NORTH KINGSTOWN – Due to the effect of COVID-19 on activity in the area, the North Kingstown Town Council rescinded a contract for a Wickford Village parking study.
While the need for the study has long been a topic of discussion among town officials, advisory boards and residents, the council on Monday ultimately decided to rescind a contract with the Pare Corporation, an engineering company, to perform the parking study.
The study was originally commissioned because Wickford was facing significant commercial growth due to the completion of the village’s sewer system, resulting in the need for additional parking in the area. Another point of concern was a rash of new liquor license applications, which could also result in the need for further parking availability.
“The town wants to perform a comprehensive evaluation of current and future parking supply and demand and to develop a detailed plan to accommodate current and future parking needs,” Pare said in its proposal. “The Town of North Kingstown is being proactive to ensure that parking will not be a factor in stunting or slowing development.”
The company added that, in addition to evaluating the existing and future parking supply and demand, its goals would be to identify “areas to provide the most convenient and safe parking in order to provide opportunities for good pedestrian connections while safely integrating vehicular travel.”
“Our experience in other waterfront communities, namely East Greenwich and Bristol, where commercial and residential parking co-exist and solutions were necessary to accommodate residents, businesses and visitors alike, will be beneficial for the success of this project,” the company continued.
However, with businesses in the village currently shut down due to COVID-19, the town council voted to rescind the contract with Pare and wait to perform the study when an accurate study of commercial, residential and pedestrian activity in Wickford could be assessed.
Council president Greg Mancini said that, while it was a smart idea to have a strategic plan for traffic and parking in Wickford, it wasn’t the right time to go ahead with the study.
“I don’t think we’re going to get an accurate assessment of what that is,” he said. “I’ve asked if we could rescind our contract with our vendor, because I don’t think it will make sense to do this study for a whole host of reasons.”
The town entered into the contract with Pare in March, and since then the company has done limited work, totaling roughly $1,000 of its full $52,800 projected cost. Town planner Nicole LaFontaine said that work included an assessment of parking space counts, parking restrictions, the setup and conditions of the sidewalks, the locations of the crosswalks and roadway conditions.
LaFontaine also said that, in speaking with Pare, the company understood why the town would rescind the contract, given the status of the village.
“In speaking with Pare and informing them that this was going to be on tonight’s agenda, they were very understanding and had started to think already about the different timeframes we were going to have to use,” she said.
Councilor Richard Welch and Mancini requested that Pare provide a full accounting of the work already completed.
Welch also suggested that the council vote to postpone the work and keep the contract in place.
Councilor Stacey Elliott agreed that it might be a better idea to postpone the work, given the extensive discussion and history behind the need for a parking study.
“I would be more inclined to postpone and see if they’d be willing to hold for a period of time. This is something we’ve been talking about for a while,” Elliott said. “Right now is obviously not the right time to do that, but I’d be more inclined to see if they’d be willing to postpone it.”
However, councilor Mary Brimer said that, by the time the parking study could be conducted, the price might be significantly less than it is currently, adding that it would be a better idea to rescind the contract and eventually go back out to bid, rather than postponing the contract with Pare.
“Given this economy, there could be a better price and better bid nine months or twelve months from now,” Brimer said. “[The price] might go down. They might need the business nine months from now and have a better rate.”
With all the uncertainty going forward, Mancini said he agreed with Brimer that the best move would be to rescind the contract.
“My feeling is that we should retrieve the work product we paid for, and then we should terminate the contract,” he said. “We don’t know when we’re going to want to go out to re-bid this. We don’t know when is going to be a good time to do this.”
The town council unanimously voted to rescind the contract with Pare Corporation and to retrieve all of the information the company already collected.