By JOHN HOWELL Those who know the neighborhood forecast a large turnout of mostly objectors as the Warwick Sewer Authority conducts a public hearing on the Bayside sewer project staring this evening at 5 p.m. at City Hall. Yet, Ward 5 Councilman Ed
Those who know the neighborhood forecast a large turnout of mostly objectors as the Warwick Sewer Authority conducts a public hearing on the Bayside sewer project staring this evening at 5 p.m. at City Hall.
Yet, Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur, who has made Bayside sewers his crusade since winning election nine years ago, is steadfast not only that are sewers needed but that a majority of the residents want them.
Regardless of whether residents argue they don’t need sewers or can’t afford them, more than 900 property owners in Riverview, Longmeadow and Highland Beach, which make up Bayside, will get sewers over the next two years. That’s because Mayor Frank Picozzi signed the contract with D’Ambra Construction that the authority board approved more than a year ago.
So, if Bayside sewers are a done deal, why hold a public hearing giving residents the false impression that what they have to say will change anything?
“It’s already done, it was done before I took office. I just signed the contract,” Picozzi said Tuesday.
As for the purpose of the meeting, Picozzi called it part of the process.
“The authority has to hold a meeting outlining the process with the stakeholders.” Picozzi said he would be present for the meeting even though it is a Warwick Sewer Authority meeting.
Picozzi said he probably wouldn’t have moved ahead with the project had it not been for the American Rescue Plan and the funding it provides for infrastructure projects.
The mayor was skeptical of initial assessment projections of $25,000, believing that the cost could escalate to $35,000 given the complexities of the project involving measures to avoid disturbing Native American artifacts and the need for a low-pressure system requiring home grinder pumps.
In a letter to Bayside residents announcing his decision to proceed with the sewers, Picozzi said the federal funding enables the authority to cap the assessment at $16,900 per property owner.
“Once I was able to cap it at $16,900 then I was comfortable enough to sign the contract,” he said.
“That 16.9 is carved in stone, the assessment will never be more than that,” Picozzi said, responding to social media posts that costs including connecting to sewers, interest payments and utilities could boost the total to $69,000.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” he said.
Amortized over 30 years and at an interest rate not exceeding 1.25 percent more than the cost of the bond to the authority, Picozzi calculates the sewers will cost homeowners $17.50 a week. This does not include a usage fee that is based on the water used, power for the pump or the one-time cost of connecting to the system.
BettyAnne Rogers, WSA executive director, said Tuesday materials for the meeting, including a copy of the PowerPoint presentation to open the meeting, would be available on the authority website. She said following the PowerPoint presentation that will outline the program, the meeting would be opened to public comment. She said people with specific questions, such as the timing of construction in an area and what that could mean to traffic flow, would be directed to tables for answers. Other possible questions include available hardship programs, costs related to grinder pumps and deferment of assessment payments to a homeowner who recently installed a septic system.
Rogers said invitations to attend the meeting went out to all stakeholders, including the EPA, DEM, Save The Bay, the Heritage Commission, the archeological firm that conducted the study of Bayside and the Narragansett Indians. The tribe was included in discussions leading up to the revival of the project that has been talked about for more than 20 years. The tribe was included on the memorandum of understanding that the mayor signed advancing the project. They did not sign the MOU, nor has the tribe contacted the city, the mayor said.
Rogers said the hearing will be livestreamed on the authority’s website.
Based on letters and calls to the Beacon, the primary objection to the project is the cost, with residents saying even at $16,900 they would be forced out of their homes.
“Honestly if I didn’t have the American Rescue funds we wouldn’t be going ahead with the project right now because it would’ve been unaffordable to a lot of people,” Picozzi said.
Rogers expects the first shovel in the ground in mid-October. The entire project is projected to be completed by August 2023.