2013-12-05 / Front Page

Fire Station Contract Awarded

By Jonathan Clancy

At its regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 2 the Middletown Town Council awarded a $6.5 million contract to Iron Construction Group (ICG) to renovate the town’s fire station and to create new public works facilities at the corner of Berkeley Avenue and Wyatt Road. Renovations will include a new training space, new vehicle bays, a community room, and additional offices.

In 2012, Middletown voters approved a $7.5 million bond for the 13,000-square-foot fire station addition. Town officials project the annual bond payment to be between $400,000 and $500,000 annually. The payments will be made with money coming from the town’s agreement for emergency services with the former GMH Military Housing neighborhoods of Green Lane, Anchorage, and Coddington.

Richard Lawrence of Lawrence Associates of Manchester, Conn., who serves as the project architect, said that the plan is still essentially the same as the one approved in November 2012, with some minor changes for code compliance.

Councilor Paul Rodrigues questioned a few parts of the project, such as the new steel and concrete training tower that will replace the current wooden tower. “People have been training in these types of towers for years [and] $269,000 is a lot for a new tower.” Rodrigues also questioned the need for electronically operated gates saying, “That’s another $22,000 for something that we don’t necessarily have to have.”

Though Councilor Theresa Santos mentioned that she would like to see jobs such as this one go to local companies, noting a bid from Behan Brothers of Middletown that came in $200,000 over the low bid, the council still voted unanimously for Warwick-based ICG.

Town Administrator Shawn Brown pointed out that the town followed state law regarding the awarding of contracts. He also noted that the town would have to seek special legislation from the General Assembly if they wanted to give preference to local companies.

Councilor Richard Adams stated that he prefers the current selection process. “Restricting the contract only to Middletown is not good policy,” said Adams. “It flies in the face of what I consider to be common sense of the way business works. I just don’t see the logic of saying we want to award a contract only to those firms that have a main office in Middletown.”

“This is a large contract and even the subcontractors are not local people,” Santos replied. “People on the island need work. I’m not saying we should change anything, just look into it.”

The council also awarded a $149,385 contract to Newportbased Farrar & Associates, which will serve as clerk and independent reviewer of the fire station project.

The Louis Berger Group was the winner of a $33,822 contract for the west side sewage pump station consolidation project. The company will conduct studies to research the possible consolidation of sewage pipes on the west side of town. The project could alleviate the load on the Wave Avenue pump station, which currently handles about 90 percent of the town’s sewage on its journey to treatment at the Connell Highway plant in Newport.

In other matters, the council heard an update from Councilor Barbara VonVillas regarding the progress made by the Unified High School Exploratory Committee. She highlighted a Nov. 13 decision by the City of Newport to appoint two members of its council to the committee. The city also called upon Newport’s school department to appoint two members as well.

VonVillas said that the concept has been well received by Little Compton and Tiverton, who are both waiting to consult with their respective school committees before taking any action. “The universal agreement from all the people we met was to not do it unless we would have an outstanding program,” VonVillas said.

The councilor also noted that some were concerned with the aggressive schedule but pointed out, “It is not the intention to talk and talk and not accomplish anything. If we can’t get things done after five years of meeting on this, maybe we’re not going to get it done at all, so yes, we have an aggressive schedule,” said VonVillas. She added that the goal would be to have a referendum on the 2014 ballot to determine what voters think.

Prior to the meeting, the council listened to a presentation from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation regarding potential changes to the intersection of Aquidneck and Green End avenues. RIDOT project engineer Sean Raymond outlined suggestions to reduce the amount of accidents at the dangerous intersection, including lane widening, left turn arrows for all four directions, a dedicated left turn lane on Green End Avenue, and curb cuts for the businesses at the intersection. Raymond stressed that these were just conceptual ideas. “RIDOT would work with the town and business owners to implement changes that work,” said Raymond, who noted that safety was the agency’s number one concern.

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