By JOHN HOWELL After more than four hours of online deliberations by the City Council Finance Committee last Wednesday night, and with an untold number of Bayside residents waiting to weigh in on plans to bring sewers to the area, the meeting came to an
After more than four hours of online deliberations by the City Council Finance Committee last Wednesday night, and with an untold number of Bayside residents waiting to weigh in on plans to bring sewers to the area, the meeting came to an abrupt halt when the council solicitor informed committee chairman Ed Ladouceur it would be illegal to proceed.
The problem was that telephone numbers advertised as a means of joining the session did not work.
Without two means of joining the meeting either by Zoom, as some of the public did, or by phone, the session would be in violation of the open meetings law, solicitor William Conley said. With the committee meeting closed and the actions it had taken ruled null and void, the council meeting that would have followed committee meetings was also canceled.
Now, the agenda for last Wednesday gets pushed ahead to the Sept. 21 meeting. It was unclear as of whether provisions would be made to accommodate those seeking to comment on Ladouceur’s resolution calling for the administration to accept the low bid for the construction of Bayside sewers.
The resolution would appear superfluous. Since its introduction, the Warwick Sewer Authority unanimously voted to award a $17.8 million contract to D’Ambra Construction. D’Ambra’s bid was submitted in February and was scheduled to expire. Now that the WSA has awarded the bid, the final action rests with the mayor. So far, he has not executed the contract. Last week, he said he wanted to hear both sides of the issue, there being petitions for the sewers and a more recent one in opposition to the project.
Prior to the meeting shutting down, Ladouceur went through the docket addressing city expenditures while giving somewhat of a civics lesson on municipal government, aware there was a larger than usual audience. When it came to Bayside sewers, Ladouceur told of his eight-year crusade to bring sewers to Bayside that have been promised for nearly 30 years. He also talked of assessments and how the commission he formed worked to extend the payment of assessments from 20 to 30 years; made a provision that those installing approved septic systems would not need to pay an assessment for up to 20 years; and had set the assessment interest rate at no more than 1.25 percent greater than what it costs the authority to borrow the money.
Ladouceur reiterated his stance that the cost of repaving roads torn up by sewer construction should not be covered as part of the assessment, but paid for by the city. Furthermore, he pointed out that delaying the sewers would only result in higher costs – and that, most importantly, residents needed sewers.
This did not assuage those who were able to join the Zoom meeting.
One of the most outspoken, Pauline Geneste, who helped circulate the petition in opposition to the sewers initiated by Terri Mederios, hammered at the cost to residents, arguing they couldn’t afford the assessments and that there are less costly options to sewers.
In an email distributed to members of the Riverview Association, she wrote: “We as a community must demand action that recognizes the needs of the area and force the end to the political posturing and double speak around this project. The Bayside Sewer Program should not be pushed forward – it is unconscionable for the City Council and WSA to push a project with so many unknown variables!”