NORTH KINGSTOWN—In North Kingstown, the acronym ‘TIF’, or Tax Incremental Financing, has elicited sharp criticism over the past few years as developer Andy Kinnecom looks to construct his ‘Wickford El’ project off Philips Street. Through new legislation submitted by Rep. Robert Craven (Dist. 32-North Kingstown), the town is hoping to utilize the state’s TIF program in order to help fund future sewers on Post Road.
“Everyone in North Kingstown agrees that commercial development should be maximized on Post Road,” said Craven on Tuesday. “Voters have consistently said we need sewers, and [using state TIF funds] is the municipality finding a cheaper way to finance the cost associated with each business owner hooking up.”
The council approved with a 4-0 vote a resolution at its Feb. 13 meeting to initiate the legislation. Town council president Richard Welch said Monday that if Craven’s legislation (H 5484) is approved, municipalities will be able to tap into state funding for local infrastructure programs directly, without having to go through the bonding and voter approval process.
“There is no fed or state money available for sewers, and [such projects] are 100 percent user-financed,” said Welch Monday. “We are looking to get state TIF bond financing applied to the Post Road sewer project because it is commercial work and increases the opportunity for investment, and thereby increasing state taxes collected to pay for the bond.”
Economic Development Administrator Elizabeth Dolan explained further that when first approaching the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation about utilizing state TIF financing, the town was told that current state law allowed only private companies to apply for project funding. The town is now looking to change such wording with the current legislation.
If the bill were to pass, the state could loan monies to the town for sewering Post Road north of Camp Avenue through the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, which as of June 30, 2016, held approximately $1.6 billion in total assets.
In 2014, voters approved a bond authorization of up to $6.6 million to fund sewers in the northern portion of Post Road.
“This is keeping our eyes open and our opportunities available for the state to help,” said Dolan.
Craven has also submitted legislation which would allow QDC to purchase water from a provider other than the town. Currently, the business park draws its water from the Hunt River aquifer, along with North Kingstown and the Kent County Water Authority.
As Quonset anticipates expansion in the coming years, the bill will allow QDC the opportunity to prevent possible water shortages during the summer months.
“The existing water supply is more than sufficient to satisfy anticipated growth,” said QDC spokesperson David Preston on Tuesday. “However, if there is a drought or other users continue to draw more from the Hunt, or something happens to infrastructure, this is what you do.”
“This is water insurance, which we are probably never going to use.”
Preston said that the business park is a ‘distant third’ in terms of water consumption from the Hunt River aquifer, drawing approximately 700,000 gallons per day in the summer and 500,000 in the winter months.
The bill was brought before the House Committee on Corporations on March 15, at which time Providence Water Supply’s Carissa Richard, Manager of Intergovernmental Relations, expressed support for the measure.
“We have over 10 mill gallons of excess water available every day,” she said. “We would be more than happy to sell it. We think it is a win-win.”