Million Dollar Mistake
As we head to homestretch of 2017, Jim Hummel has updates on a handful of this year’s Hummel Report investigations: the Airport Connector construction project; the end of one chapter and beginning of another at the Apponaug Circulator Project - and some good news resulting directly from one of our Rhode Island Spotlight profiles this fall.
I’m Jim Hummel - another year is just about in the books. Before we turn the page to 2018…a handful of updates on this year’s Hummel Report investigations. We begin with our investigation on a DOT construction project that had many motorists dodging orange barrels on the way to Green Airport.
This was the scene for most of the past two summers: a sea of orange barrels and Jersey barriers greeting those trying to get into and out of Green Airport. In November we asked DOT Director Peter Alviti why it seemed that for long stretches of time no one was actually working in the work zone.
The answer: the construction crew was miles away on Route 2 fixing four other bridges as part of the same project. Alviti admitted the department should probably rethink bundling so many projects under one bid - and having a high-visibility road limited by orange barrels for such a long period of time.
The good news is the work for the winter season is over. This is how the eastbound and westbound lanes looked this week: smooth sailing over two repaired bridges. The DOT tells us that crews will be back for some residual work in the spring and the project will be fully completed on schedule in May.
In October we reported about one woman’s ongoing battle to try and secure a mooring in a popular cove in North Kingstown. It now involves local, state and federal officials, with no immediate end in sight. But she has hired an attorney.
Sunny Albanese’s 32-foot power boat was one of the few left in the water late last month as she is still battling to get a permanent mooring in Mill Cove. The commercial mooring she had been on for two years was pulled by marina owner Barry Gross five days before she was scheduled to begin using it in 2016. Since then she has used two anchors to secure her boat.
That has led to a thorny series of events involving the town - which passed an ordinance and has fined her tens of thousands of dollars for anchoring in the federal waterway. She has an application pending before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees federal waters, to give her a mooring.
In the meantime Albanese has hired a lawyer, who is fighting the town’s tickets in Superior Court. And he has filed a libel suit against the Gross, the marina owner, for sending a letter to the town council in early 2016 saying that Albanese’s `excessive drinking’ was the reason he took her mooring away.
Alabanese is using a slip at nearby Wickford Marina for the winter while her lawsuit plays out.
The Department of Transportation finally put the wraps on $71 million Apponaug Circulatior Project. Now we’ll see if what engineers envisioned years ago with the installation of a circulator will become a reality in 2018.
It has been a rough ride in Apponaug during the construction period - sometimes literally - as we reported more than 100 accidents after the initial phase opened a year ago, with motorists still trying to figure out how to negotiate the series of five rotaries.
Traffic backups were a common site as crews continued to work through the summer on paving, landscaping and signage. The DOT reports that the project is largely finished, with only some minor punch list items remaining for the spring.
So these next several months will show whether the traffic issues are construction-related - or a structural, engineering problems.
And finally: an update to one of our Rhode Island Spotlight stories that focuses on a program to help financially-challenged families clothe their school-aged children. Our story directly led to an increase in donations.
Clothes to Kids RI was the brainchild of former prosecutor and board of higher education chair Eva-Marie Mancuso and her longtime friend Marianne Baldwin. Their nonprofit has provided wardrobes for thousands of students who might not otherwise be able to afford them.
The clothes area combination of donations and purchases. Mancuso reports that after our story ran in October received $2,000 in cash donations, 600 pairs of socks and underwear and more than a dozen new volunteers.
We appreciate your support throughout this year and look forward to another banner year in 2018. Help us by sending along your tips and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.