NARRAGANSETT – Roughly a half hour after voting to decrease the town’s allocation to the library board by more than half, the town council approved, in a split vote, an expenditure using the saved funds to complete rehabilitations to town-owned playing courts in the amount of $106,122.
“This was actually money taken from the library transfer, I just want everyone to know that,” said councilor Jesse Pugh Monday.
Tensions over the town’s library project have divided the current council since the 2018 election, when a three-member majority was elected that did not support the library board’s proposed moving of the facility to a recently acquired, larger facility in the Pier Marketplace. In contrast, in 2016, 68 percent of those voting approved a $5.8 million bond referendum for a new library. The current Maury Loontjens Memorial Library on Kingstown Road is not in compliance with both ADA and fire code, and operations have outgrown the building, according to library officials, prompting a need for the town to purchase property in the Pier Marketplace in October to accommodate the new space: the 18,500-square-foot, former Belmont building among other assets. The current council majority, consisting of council president Matthew Mannix, council president pro tem Jill Lawler and councilor Rick Lema, have blocked the move, instead advocating the library board renovate the current facility, and voted to put the former Belmont property up for sale at a council meeting in January. The lack of movement on the project has angered many residents, causing protests at many council meetings, and earlier this month, the council majority proposed cutting half of the town’s annual allocation to the library board at a budget workshop, from approximately $841,000 down to $400,000. The move could cripple library operations and cause layoffs of employees, according to library officials. Pugh and councilor Patrick Murray, however, have supported the library’s move to the Pier Marketplace property, stating the council should honor the 2016 vote for a new library facility.
The meeting Monday was jam-packed with residents upset over the proposed budget cuts to the library board, which were ultimately approved along council majority-minority lines just before the playing court rehabilitation motion was entertained. Included in the town’s parks and recreation capital improvement projects proposal, the work would renovate a number of outdoor playing courts throughout town. The top three spaces being prioritized for completion in 2019 are the tennis courts at George “C” Park, the pickle ball courts at the town’s summer camp facility on Clarke Road and the basketball court at Leroy Thompson Park on Boon Street. The work is intended to make the courts safer for play and are in lieu of eventual total court replacement.
“The rehabilitation consists of crack repairs using the ‘armor’ system and new acrylic surface (paint) by Plexipave,” reads the motion summary. “New net posts will be installed at courts at George C Park and Clarke Road. The court fencing will be reinstalled with new fence posts at George C Park.” “These rehabilitation actions will provide the Town of Narragansett the ability to utilize and repair the existing playing surfaces preventing the need for total replacement,” the summary continues. “These systems have been used successfully with professional applications worldwide in various outdoor playing court surfaces.”
The work to George “C” tennis courts is estimated at $46,528, while the Clark Road pickle ball courts renovations are thought to cost $45,441 and the LeRoy Thompson basketball court project is expected to come in at $14,153, totaling $106,122 for the entire project.