2016-07-14 / Opinion


Prioritize Preventive Maintenance

To the Editor:

Item 14 on the July 13 Newport City Council’s agenda would add another $423K for further repairs to Bellevue Avenue. I believe that the ongoing process of repairs to Bellevue Avenue is not in accordance with best business practices. Let me briefly explain why.

Bellevue Avenue was completely redone by the State of Rhode Island, and re-opened in 1992. By 2008, there was need for some repairs to the concrete due to spawling (frost damage) along seams, and cracking of panels. This work was performed by Aetna Bridge, at a cost exceeding $1M.

By 2010, it was obvious that these repairs were failing, and I was among a group of people who attempted to the city's attention to this matter. Eventually our observations were accepted, but the Aetna Bridge warranty had expired, so the city undertook a phased repair process at its own expense, starting in 2012. Those repairs-to-repairs have continued, and then expanded to additional deterioration, each year since, with a sum in excess of $1M having been expended– all to Aetna Bridge.

To any observant eye, the quality of these repairs has been uneven, both in appearance and texture. I suggest you make such observations yourself. To my understanding, there is a bare minimum specification provided by the city for quality of the work. And, remarkably, the contractor determines when an appropriate amount of work has been done to finish each contract effort.

Now to the most significant point, this process of repairs will continue indefinitely until such time as the City of Newport decides to adopt a preventive maintenance program. For Bellevue Avenue, that would mean replacing the joint seals.

In doing research, I found a statement from the Dow Corning company in which they boast of their silicone joint sealant being chosen by the State of Rhode Island for the new Bellevue Avenue. Joint sealant is a required aspect of all concrete roads (except in the tropics), as it prevents the invasion of water which in winter causes cracking and spawling.

By the early 2000s, this 1991 sealant started to detach from the joints, and could often be seen lying in long black strips on the roadway. The city took no action to replace it, and so the process of winter deterioration began.

Replacing missing joint sealant would require an effort of some thousands of dollars annually– far, far less than the Aetna Bridge efforts. But it might require a change of philosophy in Newport's administration, where preventive maintenance has never been given priority.

Robert A. Beaver

More Than Tourism

To the Editor:

Tourism is vital for this area, but we cannot build a future for our kids and educate them to be prepared for an economy that is built upon five months of income a year.

We see the pattern each year. A busy summer in which local merchants pray for good weather, and for droves of people to come from other states that have diverse and resilient economies and spend their money here.

Then we hunker down and try to survive a bleak and cold winter where many locals leave, unemployment spikes, and many establishments actually close until summer because overhead costs more than business coming in.

We’ve become accustomed to this. It’s not right. It’s also not sustainable.

We can do better.

The successful pattern for any vibrant community is diverse year-round jobs that employ people who then re-distribute that income through taxes and spending throughout the community.

There is hope, as we are looking at Innovation Hubs, and using land opening up for business development. The other hope is that we can have elected leaders who realize the urgency and the dire condition of our state’s economy and last place business rankings by taking swift actions to help and drive small business, such as regulatory reform, cutting the corporate tax, ethics reform, and reducing the miles of red tape small business owners must endure.

Tourism is important, and we must always strive to improve it. But without a diverse year-round economy, it is a house built on sand.

Michael W. Smith
Independent Candidate,
House District 75

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