SMITHFIELD –Bryant University President Ronald K. Machtley has proposed hiring, at the university’s expense, an independent, nationally respected and “mutually agreeable” consultant to determine Smithfield’s costs to provide emergency services to the school.
In a July 19 letter to the Town Council, the first official communication since a new state law was enacted about a week earlier requiring the parties to reach an agreement on reimbursement for public safety services, Machtley also offered to meet with the council as soon as it hammers out its counterproposal to his most recently proposed agreement, offered earlier this summer.
The new law stipulates that if no agreement is reached, the university would have to pay Smithfield for costs billed by the town.
Machtley could not immediately be reached to elaborate on what his letter calls his “constructive plan to move forward to resolve our differences.”
The letter recommended that both parties hire consultants, but then added that if they could agree on one firm to do the work, it would save the town money and expedite the effort.
The letter did not mention Machtley’s vow following enactment of the law that the university would consider litigation, since he viewed the new law as an “unfair (and arguably) illegal” burden on not only the university but the students, who might have to absorb the cost through tuition hikes.
Council President Alberto J. LaGreca told Providence Business News Thursday he spoke with Machtley earlier this month, but did not attend the council’s Aug. 6 meeting. At that meeting, the town’s counterproposal was expected to be considered but never made it onto the agenda, because the plan is not yet finished, LaGreca said.
“Neither side is panicking,” LaGreca said. “There still is the hope that we can hammer something out instead of litigating. I think they’ve been an outstanding partner for the town of Smithfield.”
Both LaGreca and Councilor Bernard A. Hawkins Thursday indicated they may favor use of a consultant to pin down the details on costs for emergency services. Three other councilors could not be reached for comment.
“We’re still trying to meet in good faith,” Hawkins said. “Hopefully, we’ll get something done.”