer and water pipes. Let’s face it; they are old and like much of the Navy structure have not been maintained. The surrounding soils need to be analyzed for contamination. No wonder the Navy will not give up this real estate unless the utilities go with it. The press release does not mention the petroleum pipe lines in the area. How convenient —  just an oversight perhaps!

We all need to be on guard for what government is up to or alternatively not up to. For instance, tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge, sewers in Portsmouth, withdrawal of State Police patrolling state highways on Aquidneck Island, expenditure of grant money that bears no fruit but makes for great press release.

The West Side has been studied for over 20 years. That is five times as long as it took for us to win World War II.

It is time for our public officials to open up this process. Too much is at stake for the taxpayers of Portsmouth. Portsmouth has for too long been the recipient of less than benign neglect. As various information leaks out and the dysfunctional of government becomes more apparent, we must increase our vigilance.

I was a member of the Portsmouth Waste Water Advisory and the Portsmouth Waste Water Commission and its chairman. I also am a member of the Administrative Board of The Portsmouth Water and Fire District.

Philip Driscoll

169 Immokolee Drive

Portsmouth

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