By JOHN HOWELL Who would imagine after almost 30 years of talking about extending sewers to Bayside that now, with the Warwick Sewer Authority having signed at $17.8 million to build them, the neighborhood appears divided on whether they want them. Armed
Who would imagine after almost 30 years of talking about extending sewers to Bayside that now, with the Warwick Sewer Authority having signed at $17.8 million to build them, the neighborhood appears divided on whether they want them.
Armed with the information provided the news media by interim WSA director Earl Bond that sewer assessments could be in the range of $25,000 to $27,000 per property owner, a group of eight Bayside residents went door-to-door over the weekend and on Labor Day collecting 213 signatures calling on Mayor Joseph J. Solomon to stop the project. Solomon has the up-or-down vote on whether the contract will be awarded to the D’Ambra Construction Co., the apparent low bidder for the job.
Solomon said Tuesday night he had not received either petition but he is aware they are “conflicting petitions.” Before proceeding with a contract, he said he wants to hear both sides as well as address any issues including an agreement with the Narragansett Indians that could unexpectedly impact costs.
“We’ve got to do our due diligence,” he said.
The anti-sewer petition comes in the wake of an online petition launched more than two weeks ago calling on the WSA to act on the D’Ambra bid that was submitted pre-COVID and was set to expire. As of Wednesday, the online petition had garnered 160 signatures.
While the projected assessment cost tops the list of concerns, the petition raises questions over the grinder pumps needed for the pressure system; the status of agreements with the Narragansett Indians; the impact an assessment would have on the resale of homes and whether assessments include the cost of repaving roads. Further, it states, “No community leader is willing to admit that there are acceptable and more affordable options to sewers such as sand filtration systems and classic septic systems.”
“They’re saying ‘absolutely not right now,’” said Terry Medeiros who went from door-to-door with the petition. She said residents were a bit hesitant to talk at first, but once she explained what the petition was about and they had had the chance to read Bond’s statement from Thursday’s Beacon, they wanted to hear more.
“Nobody got nasty,” she said.
In an email, Medeiros, who served on the School Committee for eight years, writes of the petition drive, “This was done with no lawyers, no politicians, no technology guru, just a group of neighbors realizing that misinformation, lack of answers and withheld information was going to negatively impact the elderly on fixed income, the families or retired.”
Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur who has crusaded for Bayside sewers since taking office eight years ago, said Tuesday he understands concerns over costs, yet emphasized delaying them will only push them up. He also offered suggestions to lower costs to the homeowner.
Simply using the bid price and dividing it by the 900 property owners eligible to get sewers when the project is completed, Ladouceur said results in an assessment of $20,000. As a contractor himself, Ladouceur acknowledged there could be unforeseen costs that could push the cost up.
As he has advocated for some years, Ladouceur said the cost of repaving roads when the project is completed should come out of the general fund and not put on the backs of the homeowners as part of the assessment. Furthermore, he argues the grinder pumps homeowners will be required to have should be considered part of the infrastructure and the responsibility of the WSA. When they fail or need replacement, he said the WSA should handle it.
Additionally, Ladouceur proposes capping the assessment at $20,000 and that anything more than that should be picked up by the city.
“I’m going to continue to fight best numbers I can for these sewers. We don’t know what that end number is, $20,000 works,” he said.
The petition sparked numerous questions about the Bayside project in email exchanges with members of the Riverview Association. Resident George Shuster, who helped initiate the online petition fielded a number of the questions particular to the need for grinder pumps for each connecting property, costs and possible alternatives to sewer that he said had been explored and found impractical.
“No one will have to pay anything for sewers for quite some time, even if the Bayside project moves forward immediately. After years of construction, when the sewers are finally on line, homeowners will have to pay an annual assessment, over 30 years, to fund the sewer construction. While this will be an added cost for sure, no one is going to have to pay tens of thousands of dollars at any time. The cost is more likely to be in the range of $100 per month – significant, but not a one-time cost of $25,000 for anyone, ever,” he wrote in an email.
In an interview, Shuster said, “I’m not surprised there are differences of opinion. There has always been some disagreement.”
Shuster feels there are “a lot of misconceptions of what the cost will be.” He notes that under WSA provisions, assessments will not be levied of property owners who can demonstrate they have installed an approved septic system within the last 20 years. Once the 20 years has expired, the assessment would kick in at the annual rate.
“The fact remains it’s expensive to put in sewers and doing it later is going to cost more.”
He called on the mayor not to delay action for the self-serving reason of garnering votes.
Pauline Geneste, former president of the Riverview Association, said she gathered 37 signatures in an hour and a half. She reasons that the city should direct its attention on deteriorating infrastructure before adding to it. She said she was involved in circulating the petition because she believes in making informed decisions and that “scare tactics” had been used to get residents to sign the petition in support of sewers. She spoke of a woman who had been told she cost face fines if not tied into sewers.
She added, “There’s nothing more socially unjust than pushing people into bankruptcy and out of their homes.”
Ladouceur was incredulous that Geneste should be surprised that the WSA addressed the project.
“Ed has been on this mission for eight years,” he said, pointing out that it was a topic of discussion at every Riverview Association meeting.
Ladouceur said he has talked with Narragansett Indian representatives and plans to meet with them soon. The Tribe has not signed a memorandum of understanding relative to the Native American artifacts and burials in the path of the sewers. The WSA intends to use directional drilling in those sensitive areas that would take pipes beneath those features without disturbing them.