"It's like 'Groundhog Day,'" said Public Works Director Phil Bergeron Monday night as the Town Council prepared to hear the latest proposal to bring sewers to Wickford. But the movie, even Groundhog day finally ends, and so, it appears, does for the quest to find just the right collection of properties to sewer, as the council voted 5-0 in favor of sewers for the Wickford business district, and only the business district. No private homes will be forced to tie in.
Voters still need to approve the $4.86 million plan. The council decided to hold a special election presenting two questions: the Wickford proposal and $2.6 million for the Post Road North proposal approved by the Town Council last week. The actual cost for Post Road North is $6.8 million, but the council decided to put the $4.2 million in bonding authority left over from Post Road South toward the Post Road North project.
(That $4.2 million was to have been used to sewer Sauga Point/Shore Acres, but the Town Council voted against the proposal last week after results from a survey of property owners there showed the majority of them did not want sewers.)
The sewer assessment per EDU (equivalent dwelling unit) is $56,000. The EDU is based on water usage now. If a new business comes to town later – during the length of the 20-year sewer assessment payoff, Geremia said the council could decide to charge an sewer assessment add-on fee. Just what that extra money would go toward will have to be worked out.
Another issue that came up Monday was the construction schedule for Wickford. Road work on any street is probablematic; on Brown Street – the heart of commercial Wickford – it could be very hard on the businesses already there.
For that reason, Geremia suggested following what he called the "Block Island Model," where you start building after Labor Day and stop building right before July 4.
If a special election is held in April, plans could be designed over the summer and construction in Wickford could possibly start next fall. It may not be a great distance, said Geremia, but it will be complicated.
"It doesn't look like a lot, but there's a lot of utilities in Wickford," he said.
Council President Liz Dolan agreed: "There's no doubt it's going to be difficult. There's no doubt it's going to be messy. Anyone who lived through the new sidewalks knows that."
The date for the special election should be decided at the Town Council's next meeting, Monday, Feb. 10.