NARRAGANSETT - The town council met for a work session Thursday evening to discuss the most pressing issues that the new council members will face in their two-year term, such as setting the 2013-14 fiscal year budget and looking at beach policies. The council specifically touched upon the future usage of the properties at 94 and 95 Middlebridge Road, purchased by the town in August for $1,442,000.
Because of the November elections, the former town council had postponed substantive discussions about how the town would proceed in its decision-making for usage on the 9.51 acre property along Narrow River. Now, because of the flood damage which the buildings on the property sustained, the new council has expressed reluctance in renovating existing buildings and putting significant sums of money into the buildings.
“I saw the damage in almost all the buildings, and I think we should not doing anything down there,” said Councilwoman Susan Cicilline-Buonanno. “One of the missions of the land trust was to preserve the property, and I don’t want to go back and spend anything else.”
“I don’t see anything attractive going across Narrow River bridge,” said Councilman Douglas McLaughlin. “I can see it driving the administration of the town crazy. It is going to be a nightmare.”
According to both Acting Town Manager Dean Hoxsie and Town Engineer Jeffry Ceasrine, the town has done emergency work on the cabins on the Middlebridge property in order that renters could move in as quickly as possible. Moving forward, council members expressed reluctance to allowing a rental arrangement on the property to continue, although businesses such as Narrow River Kayaks should continue on the land.
“It is a mess, and there is nothing good on the property except the view,” said Cicilline-Buonanno. “I don’t want to put any more money in it and I don’t want to be in the rental business. For the people that rent, at some point, we need to have the conversation to give them X amount of months to relocate.”
“That marina building should be torn down, although the restaurant could be made viable, said Hoxsie. “ [Narrow River Kayaks owner] Jason Considine’s business is a very good business and people love it.”
“We need to give the folks time and we don’t want to throw them out on the street, but the whole rental property problem is it,” he added. “We have not stopped working down there.”
At the September 4 meeting, The former ouncil authorized an appropriation of $974,000 to finance the town’s portion of the Middlebridge purchase and also adopted a resolution to issue bonds up to $974,000 which are available through open space and land use bond monies that the town received in 2009 though the Rhode Island General Assembly.
The council also selected a seven year payment schedule because although the town has to pay more money upfront, the savings, approximately $56,000 according to Financce Director Donald Goodrich, are greater.
Town Solicitor Mark McSally cautioned the new council on Thursday evening, however, that the purchase agreement stipulated to the public that the property be cost-neutral and, if rental monies were not derived from the property, the town would have to find other means of revenue generation.
“Part of the approval process was that [the property] was cash-flow positive based upon the rental income stream,” said McSally. “That flow factors in to how we pay it back, you take something away, you need to figure out you need to pay it back.”
Council members debated the importance to the town of maintaining the 35-foot slip marina, which can currently launch watercraft up to 20 feet. Although it was originally built without the necessary permitting required by the Coastal Resources Management Council, Hoxsie stated that the organization would allow the town to file for the permits needed in order to make it useable and legal.
“We’ve done our due diligence to file the permits in order to make the marina, and I fully expect CRMC to legalize the marina as it exists,” said Ceasrine. “They will set us on a schedule to rebuild the docks, but will not approve to expand the marina.”
“There never was an approval for that marina from CRMC,” said McLaughlin. “Forget about all those docks because they all have to be rebuilt, and there is a considerable amount of money there.”
“[The marina] is an opportunity for people who live in Narragansett to have a place to put their boats,” said Cicilline-Buonanno.
The new council will meet on January 7 to further discuss their opinions regarding the fate of the Middlebridge property. Cicilline-Buonanno stressed that Thursday’s meeting was a chance for new council members to understand the background regarding the property before significant decisions are made.
“We as a council have to have a good background before we meet,” said Cicilline-Buonanno. “I want [the new council members] to have all the information they need. We will hear different options as far as governance and what should be done with the buildings, so we want a council to have a better understanding.”