Learning from adversity

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 6:45pm

Monday night’s meeting of the Town Council spotlighted the variety of challenges associated with constructing rental housing on Block Island.

Town Manager Ed Roberge informed the council that the lone proposal for the Thomas Property project was over budget, and would go three months over schedule, meaning the contractor’s schedule would not meet the targeted completion date of May 2019. The total voter-authorized budget for the project is $1.5 million, which was approved at the May 7 Financial Town Meeting.

While this is just a proposal, as Roberge told The Times, he will meet with the contractor to “review and evaluate the proposal,” and discuss “scope, budget, and schedule.” If common ground can’t be reached on a proposal, then the town might need to seek alternative or creative options for addressing its town-employee rental housing needs, like purchasing an existing residential property. And that’s something that the council seems open to exploring.

The chief concern for the town is finding housing for Roberge, who will vacate his leased apartment on Water Street in May of 2019. The Thomas Property project calls for building or installing a single-family dwelling on the property for a senior town employee, and a four-unit apartment building for housing town employees.

Former Town Manager Nancy Dodge, who was at Monday’s meeting, suggested that the town consider purchasing an existing residential property, which would require a special FTM so taxpayers could vote to authorize the revised project.

So although the contractor’s proposal wasn’t what the council expected, the fact that options are being considered is a positive sign, and, as council members have said, fostering a narrative that can lead to solutions. It’s encouraging to see that efforts could be yielding a flexible approach for finding or facilitating future rental housing projects on town-owned land.