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Hung Out To Dry

JAMESTOWN - Town leaders have again rejected requests from homeowners with failing wells to tie into the municipal water supply, saying they need to protect the interests of those who have town water now - and potential future development that could put an additional strain on the system.

The Town Council, sitting as the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners, listened to hours of testimony spread over several meetings since February, culminating with a unanimous decision last week that will now trigger litigation.

“I’ve been a lawyer for 32 years and I’ve never seen a municipality act in such an egregious manner,” said Glenn Andreoni, who bought a house on Seaview Avenue in 2015. “(They’re) just totally disregarding basic health, safety and welfare. It’s beyond belief.”

Andreoni is one of four homeowners in a neighborhood just off East Shore Road who is asking for a tie-in several hundred yards away. They all tell a similar story: up until a few years ago their wells were fine, but they gradually have become reduced to a brackish trickle. 

Andreoni’s situation is so bad that he can’t live in the house, although he and the others have gotten no tax break on their properties, ranging in assessment from $1.4 million to $2.6 million. They are on the east side of the island in the shadows of The Newport Bridge.

“I do understand the council’s position with respect to other people wanting (water), but nobody else is in front of you,” Andreoni told the water commissioners during a hearing on his application in April. “Nobody else has proven their wells are bad. I have.”

He noted that he’d never be able to sell his house.


The town has been down this road before. Two years ago, it rejected a request by Christina DiMeglio - whose home is just south of Seaview Avenue - to approve a connection after hearing a similar story of her failing well.

Her plight was detailed in a series of Hummel Report investigations, first published in The Providence Sunday Journal in September, 2022.

DiMeglio’s attorney, Joelle Rocha - who also represents Andreoni - filed multiple lawsuits and an appeal. On the eve of a hearing before the Rhode Island Supreme Court, the town reversed course and settled the case, agreeing to allow DiMeglio to tie in to the town’s water supply 200 yards south of her house.

The water district spent more than $63,000 on the litigation.

“It’s insanity, it makes no logical sense.” Andreoni said. “They’re forcing themselves into litigation. At this point we have to litigate, I’m not just going to give up.”

While the majority of Jamestown’s 5,400 residents - including the five members of The Town Council - are connected to the “urban” water district,  DiMeglio,  Andreoni and the other applicants from Seaview Avenue live in what’s called the “rural” district. The water commissioners have steadfastly maintained that the district’s regulations prohibit them from supplying water to those on wells.

Andreoni noted that just north of his neighborhood up East Shore Road, homeowners’ wells supply plenty of water and that the problem is confined to a handful of houses.

“I’m very disappointed,” Jeffrey Saletin, one of the four applicants, told the Hummel Report last week. “(Town leaders) believe that their mission is only to provide water to people in this old defined district. And the people that have a real need, slightly outside their district, willing to pay for an extension of the water lines and purchase water from the town - they could care less.”

Rocha said a state law passed in 2022 entitles Andreoni and the others facing hardship to have the water main extended to their houses, regardless of what local regulations say. In her closing argument earlier this month she noted that her client had met the six criteria necessary for the tie-in.

Since DiMeglio will soon be connecting,  an extension is just around the corner for the latest applicants.

Town Councilman Randall White has led the charge to deny new connections; he believes the state law does not apply to Jamestown. Despite that opinion, the Town Council passed a resolution earlier this year asking its local representative to file legislation that would exempt Jamestown from the provisions of the new law. That bill is pending.

“If the law doesn’t apply, why are you trying to exempt yourself?” Andreoni asked them at one hearing.


The process began in January, when Andreoni and his wife Marjorie, Saletin and his wife Deborah, Paul and Gail Frechette and Steve Zimniski and his wife Suzanne Gagnon, submitted applications just before the town adopted a six-month moratorium on tie-ins while it revises its water management plan.

At a meeting in February, White said he needed more time to digest the applications, so everyone reconvened for a lengthy hearing in April; experts hired by each of the couples outlined why a tie-in was the only option available.

Andreoni told the commissioners his original plan was not to ask for a connection, but to install a reverse osmosis system, which ultimately was ruled out by the experts. Frechette testified his problems began in 2016 when his water became increasingly salty. He drilled another well, but it ultimately failed, initially providing roughly a gallon a minute. This year it’s down to.075 gallons per minute.

Zimnisky said he put in two 250-gallon storage tanks, but it was not a good long-term solution.“Our well is not sufficient and all the people around us don’t have sufficient wells,” he testified. “I don’t know how many experts you need to keep on saying it.”

Saletin told the commissioners he’s lived in Jamestown for 23 years, and in their Seaview Avenue home since 2015, where they have had increasing trouble getting water beginning six years ago. His well has run completely dry more than once.

Frechette, in an interview last week with The Hummel Report, said he can’t live in the house full time. “When someone flushes a toilet, there’s not enough water to brush your teeth.”

Throughout the hearing, White - a retired career prosecutor - conducted extended cross examination of the applicants and their lawyers: Rocha and Christian Infantolino, who has lived and practiced in Jamestown for the past decade.

At one point White asked Saletin: “I understand the logic between quantity and quality. But where in the regulations does it provide the yield for the depth has to be a particular quality?”

An incredulous Saletin responded: “This has been very painful for us and I just want to respectfully request that you allow us to extend the line. We’re willing to pay for the cost of the extension ourselves. It’s very, very important to us as a family. There is just my wife and I, we are getting older. It’s incredibly difficult to come home and have no water.”

White concluded the April hearing saying he wanted to call his owner witness - the town’s director of public works, Mike Gray, at the next meeting.


On May 6, White spent 50 minutes asking Gray about the history of the town’s water supply and connections. He also spoke about a recent report that said it would be possible for every one of the town’s 1,200 units connected to the municipal water supply to add an accessory dwelling unit.

Rocha noted that there have been 19 connections to the system over the past five years. “And it’s a bit preposterous to say there’s a build out report where every single lot could be built out and we’re going to save water capacity for people that don’t exist,” she told the commissioners. “And may never exist.”

Rocha continued: “We went down a road tonight about capacity and the history of this; to paint this story about why - basically for the public in the room I’m assuming and your constituents - as to why this is so awful and why we’re here. We’re talking about one house, two houses, whatever it may be…100-foot extensions.”

Infantolino, representing the Frechettes and the Saletins, said the town had heard unrefuted evidence from the applicants’ experts that they meet the standards of the state law.


Everyone who arrived for the commissioners’ decision on May 20 expected a quick verdict, given the lengthy testimony and arguments at the previous meeting two weeks earlier.

Instead, White spent more than an hour delivering a closing argument. He methodically traced the history of the water system, dating to its legislative creation in 1968 and a drought in 1993, while his fellow commissioners listened without interrupting.

“It’s not whether we have enough for this individual application…it’s  whether, as a commission, it makes sense for us to expand our district into an area where we haven’t been before, when and if we don’t have the water to justify it,” White said.

“Our water supply is incredibly limited, and extremely fragile and is regenerated by rain. And if it doesn’t rain, the level goes down. And if it continues to not rain it continues to go down. We don’t have a system of natural springs.”

White meandered through the past and present, at one point calling on the legislature to help the town find a solution to its water challenges.

After White concluded, Council Vice President Mary E. Meagher, said: “My heart goes out to them, because water is essential and your current systems are deficient.  I recognize your sense of despair and frustration and I recognize too your efforts to fix the problem.”

But, Meagher added, she had a responsibility to the 3,300 residents in the water district. And that tipped the scale to a no vote for her.

Meagher, White, Council President Nancy A. Beye and Michael G. White all said they would vote against granting the application. Erik G. Brine recused himself from the hearing. The rejection will become official next month after the town’s solicitor formalizes a motion with facts and findings - preserving the record for potential litigation.


After their decision,  and 90 minutes after the meeting had begun, Paul Sprague - a lifetime Jamestown resident  - unloaded on the four commissioners.

‘“I wholeheartedly disagree with (your) decision to deny these folks,”  Sprague said. “I think they are our neighbors and we should make every possible effort to get them hooked into the system. I understand the concerns about water, but I also believe there are many, many things we can do to mitigate those problems and increase our water supply that aren’t expensive.”

Sprague, who is owners two buildings connected to the water system, took issue, as a ratepayer, with having to pay for litigation.

“I think the legal bills you’re about to face are going to be far greater than what it would cost to hook these folks up, because it like to (go to) Superior Court.”

Each of the applicants said they would foot the entire bill for connection. Saletin noted they would then become customers, adding to the revenue of the district.

Sprague got all of the commissioners to reluctantly acknowledge they were connected to town water, asking if that was a conflict of interest? “As customers of the water system I wonder if you actually should all recuse yourselves from this whole thing because you’re customers of the water system, and I think there’s bias here. In fact, you all have yours, so everything is fine. If you had wells you may feel very differently.”

In an interview with The Hummel Report last week, Sprague said  “Their fear is that everybody in the world is going to get a hookup. And I get that, but the burden of proof (to get a connection) is so hard there are going to be very few people to hook into that system in the future.”


The next step will be an appeal to the state Water Resources Board, a provision of the new law, before going to court.

Andreoni, Saletin and Frechette said they are going ahead with an appeal.

Infantolino said in an interview: “I don’t understand why they’re digging in their feet, I really don’t. The claim of no water just isn’t realistic. And they’re utilizing that claim as a means to prohibit growth. My biggest issue is rather than say no, they’re not looking for opportunities to better this situation.”

Rocha said she was not surprised by the decision, given how the questioning had gone during the hearings.  “(The decision) is not correct, but I anticipated that was going to be the position taken. They don’t align with the law - or the facts, really. (The water commissioners) tell a very good story, but it’s a story. There’s a scare tactic going on.” Rocha added.

“What is comes down to is they want to reserve water for people that don’t yet exist in the town. At the expense of people that do exist, that don’t have water.”


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