City Council President Steve McAllister was both surprised and pleased when, within a few days of posting an invitation for neighborhood projects, he received more than 50 proposals from across the …
City Council President Steve McAllister was both surprised and pleased when, within a few days of posting an invitation for neighborhood projects, he received more than 50 proposals from across the city. The suggestions keep coming and McAllister expects more “in waves” as neighborhood associations meet and submit their wish lists.
McAllister went the route of soliciting proposals on the internet in response to Mayor Frank Picozzi’s commitment to make $1.8 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds available for neighborhood projects. Picozzi said members of the council know their wards best and $200,000 would be allocated to each of the nine wards.
McAllister said the requests cover the gambit from cutting back shrubbery to building trails and improving water access to playgrounds and lighting. He’s also received a couple of proposals for paving and those are projects that won’t be entertained.
“It’s going to go too quickly,” McAllister said if the neighborhood funding was to be used on costly street paving. “We want to spread it out as much as possible.”
Besides, he pointed out, the city is already allocating millions to paving.
On Tuesday, Picozzi said McAllister told him of the response and that he believes council members would best see “the small needs” that may have been overlooked by the city. He said he would like to start the process of selecting projects “as soon as possible,” pointing out that many will require soliciting and awarding bids.
McAllister has a plan for that, too. Starting this fall he intends to have neighborhood projects a “standing item” on the council meeting agenda. Once council members have identified a project they believe should be funded it would go on that month’s agenda to be considered with one or more projects from other council members. McAllister said “it would be on council members” to push for the projects they want. The intent is for the council to review and approve projects over several months rather than lumping them together in a single meeting. He also sees an opportunity for grouping projects as a means of saving time and money.
For example, if there are multiple requests for park benches, they could be batched which could mean savings while conducting a single solicitation for bids.
He also envisions suggested projects as sparking ideas for other projects. For that reason, McAllister said the full list of projects will be posted on the website.
Already projects such as improvements to Warwick North Sprague Field have been proposed by several people. What McAllister is hopeful of is enabling web viewers to add comments to suggested projects in order to get a picture of community support and additional suggestions.
In a phone interview, Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur said, “I’m working on a large list of different projects. I’ve already met with the planning department to go over at least half a dozen different projects.” Specific proposals include improvements to DelGiudice Park, park benches at different locations and a new bus stop enclosure.
The reach of these ARPA funds is something new for Warwick. Ladouceur spoke with excitement, saying, “It’s totally unprecedented. It’s never been done since I’ve been on the city council. This type of thing happens in the General Assembly, but we’ve never had anything like this in the city of Warwick. I don’t know if anything like this has ever happened in the state.”
The Conimicut Village Association has gotten a jump on compiling a list of projects as well as providing cost projections. Association President Ginny Barham said Tuesday association members are researching the feasibility of the projects and will meet next month to review them. The list that has been shared with Ward 4 Councilman James McElroy includes a large gazebo at Conimicut Park for bands and gatherings estimated to cost $61,000; six additional historic light poles on West Shore Road at $54,000; rights of way improvements to the shoreline at $10,000 to $20,000, compost restroom facilities like those at Rocky Point for Conimicut Point and a $5,000 grants program for new storefront businesses in the village.
McAllister said he has heard from the Friends of Gorton Pond who are looking for picnic tables at the pond beach as well as opening the area by trimming shrubbery and improving access. He has also heard from Arnold Neck residents who suggested a trail on the banks of Mary’s Creek. He said the Warwick Center for the Arts is looking for a variety of things including landscape lighting and a screen to hide the center dumpster.
There’s also a suggestion from Robert Nero to enhance canoe and kayak access to Pawtuxet River in Pontiac as the existing launch site is far removed from parking.
McAllister concedes the process of soliciting suggestions could result in false expectations as there are likely to be more requests than the funding can support. Nonetheless, he’s looking for an open process.
“This is new to all of us,” he said.