The Hummel Report

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In Case You Were Wondering

What ever happen to…? It’s the question we get often weeks or months after a Hummel Report investigation. This week: we revisit four of our stories from the past year, all with new information or developments. From a controversial DEM plan in Exeter, to an update on the timetable for gantries to be installed to toll trucks passing through Rhode Island.

SCRIPT:

This week - we bring you some new developments in several of our ongoing Hummel Report investigations. Our quarterly update begins with a heated exchange between top officials of Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management and an auditorium full of people in South County.

Resident: ``Take it around the corner put it around the corner, make it four levels so you can see the sunset. I don’t care. But it doesn’t belong on the pond.’’

It was a tough crowd right from the start. Director Janet Coit and half a dozen others from the Department of Environmental Management were on the defensive for much of the night during a two-hour meeting at Richmond Elementary School.

They were trying to explain - and defend - plans for a $7.2 million, 13,000 square-foot natural resources and visitors center on the banks of this pond within the Arcadia Management Area.

Many who spoke said they didn’t particularly oppose the concept of the building - but they wanted to know why the public wasn’t engaged during the initial planning stages five years ago.

Resident: ``You never asked for any input from the people who live here, the people who love nature, the people who move down here because of nature.’’

Resident: ``The main draw is not your classrooms, it’s for hiking, it’s for fishing, you’re not telling me that there’s concrete plans to repair those trails and footbridges. That’s what draws people to Arcadia. It’s not your center, it’s not going to be your center.’’

Coit began the meeting by apologizing for not doing a better job of engaging the public. But she had told The Providence Journal that the decision whether to still go forward with construction was not on the table - only issues like lighting and landscaping.

Resident: ``I’m not here to talk about lighting and landscaping. I’m here to tell you, you’re not putting that building on Browning Mill pond.  Read my lips, you’re not putting the building there.’’

Resident: ``Why wasn’t this put out to the public for suggestions as to where to put it, instead of sticking it in our face. This is nothing but a $7 million office building for a bunch of bureaucrats that want to go to work in the woods.’’

Coit said she would meet with her team to discuss the comments at the meeting, but a spokeswoman tells The Hummel Report this week no decisions have been made.

We have some good news for you out of the town of Smithfield, where problems with DOT-installed mailboxes on state highway seem to have been solved

A year ago this is what Pleasant View Avenue - Route 116 - in Smithfield looked like. Mailboxes in various stages of destruction, the victim of snow plows during rough winters and faulty construction when they were installed five years ago.

Polseno: ``It’s aggravating. And you can’t get through ot nobody and they laugh at you. Ha!!’’

Business owner Tony Polseno’s colorful interview reached DOT Director Peter Alviti, who promised a fix. Last fall, he personally visited Polseno after dozens of new boxes had been installed - six inches further away from the road.

Polseno said it wouldn’t be enough and predicted a failed fix. On Monday - after last week’s slushy snowstorm he said he was wrong:

Polseno: ``This storm here , look at it - perfect. Everything’s nice and straight go out there and see, no splashing. The mailboxes all nice and straight up and down.’’

Polseno told us the snow plow drivers had targeted him in previous winters because of his complaints. He also believes Alviti got them to slow down last week.

Polseno: ``And this storm was bad. These plows what a job they did. I said `Oh they’re going to ruin me again now!’ He slows right down, all nice, they kept it all nice and clean, no mailboxes down, nothing. I told you when Peter came last fall he got out of that truck. I said he was the man for the job. He looked all around, he looked at the cement, said we got to fix that cement.’’

So we went with Polseno to see for ourselves how the mailbox fared in the bad weather.

Polseno: ``They’ll be pansies on this Saturday. No mail!’’

And he credits Alviti - who he calls by another name.

Polaseno: ``Good people. The best. Peter Amoriggi is the man for the job. I told you.’’

In January we chronicled the move of a controversial asphalt plant in Coventry to the Quonset Business Park. Well that plant has been fully built out over the past two months and is on the verge of producing its first load of asphalt.

It is the culmination of years of planning and several months of execution. We were there as Tom Miozzi moved his asphalt plant - piece by piece - from Coventry, 14 miles south to this parcel at Quonset. The last pieces came down during a driving snowstorm in January.

The new operation will allow him to operate 24 hours a day, with no neighbors nearby as he had in Coventry.

Miozzi is now located on 10 acres, instead of six, and has access to natural gas instead of oil, which will save him $160,000 a year in energy use alone. After some test runs he expects the plant to be fully up and running by next month.

Finally, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation reports that installation of gantries - to toll trucks passing through Rhode Island’s highways - is on schedule and should be complete sometime next year.

Coming to a highway near you: equipment like this that we found in New Hampshire during our two-part series last fall looking at the technology available for states that toll vehicles using their roadways.

It is both accurate and efficient and can detect vehicle information long before a truck or car gets to the actual toll gantry.

The DOT tells us that just last week it received proposals from six firms - including international companies - to provide the gantries. The department expects to award the contract in May, with construction of the tolling equipment beginning this fall and taking a year to complete.

DOT expects all the toll locations to be operational and collecting revenue by the end of 2018.

The wild card is an expected court challenge by the trucking industry to the legality of tolling trucks only. But that will likely not happen until at least one or two of the gantries goes up and begins collecting revenue.

We are off to a great start in 2017, with several big stories already in the pipeline. But part of our success relies on you and the story ideas you pass along. So if you have one email me directly at jim@hummelreport.org.