Bayside is at least two years away from getting sewers – maybe longer – yet the Warwick Sewer Authority is moving ahead with the repaving of Tidewater Drive where the major interceptor line will run.
Riverview residents, promised sewers more than 20 years ago, didn’t know what to make of the development and their councilman was bewildered why the work had started without notifying him. Was this a harbinger to the announcement that the project bringing sewers to more than 900 property owners was being shelved again? Why would the street be repaved only to be dug up for sewers?
Councilman Ed Ladouceur wasn’t happy Tuesday. He knew the authority planned the repaving but he didn’t know when it was to happen. He said the repaving wouldn’t be wasted money since the sewer project calls for directional drilling that doesn’t disturb the road or several feet underneath it. The method of pipe installation that hasn’t been used in Warwick was selected to avoid archeological features including bones and Indian artifacts found in test sites on Tidewater Drive. Since the drilling is done from one pit to another, Ladouceur said much of the repaved road wouldn’t be affected by the sewer construction.
“They’re not going to rip it [the road] up. That’s what I was told,” Ladouceur said.
But there’s no telling now how long it will be before sewer construction starts. It was to have begun this summer. However, Mayor Joseph Solomon wanted to look at all the numbers before giving it the green light. He said he is especially concerned by the added indebtedness the $23 million to $27 million project would add to the city’s overall balance sheet and what that might mean to the city bond rating.
When might construction on Bayside sewers start?
“I couldn’t put a timeframe on that without having all the details. I don’t know how far along they are in their engineering studies, the issues dealing with the lateral drilling and horizontal drilling and the burial grounds, things of that nature. And most importantly, the cost factor – we’ve got to weigh in the cost factor and how it would affect not just the debt service of the city overall but the affordability of assessments, or potential assessments, down the line,” he said Wednesday.
Any further delay infuriates Ladouceur, who has promised Bayside sewers since he took office seven years ago. He notes that Bayside would be funded by a revenue bond, meaning those getting the sewers would repay it through assessments and not a general obligation bond repaid by all the taxpayers.
“Those folks have got to get sewers, period. There’s no choice,” said Ladouceur.
Many of those who would gain access to sewers are within 200 feet of the bay and are using cesspools, which by state law they must replace with an approved septic system or sewer connection. State authorities have granted a waiver to the requirement provided sewer construction has started by 2020.
“We can’t afford not to do it,” Ladouceur said.
Further, observing that project costs have already escalated from $17 million several years ago to $22 million, he said the cost to the homeowner is only going to continue to go up the longer the city waits. The estimated assessment per property owner is $24,000 to $28,000.
Solomon questions the logic of extending the system when portions of the existing infrastructure are showing their age and failing as happened in November when a major pipe caved in on Sandy Lane. Since then, cameras have been used to identify other potential weak spots in the system and plans to address those problems are being drafted.
“Yes, expansion’s good. But you’ve got to balance it with updating of the infrastructure,” said Solomon.
“At that point, we started looking to other alternatives, more cost-effective alternatives to fortify our infrastructure…and we’ve done that in a few areas right now, but there’s still several areas that need addressing. And those areas are at major infrastructure intersections, not road intersections, that if there’s a collapse there you could conceivably shut down the sewage transfer to the station for a good part of the city. And that wouldn’t be good for anybody,” he added.