BY JOHN HOWELL
Mayor Joseph J. Solomon remains unprepared to sign a contract to supply sewers to 900 property owners. He cites concerns about the cost and the possibility of additional payments to address the concerns of the Narragansett Indians. In addition, he feared in an interview on Tuesday that sewers could lead to the destruction of a neighborhood where generations of families have lived.
Meanwhile, when asked by the Beacon, Department of Environmental Management spokeswoman Gail Mastrati responded that her agency would require 42 homeowners within 200 feet of the water who rely on cesspools to install sewer systems if there were no sewers would be built.
Solomon said the cost of the sewer project worries him because of all the variables.
“I don’t think taxpayers should guess.”
He said the “Indians are looking for compensation.” Asked for clarification, Solomon said that “there would be an additional cost to maintain archaeological features in the area”. An investigation into the area, which was a pre-colonial Indian summer camp, included digging pits on Tidewater Drive, where two burial sites and artifacts were found. The Narragansett Indians were among the representatives of the Warwick City Council’s Sewage Commission, which, among other things, investigated how sewers could be brought into Bayside. The D’Ambra Construction System offered $ 17.8 million for directional drilling construction contracts that would not disrupt Indian relics.
Even so, Solomon believes D’Ambra could encounter unforeseen problems that would drive up costs and property owners’ appraisals. Based on D’Ambra’s offer, the estimates would be around $ 20,000, but Earl Bond, interim director of the Warwick Sewer Authority, said in a statement that estimates will be between $ 25,000 and $ 27,000 by the time the project is complete could.
Questions have also been raised about the cost of house grinder pumps, house connections to the system, electricity costs, and the cost of debt return, which would keep the homeowner high.
When asked if the city was in danger of losing D’Ambra’s offer if he didn’t sign it soon, Solomon said the contractor had been “very accommodating”. The mayor was also asked if he had had talks with DEM Director Janet Coit because the agency granted a waiver of the 2016 law requiring homeowners to have on-site water treatment within 200 feet of a body of water – a approved sewage system – or connected to the sewer system. This waiver expired this year.
Calling Coit “an exceptional department head”, Solomon added that “her intention is not to evict people from their homes” and that she “worked with us for the common good”.
Solomon was specifically asked about a continued waiver of the law and said they were discussing the issue. “You have to respect all people and work with them to feel as comfortable as possible.”
Solomon then pondered the history of the area, which includes the boroughs of Riverview, Longmeadow, Bayside, and Highland Park, how it developed as a summer community, and how houses have been passed down from generation to generation. He speculated that with the introduction of sewers, land values would increase and encourage the development of “McMansions” which would change the character of the neighborhoods.
Mastrati’s full statement reads: “For the past several years, DEM has worked with the Warwick Sewer Authority (WSA) to support progress in the design and construction of new sewers. On September 1st, the WSA voted unanimously to award a construction contract for the Bayside Sewer System, the final step in this process. Given the many benefits associated with expanding sewers to households currently using outdated cesspools, DEM delayed replacing septic tanks, which are subject to the Cesspool Phase Out Act. If the sewer construction contract is not carried out, 42 properties would have to replace their cesspools with on-site sewage treatment systems (OWTS). DEM will follow up and request that OWTS be installed on these properties if the city fails to build sewers for wastewater treatment in this area of Warwick. “