Westerly council, adviser to discuss 'big picture' of town's finances – The Westerly Sun


WESTERLY — With a multimillion-dollar sewer plant job looming in the not-too-distant future, conceptual plans on the table to renovate district schools and talk of both a new roads bond and possibly a recreation bond, the town’s financial adviser will discuss the town’s debt capacity with the Town Council on Monday.

Members of the council recently asked for a “big picture” analysis of the town’s financial situation when asked to consider a proposed $9 million road bond. The council has favored borrowing as a means to catch up with deteriorating roads rather than trying to accomplish the work in the annual municipal budget in recent years.

The School Committee’s Building Subcommittee expects to soon begin ranking 16 plans with costs estimates that range from $32 million to $78.5 million. Some education officials have discussed asking the Town Council to set an acceptable cost and designing a project to fit that figure. Officials are hopeful a school building project will qualify for at least a base reimbursement from the state of 35% of the total cost.

The town will be required to upgrade the sewer plant as a condition of a new permit to be issued by the state Department of Environmental Management. Town Manager J. Mark Rooney told the council on Monday that he hoped to obtain a formal statement from DEM on the permit specifications related to treated water that is discharged into the Pawcatuck River and would then check with a consultant to confirm cost estimates. The last estimate was a range of $12 to $18 million. The cost of the project is expected to come into clearer focus in the summer, Rooney said.

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The council will also be asked to consider increasing the cost of beach parking season passes from $70 to $80. The proposed increase was approved unanimously by the Recreation Board. The cost of passes for seniors, people with disabilities and active members of the military would remain at $45 under the board’s recommendation.

The council will also receive an overview of the Recreation Department’s proposal to accept a $70,000 United Way Summer Learning Initiative grant. The public school system relinquished the grant after the Tower Street School Community Center was closed in the spring. The Recreation Department hopes to oversee allocation of the grant as part of its six-week camp. The grant activities would be offered in collaboration with organizations that used the grant previously. The grant would allow for adding experiential learning; science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics activities; nutrition education; and leadership and counselor training to the camp. Save the Bay, the Ayers Foundation, New England Science and Sailing and At Home Science, organizations that previously offered programing under the grant, would all participate again. The camp would be limited to 50 children due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The council is scheduled to begin with a workshop meeting at 5:30 p.m. followed by a regular meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. To view the meet or to comment during specified parts of the meetings go to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81670404296 or call 929-205-6099 (toll call) or 877-853-5257 (toll free call). The meeting identification number is 816 7040 4296.

dfaulkner@thewesterlysun.com



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