Solomon questions sale of 39 school buses for $19,918
Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon questioned the potential sale of buses formerly used by the Warwick School Department at Wednesday’s council meeting, saying the city should also seek bids for the vehicles to be sold as scrap.
Additionally, the council decided to hold a resolution that requests the Department of Administration to properly cap the former Truk-Away landfill. It will be on the docket for further discussion next month.
The council also held an ordinance that would prohibit residents from parking recreational vehicles and equipment on city streets, as well as gave first passage to an ordinance that would require actuaries to report to the council annually on the city’s retirement health care contribution each year and develop a plan for funding.
While bids for the sale of the school buses were held for further study and will be voted on at the Sept. 10 meeting, the city’s purchasing agent, Jim Marcello, said in a phone interview Thursday that he simply followed an ordinance relative to the sale of surplus, obsolete, unused materials and junk property.
The ordinance reads that the purchasing agent shall transfer to and between department supplies and materials with the council’s approval. From there, the purchasing agent shall sell at a competitive bid.
“That’s what we did,” said Marcello. “We went to competitive bid to sell obsolete equipment. We got responses and went with the highest bidder. That’s what the purchasing ordinance tells us to do. The majority of the equipment was listed in fair condition – motor no good, rotted frame, poor and damaged. So, we went out to bid for those items.”
At the meeting, Marcello said there are 39 vehicles in question, a majority of them buses. Four venders responded to the request and the city recommended the two highest bids that were submitted: A&J Equipment for $18,490 and Hall’s Garage for $1,428. The total amount, $19,918, will be deposited into the city surplus account if the bid is approved by the council as is.
But Solomon argued that the vehicles transported school children safely to and from school until June 2012. To him, it seems as if the city should get more funds.
“I think it is a disgrace to accept $19,000 for the vehicles,” he said. “Did we market this properly – a 2005 school bus for $455? I think we could generate a lot more revenue for the taxpayer had we marketed the surplus property differently.”
In other business, the council decided to also hold a resolution asking the Department of Administration to properly cap the Truk-Away landfill, which is located adjacent to property owned by the Rhode Island Airport Corporation for T.F. Green Airport.
According to Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, who sponsored the resolution with Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla, there have been issues with the area that date back to 1978.
The last time any action was taken on the site was in 2008 when a project to do preliminary testing was conducted. It was discovered that hazardous trash, such as medical debris, electronic equipment and heavy metals, were exposed.
“Some of the soil was stained a very dark orange and dark red, which is indicative to heavy metals being buried in the area,” said Vella-Wilkinson. “Nothing has been done since and the project was only halfway finished at that point.”
A temporary cap of soil was then placed atop the landfill. This leaves Vella-Wilkinson to believe there’s a good chance erosion has developed in the area that may run in to Buckeye Brook and the land surrounding it.
When she spoke to DEM and DOA during a conference call, she was told it’s possible that the interim cap is eroded.
“They said, ‘Yes, it’s possible but no one’s checked it.’ I asked them if they had any money put in the budget in order to complete the project and their answer to me was, ‘We have no idea. But if you want, we might be able to check on it sometime in the next three weeks or so.’ The only way we are going to get any action in the city of Warwick is to do it formally through this resolution.”
Vella-Wilkinson requested an inspection of the site with a full report.
Ward 8 Councilman Raymond Gallucci drafted an ordinance in regards to amending an existing ordinance that would prohibit recreational vehicles and equipment from parking on the street. He said his constituents have been complaining about it to him.
“This was brought to my attention because more and more boats and motor homes are being parked on streets,” said Gallucci. “I have one in my ward that has his 40-foot boat and his pick-up truck with it, so that’s about 60 feet, and it was parked on the curb so emergency vehicles could not get by.”
Ward 5 Councilman John DelGiudice is in support of the amendment. He also said his constituents have made similar complaints.
“People in my ward have actually taken motor homes, parked them on the street and covered them in blue tarps and it’s really not fair for the people across the street to have to look at that, as well,” said DelGiudice.
But Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla was concerned with the wording of the ordinance because residents are allowed to park these types of vehicles on the street for a period not to exceed 24 hours in order to load or unload them.
As a result, the council moved to hold the ordinance.
Also, while a future meeting is scheduled for Sept. 17, Vella-Wilkinson, who is one of the seven Rhode Island Commissioners for Human Rights responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the state for more than 14 years, is concerned about the date of the meeting. The 17th is Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish high holy day, and she hopes the date will be changed so people can observe the holiday. Council President Bruce Place said he will consider the change if asked.
“Until such time, nothing will change,” he said.