RICHMOND — Town Council members were told at their Tuesday meeting that it would be necessary to raise water rates for households served by town water.
The rates have not changed in 10 years, and Finance Director Kelli Russ said the water fund was currently running a deficit, as it has for the past couple years.
The account is an enterprise fund, which, Russ explained, operates like a business and therefore should not have a deficit. The majority of Richmond residents have private wells, and the town supplies water to just a few households.
“We can’t have a loss for too many periods,” Russ said. “It’s a fund that your taxpayers cannot subsidize, nor should they, because they’d be subsidizing for a handful of users and that’s not how the fund is designed.”
The current base rate for the first 30,000 gallons is $.0031 per gallon. The rate for 60,000 gallons is $.0035 per gallon.
“Ours is the lowest,” Russ said, citing a survey of rates in other towns. “It’s not even in the area charged by Kent County, Johnston, Woonsocket. So we’re trying to come up with a rate that we think is reasonable. We might do it over a succession of a few years, but at least something.”
Councilors also discussed measures the town could take to keep adult entertainment out of Richmond. Councilor Ronald Newman said he was concerned that adult entertainment is permitted in industrial zones, of which the town has many.
“I was astounded by what could happen in town, even though it’s allowed in certain areas. I wouldn’t allow it anywhere in town, but you said we can’t do that,” Newman told Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth.
Ellsworth said, “We would be on very thin ice legally if we did that.” She noted that adult entertainment is usually confined to industrial zones in Rhode Island cities and towns.
“That’s where people usually put this,” she said. “What you can do if you’re concerned about individual lots that are currently zoned for industrial use, you can change the zoning on those, but that would have some unintended consequences .…Those could be rectified with some amendments to the use code table of the zoning ordinance,” she said.
Council President Gary Wright said zoning changes might discourage businesses from locating in town.
“The biggest thing I don’t like when I was reading this is, I don’t like what we would be doing to future businesses, all the business this would affect,” he said.
The council will continue to explore its zoning options to be prepared for possible future applications for adult entertainment venues.
Senior Center committee
The council passed a resolution outlining the composition and duties of a committee that will study the feasibility of a new community/senior center. The town is establishing a $700,000 Public Facilities Construction Fund to build the center, probably on a 5-acre parcel the town owns across the road from the Town Hall.
The Richmond Community Center Study Committee will consist of nine voting members who are Richmond residents or town employees and a single, nonvoting member from the Town Council.
Meeting monthly before disbanding on Jan. 31, 2020, the committee will evaluate the need for a community center, recommend building a new structure or renting an existing building, and explore possible partnerships with nonprofit organizations.
Members will also research financing options and a planning and building timeline.
“The committee’s findings and recommendations shall be submitted to the Town Council in the form of a written report no later than February 28, 2020,” Wright said, reading the resolution.