Little Compton budget brings fix for ‘shabby’ Town Hall

Town would borrow $1M-plus for improvements 

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 3/4/21

LITTLE COMPTON — A million dollar plan to repair Little Compton Town Hall, the parking lot and, perhaps, other town facilities, is among the features of the 2022 town budget plan approved by …

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Little Compton budget brings fix for ‘shabby’ Town Hall

Town would borrow $1M-plus for improvements 

Posted

LITTLE COMPTON — A million dollar plan to repair Little Compton Town Hall, the parking lot and, perhaps, other town facilities, is among the features of the 2022 town budget plan approved by the Town Council last week. That budget heads next to the Budget Committee and eventually to voters at Town Meeting.

Council President Robert Mushen first described the proposal at the February 18 Town Council meeting and it was revisited on  February 25 when the council took a final vote on the budget.

Mr. Mushen said that he and Town Administrator Antonio Teixeira had “talked about how we should proceed with large scale town investments” that need to be made — including Town Hall and its parking lot.

The thought, he said, is to borrow the money from a bank at a ‘not-to-exceed figure at a not-to-exceed rate ... so as to spread what we anticipate to be a million or more dollars across a number of years” (he mentioned 10 or 15 years) on the improvements. 

The proposed budget includes $100,000 for a first year’s installment, an amount that would take advantage of the present low interest rates and continue over the duration of the loan.

Town Council member James Mataronas voiced support — “It seems like interest rates are starting to creep up a little bit so this would be a good time to do it.”

The idea is to “basically take a mortgage to buy a new Town Hall, or a refurbished Town Hall,” Mr. Mushen said.

The “shabby” look of Town Hall became a campaign issue during last year’s election season after Dennis August Almeida wrote a letter to the editor mentioning that a visiting friend “commented on how shabby the Town Hall looked, with its fading and peeling paint and shopworn boards in various states of disrepair.” He concluded that the town needed a change of attitude and a change in its council majority.

At  the February meeting, Mr. Mushen remarked that, “We’ve certainly had a lot of folks remind us that the Town Hall didn’t used to look this way.”

He said the rationale is to avoid hitting taxpayers with a “huge increase” in 2022 by spreading payments out over a period of years.

Mr. Teixeira added that the administration wil be “cautious” to protect the town’s present favorable bond rating.

Other budget highlights

During a rundown of the proposed 2022 budget, Mr. Mushen mentioned several other highlights, particularly line items that are increasing or decreasing in larger than usual amounts (the school budget had not yet been received).

• The Contingency Account is “raised by a substantial amount” because three of the main labor contracts — municipal, police and fire) will be up for negotiation and may require additional spending for labor costs.

• Tax Assessor line item is up by 9 percent due largely to the anticipated cost of enlisting an outside appraiser to assist with appeals that may result from challenges to an upcoming revaluation. The town’s cost of conducting the revaluation itself has been spread out over preceding years to avoid a one year shock.

• Informational Technology “decreased substantially” because substantial hardware purchases made this year won’t be repeated next budget year — those included three new copiers and computer upgrades.

• Brownell House: A citizen petition is “in the works” to seek funding for Brownell House, money that the council has not included in the budget.

• The Public Works budget is almost level funded.

• The Highway Department budget shows a “somewhat substantial” increase due to the hiring of an engineering firm for planned significant repairs to a town roadway.

 • Transfer Station budget is increased due to higher costs for hauling and tipping fees involved in trucking trash to the state’s Central Landfill. The administrator has negotiated a new contract with provisions that “prevent us from being surprised” by such increases during the next several years.

• Street Lights costs are up $1,000 because the town determined that that account was underfunded for three years in a row.

• The Town Hall line item is up “fairly susbtantially due in large part to a new cleaning contract that costs $1,050 per month.

• Beach Committee line item shows an increase due partly to a ”fairly modest investment” that qualifies the town for muncipal resilience funding that will pay for raising the beach parking lot significantly to help protect both the parking lot and Tunipus Pond behind it from ocean storms — Mr. Mushen called this the “Anderson-Teixeira-Mushen initiative.”

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