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Rhode Island officials debate how to spend municipal maintenance funds

Rhode Island officials debate how to spend municipal maintenance funds
Rhode Island officials debate how to spend municipal maintenance funds

Rhode Island state legislators are sparing with Governor Lincoln Chaffee over how to spend municipal funds, as the two groups decide whether the money will be used for municipal maintenance or for pension costs, the Bristol-Warren Patch reports.

According to the media outlet, the two legislators from East Bay said they have developed a plan to collect the estimated $17 million that is needed to perform bridge maintenance throughout the state. These renovations are expected to begin as soon as the Sakonnet and Jamestown Bridges are under the jurisdiction of the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority (RIBTA).

Senator Walter Felag and Representative John Edwards have been outspoken about altering Chaffee’s plan, which would allocate $10 million from state reserves to the Municipal Incentive Aid program in 2014. Still, even if the proposal goes through, the RIBTA would need about $7 million more to perform the necessary maintenance the legislators are calling for. 

The news source noted that Senator Louis DiPalma pegs maintenance on the four East Bay bridges that need work to be about $38 million, compared with the $21 million the bridge brings in every year through toll fees. 

The lawmakers assert that such a plan will still be better than hiking up toll fees on the Sakonnet River Bridge, as Chaffee suggests.

“If the governor and the General Assembly truly want economic development, they must rescind this toll so that businesses can prosper. A toll is a barrier stating ‘Stay away,’” Felag said in a statement. “This toll could have a massive negative effect on not only the residents of Aquidneck Island but on the business community as well.”

Christine Hunsinger, the governor’s communications director, stated that because officials did not decide to perform the bridge maintenance early on, the damage has grown so much that replacement is a more feasible option than repair.

According to ABC affiliate WLNE, the Rhode Island State House has been abuzz lately with protestors speaking out against the proposed toll increase, with both business owners and residents saying the toll would be a major hassle for commuters, and could even affect tourism in certain parts of the state. 

Using maintenance management software to keep tabs on municipal assets can help keep repair costs down. 

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