To the Editor:
On March 25th, the NK Town Council will continue the discussion of how to proceed with plans for 80 Boston Neck Road, the Old Town Hall (the “Old Town Hall”).
In 2018, voters approved a bond that provided up to Five Million ($5,000,000.00) Dollars to be spent on renovations for the Old Town Hall. That investment will not be sufficient to assemble and operate all town administrative departments under a single roof at the Old Town Hall. Due to our debt cliff, the investment of up to Five Million ($5,000,000.00) Dollars will likely have a neutral impact on our present tax rate.
I want taxpayers to clearly understand and appreciate that a full restoration of Old Town Hall to serve as a complete and singular one-stop Town governmental location comes at a taxpayer cost of Twelve Million Five Hundred Thousand ($12,500,000.00) Dollars. Additionally, it involves moving the War Memorial to make space for parking - and users of the Old Town Hall will have to cross a State road on foot to access the building, not safe or desirable.
Some residents insist that it is our duty to preserve our historic legacy at any cost and that this is an integral part of our local economy. I appreciate and understand the sentiment. However, let us consider another perspective. Operating expenses and demand for public services increases annually, year after year. Is it rational to spend Twelve Million Five Hundred Thousand ($12,500,000.00) Dollars on a building that the majority of the general public utilizes less and less because of the ability to conduct research and pay tax and water bills online? Is it socially responsible for us to consider repurposing our functional and public use of this building rather than spending over Four Hundred Fifty ($450.00) Dollars/sq foot for a building located in a flood zone that is not only expensive, but it’s final construction compromises public safety?
If the median value of a home in North Kingstown is $400,000 then the estimated $0.10/$1,000 increase to the mil rate for this one single project will cost a homeowner $2,201.40 over a 30 year period at 4.5% interest.
If the council decides to move forward with Phase 1 and then the voters tell us in 2020 that they wanted a full build out, we will have unnecessarily wasted Five Hundred Thousand ($500,000.00) Dollars in construction costs. This is because a full build out after Phase 1 will necessitate modification of completed aspects of Phase 1 construction. We will likely borrow the additional Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand ($7,500,000.00) Dollars at a higher interest rate bond because of our rising interest rate environment.
Is all of this rational? Is it necessary? Is it responsible? Is it efficient? Is it safe? These are the questions that I keep asking myself. I think we can maximize the utilization of what we already have and we can do it in a manner that is respectful to all taxpayers and sensitive to our historic legacy. I encourage residents to attend the next council meeting on 3/25 and tell us during public comment your thoughts and opinions. The previous council was concerned that if voters were asked for the entire Twelve Million Five Hundred Thousand ($12,500,000.00) Dollars in 2018, the Town citizenry would reject the entire bond that involved other much needed capital for projects.
Perhaps a special election is prudent to learn the public commitment to the full Twelve Million Five Hundred Thousand ($12,500,000.00) Dollars before spending Five Million ($5,000,000.00) Dollars. At least from there, we will have better guidance and make decisions that are financially responsible to those who ultimately pay for these projects through their property taxes, the homeowners and land owners.