Bryant renews call for consultant on services compensation issue
RESPONDING TO A PROPOSAL unanimously approved by the Smithfield Town Council on Tuesday requiring Bryant University to pay $300,000 a year for the town's emergency services, Bryant issued a statement Thursday expressing "dismay" at the council's refusal to hire a consultant to determine the cost of the services.
SMITHFIELD – Bryant University called on town councilors Thursday to reconsider their decision not to hire a consultant to hammer out actual costs for municipal emergency services provided to the university.
Late Tuesday, the Town Council unanimously approved a proposal that requires the university to pay, among other terms, $300,000 a year for 20 years to offset the cost of police and fire calls made to the university.
In a statement released Thursday, the university called this and other conditions in the proposal a “wish list,” and expressed “dismay” at the council’s refusal, by a vote of 3-2, to let Bryant hire the consultant.
In July, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee signed a new state law requiring the parties to reach an agreement on reimbursement for public safety services. If an agreement is not in place by April 1 of 2014, the university would have to pay the town whatever the town bills the school for emergency services.
Bryant had offered to pay for the consultant.
In rejecting the offer, town councilors said they trust the financial records provided by the town manager’s office and police and fire chiefs, though Councilor Suzanna L. Alba said she would remain open to reconsidering the need for that consultant as negotiations progress.
Before the law was passed, Bryant said in a lengthy emailed statement, the school had proposed an agreement that would provide $35,000 annually to the town, along with a new program to donate 200 laptops each year to Smithfield High School at an estimated $80,000 to $100,000 annual cost. Bryant sees its original proposal as an addition to the existing $800,000 it already provides in direct and in-kind support.
“This [Bryant] proposal was a 33 percent increase in our contribution over the next ten years,” Bryant said.
The town council’s new proposal – which also calls for four payments of $150,000 each over the life of the agreement for emergency services equipment or capital improvements to first responder facilities, $25,000 a year for town civic activities, and other terms – is “far out of step with the state law requirements and financially unfeasible for a non-profit, tax exempt organization dedicated to higher education,” Bryant stated.
“Once more we ask the Town Council to work with us to determine the actual cost of public safety services that are provided to Bryant and not already compensated,” the university said. “If the Town Council works in concert with us, in a fair and transparent process, we’re confident that we can reach an agreement far before that deadline.”