October 31, 2014
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$5M road bond in limbo
Warwick Beacon photo
SMOOTHER AND FASTER: Easton Avenue is among those roads that have been repaved this spring and summer. A resident of the area said the repaving has been a blessing and a curse. While potholes are no longer an issue, he said speed on the road, which is often used as a cut-through, has increased.

While there’s agreement the city needs to address road repairs, the funding for an extensive program, as the mayor has proposed with a $5 million bond, won’t happen this year and may not happen next year.

Mayor Scott Avedisian said Thursday he talked with Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, who told him it would be impossible to get the bond on the November ballot. The City Council unanimously approved a $5 million bond at its August meeting, but it won’t come up for second passage until this month.

The primary election isn’t until Sept. 9, meaning the general election ballot wouldn’t be finalized until those races had been decided. Because of that, it was thought there was still time to list the referendum.

Avedisian said that isn’t the case. He said by the time the council gives the bond second passage, “we will have missed the deadline.”

The next scheduled opportunity for voter consideration of the bond would not come until the fall of 2016.

Avedisian said he is researching what it would cost to conduct a special election. A consideration is a reduction in the number of polling locations, an issue he said he would pursue.

But what of repairs now, and the use of the $450,000 in the current budget?

“There’s some planned,” Avedisian said, “and we’ll use a lot [of the budget funds] in the spring as well.”

He said acting director of public works David Picozzi is working off a list that prioritizes needs.

In considering the mayor’s budget this spring, the council increased the allocation for road repairs by $1 million among other additions and revisions. The mayor vetoed the changes, but the council didn’t have the votes to override the vetoes with the exception of increasing the school budget by $500,000.

Ironically, within a month of finalizing the budget with additional funding for schools, the School Committee learned schools would finish the fiscal year with a larger than projected surplus.

In vetoing $1 million more for roads, Avedisian proposed the bond issue.

The proposal sparked debate, with some council members resuming the push to fund roadwork through operational expenditures rather than incurring added debt. The projected life of even a new road is less than 20 years, meaning taxpayers would be paying off the bond long after the roads would need another round of repairs. Secondly, after considering the cost on interest, the taxpayers would be paying $8 million for $5 million of repairs.

Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur, who pushed for $1.5 million in funding for road repairs from the operating budget, remains opposed to a bond issue.

“It’s not fiscally responsible to do that,” he said yesterday.

He said he would not look to stop a referendum, “since people should have their say.” However, he added he would work to see that voters make an “informed decision.”

Soon after the mayor proposed the road bond, acting chief of staff William DePasquale said the city needed to assess road conditions and develop plans to address the most seriously deteriorating roads first while taking measures to extend the lives of roads starting to show signs of deterioration. He put roads needing repairs into three basic categories, ranging from those where their condition could be extended by several years with minor work such as crack sealing to scraping and a fresh layer of asphalt to complete reconstruction.

With nearly 400 miles of city roads, it is not known at this time how far $5 million would go in repaving or road maintenance work. Generally, reconstructing a road is projected to cost $1 million a mile.

Picozzi, who could not be reached for this story, has sought to address the more seriously compromised roads through budget operating funds while requiring utility companies to repave roads when installing or replacing existing lines. As a practice, the Warwick Sewer Authority repaves the full road when installing sewers. With approval of $33 million to extend sewers mostly in the Bayside, Governor Francis Farms and O’Donnell Hill areas, those neighborhoods can expect to see new roads over the next several years. Those sewer installation projects are in the design stage. Some are expected to start next year.

Repaving has also taken place as National Grid replaces aging natural gas lines, although in some cases it has not been from curb to curb as Picozzi has sought.

Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-Ward 3) is one of those council members who has noticed road improvements since last winter’s rash of potholes followed by an inordinate number of claims from motorists for tires and front end repairs.

She said she has “areas of concern for safety” in neighborhoods that lack sidewalks.

Overall, she said, “city streets are horrific,” although some work has been done.

As for what should happen now that a road bond won’t be on the November ballot, Vella-Wilkinson said she would like to see the cost of a special election.

Regardless of how repairs are funded, she concludes, “The whole thing is going to be expensive.”


Comments
16 comments on this item

This article has some great key information, such as that we have 400 miles of roads, and that it costs 1 million per mile to rebuild them. Also, that roads last 20 years on average. But I wish the Beacon had asked how many miles of roads are approaching or over that 20 year mark. This would give us a better view of the complete financial scope of the main issue. If even 25% of our roads are near or past 20 years, does that make it a 100 million dollar problem? Our highway people certainly have the age of the roads as well as condition status information on hand, lets see that data because we as a community will have to work with this, it wont go away. Money is tight, but at 1 million per mile, 450k covers replacing .001125 of our roads not even accounting for short term repairs and is only 1.5% of the budget. Also, another good question would have been to ask the sewer authority how many miles they will be replacing in the near term, and do they have that budgeted. Anyway, my 2 cents.

Another thought, if roads last 20 years then need to be rebuilt, and we have 400 miles of roads, then each year we should be replacing 20 miles of them. At a cost of 1 million per mile, should we have 20 million budgeted per year? That sounds high, but according to the information in this article, those are the numbers. Even if that assumption is only HALF right, that still leaves it as a 10 million per year expense. I wonder what the budgeted averages are per community per mile per year? That being said, most communities seem to scrimp in this area and try to stretch the roads as long as possible and certainly I would bet that no RI community spends the ideal amount, especially in these past few tight budget cycles.

CORRECTION, 450k is .15% of the budget, approximately.

Great oversight by Scottie.....Vella and Donna......what a trio......can't even get the isue on the ballot in time......so sad that these people get re=elected.

Chris P,

Isn't that the mayor that you just praised last week in the letter to editor?

I am very happy that Easton Avenue was paved...traffic on my road has deceased by 75%!!

I am very happy that Easton Avenue was paved...traffic on my road has deceased by 75%!!

$280 million budget and have to borrow money to fix roads...smh

This is the reason why the mayor should've applied more money to the roads in the original budget. Rather than listen to the arguments being made at the time, the mayor thought he knew best and insisted that roads be bonded in the future. Critics said that putting the roads up for a bond question would take a long time to implement. Again, the mayor thought he knew better. More proof that this mayor is out of touch with what this city needs, and how bad Picozzi is at his job.

Mayor vetoed more money for roads but gave all of the city workers a $1000 bonus 3 days before he filed his nomination papers. That is what you call complete abuse of the system and the purchasing of 800 votes on the taxpayer dime.

Fenceman, Fortunately some city workers don't vote in Warwick. They were driven out by high taxes.

Hey fenceman... Not one city worker received a 1000 bonus so quit harping on it...

Might I add that 800 workers haven't had a raise in 3 years. No worries about that, do you really think we like this guy.

SteveD, when we go to the polls on Tuesday we'll see people holding "Avedisian" signs in their union jackets. Yes, despite no raises for the last 3 years we think he has widespread support from public union workers and retiree's. His wagon is hitched to the public union horse and he isn't getting off. Take the next 4 days to talk to your co-workers about voting for Stacia. If she is the wrong choice there is another election in two years. Wouldn't it be nice to know if there is a trainwreck coming to Warwick's pension system.

Me and most of my co workers are democrats. I could really care less who wins this race. My concern is the falsified numbers that Stacia has put out. Combining opebs with pensions umbels to make false percentage numbers is mis representing the truth.

A no brainer. Address the more serious roads immediately(as stated but don't make a Big Dig out of it). I find it hard to believe that between the Mayor of Warwick, who has been in office almost 14 years, & the City Council NOT ONE member new about the possible bond deadline for placing a $ 5 million dollar for road reconstruction/repaving on the November ballot. When the current budget was being discussed in June by the Mayor & City Council this issue should have been talked about. The Mayor & City Council had the ENTIRE summer to plan for more immediate road repaving/repairs by applying existing budget funds from other areas of the City budget(maintenance, etc.). instead, David Picozzi is looking for third parties(National Grid, WSA, etc.) to do the work when they perform work required/needed in a particular road. The Mayor says "Some" road improvements/work are planned & " we'll use a lot (of funds) in the spring as well' but that is only $450, 000-that's not even 1/2 mile!

Instead of reviewing/passing ordinances on how many chickens someone can own/have as pets or hiring individuals who, apparently, don't meet job specification requirements, the City Council & the Mayor need to address the daily operations/services of Warwick's citizens/taxpayers.

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