In November, voters may face a referendum to approve a $6 million dollar general obligation bond for the construction of a . The motion to send the request to the General Assembly passed with a 4-1 vote, with Councilor Richard Cambra opposed. Councilors Christopher T. Semonelli and Edward Silveira were absent.
The approval immediately followed an approval to seek a $7.5 million general obligation bond referendum for renovations to the fire station and former police station. The combined projects would ask voters to decide on a total of $13.5 million in capital improvement projects.
The project budget for the beach pavilion, estimated by Farrar & Associates is $5,936,000, with soft costs estimated around $500,000. This is double what was originally estimated by RKG Associates, who was hired to prepare the initial business case for the project less than a year ago.
Resident Theresa Spengler said while there is a need to improve the facility, she had concerns about the price, which was almost as much as the fire station renovations.
“I find it incredible to invest that much money into a three month facility,” said Spengler. She said with cuts in other departments, she did not see how the town could justify the project, which will increase the tax rate.
Shawn Brown, Town Administrator, said the impact to a taxpayer of a house valued at $280,000 would be an increase of $66.19 annually.
Resident Ann Burns expressed concerns about the potential of hurricanes and related costs that have not been factored such as insurance.
“The current pavilion was built in 1975. It is insured by FEMA. It was grandfathered in,” said Burns. Brown said that he did not have an estimate for the annual insurance costs.
Spengler said that raised concerns about what the actual annual maintenance cost.
Cambra said he voted against the motion because it sends the message to the community that the council is supportive of the project. Council President Art Weber and Councilor Barbara VonVillas have both said they would more than likely not vote in favor of the referendum as residents in November’s election, but they did vote in favor of putting it on the ballot.
Vonvillas said the issue was the hardest decision she has had to make in the four years she has served.
Brown said the costs were largely measured against a similar beach pavilion that was recently built in Matunuck.
“I think we have a solid plan,” said Brown. “I think we have a solid cost estimate. We have an opportunity to create a very handsome building.”