After more than two decades of talking about Bayside sewers and promises they would be built, the Warwick Sewer Authority took the next step Tuesday to put construction on track to start by early next summer.
The authority gave WSA staff the green light to pursue the loans needed to finance the project as bonding is put in place for a low-pressure, directionally drilled system that would bring the connecting pipe to the homeowner’s foundation, a grinder pump and, if required, electrical upgrades for the pump. The cost of the improvements – the homeowners would be responsible to make the connection to interior pumping – would be included in the assessment that could be paid over 30 years.
Even now, with estimates that the system serving 937 property owners could cost $27 million, authority member John Justo was cautious to project individual property assessments.
“If you give your best estimate,” authority counsel John Revens said, “that’s all it’s going to be without a bid.” Revens said construction costs would increase by 5 percent for every year the project is delayed.
Justo urged that the board have accurate numbers before estimating assessment costs. The lack of that information until the project is bid was also reason not to conduct a public meeting on the project as suggested by member Carlo Pisaturo.
“You run the risk of doing more harm than good by putting numbers out there,” Justo said. “We really need to get the bids.”
Piasauro said he had received calls from Bayside residents saying they don’t want sewers, and he suggested a poll be conducted at a meeting or by mail to determine if the neighborhood wants to move ahead.
“The vocal group may not be the majority,” Justo warned.
Asked for his opinion, Revens called the matter a “public policy issue.”
Pisaturo prefaced his question whether Revens thought the project worthwhile saying he sees no alternative to directional drilling as a means of preserving Native American features and that the neighborhoods need sewers.
“If there no question about it [sewers being needed], then maybe you’ve answered the question,” Revens said.
Speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur, who has worked on extending sewers to Bayside since he was elected seven years ago, said, “it’s not that people don’t want sewers, they don’t want to pay crazy prices.”
Ladouceur further pointed out that he has been in contact with Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit and the agency is not going to extend a waiver of a requirement that homeowners living within 200 feet of a body of water and with a cesspool connect to sewers or install an approved septic system. The waiver is good until Jan. 1, 2020, but Ladoceur believes as long as funding is in place – or, even better, work has started – Coit would go along with the authority.
But if the project isn’t advanced, Ladouceur questioned what 150 to 180 homeowners would do. He noted that many home lots are small, making it costly if not impossible to install a septic system. In addition, the homeowner would be faced with a cost he estimated at about $30,000. On the other hand, he noted sewer assessments could be paid off over 30 years.
“These people need to have sewers done,” he said.
Ladouceur expressed his disappointment that federal funding has not been made available for the project as a means of lessening the burden on the homeowner.
Also urging the authority to move ahead with the Bayside project were Riverview homeowner Kevin Eisemann and former authority member and Bayside resident Peter Ginaitt. A regular at authority meetings, Longmeadow Avenue resident Mark West – who in the last decade has spent more than $40,000 on septic systems – argued that shared community septic systems might be preferable to sewers.
The authority brought up the repaving of Tidewater Drive, which the staff approved without seeking bids or board approval. While the work done by Narragansett Improvement was lauded and the price of $82,000 was considered exceptional, authority chair Gary Jarvis was rankled. He urged the staff that has been working without a director since May to pay special attention to details and procedures.
Authority staff projected Phase II Governor Francis sewers would be completed, including the repaving of neighborhood roads, between Oct. 19 and Oct. 31.