Smithfield approves proposal to charge Bryant for town services

Town councilors approved an agreement Tuesday that would require Bryant University to pay $300,000 a year for 20 years to offset the cost of police and fire calls made to the university. More

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Smithfield approves proposal to charge Bryant for town services

BRYANT UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT Ronald K. Machtley contested legislation signed into law in July requiring that Bryant and the town of Smithfield reach an agreement on reinbursement for emergency services. Tuesday, the Smithfield Town Council approved a proposal that would require Bryant to pay $300,000 a year for the services.
Posted 10/2/13

SMITHFIELD – Town councilors approved an agreement Tuesday that would require Bryant University to pay $300,000 a year for 20 years to offset the cost of police and fire calls made to the university.

The vote was unanimous, councilors said, and they plan to ask the university to consider the agreement.

Councilors also rejected by a vote of 3-2 university President Ronald K. Machtley’s request in August to hire a consultant at the university’s expense to reach a mutually-agreed upon estimate on the cost of those services, which the town manager’s office and town police and fire chiefs have estimated at between $250,000 and $345,000 a year.

In July, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee signed a new state law requiring the parties to reach an agreement on reimbursement for public safety services. Absent an agreement, the university would have to pay whatever the town bills the school for emergency services.

Councilor Suzanna L. Alba and Council Vice President Ronald F. Manni said they voted along with Councilor Bernard A. Hawkins not to hire a consultant because they accept town administrators’ financial estimates, which are based on records of fire and police runs to the school.

“We do not feel a consultant is necessary,” Alba said. “We’ve already provided those numbers and trust the finance director and town manager that those numbers are accurate. We feel [hiring a consultant] would kick the can down the road further. We don’t want any other hurdles in the way.”

Alba indicated that, as negotiations progress, the council could later consider hiring a consultant.

The approved memorandum of understanding would also require the university to make four payments of $150,000 each over the life of the agreement for emergency services equipment or capital improvements to first responder facilities.

The proposal also requires Bryant to pay $25,000 a year for town civic activities, set up scholarship funds and tuition remission for some Smithfield High School students and town and public school employees, and set up a “cooperative committee” to meet quarterly about matters of concern to both the town and Bryant.

“Hopefully, when we sit down, we’ll be able to come to an agreement that’s pleasing to both sides,” Manni said.

The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Bryant's earlier public statement:

"It should also be noted that because of Bryant's tax-exempt status the Town of Smithfield already receives nearly $500,000 each year from the State of Rhode Island through its PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program. These monies are to compensate the Town for the public safety burden of Bryant. This legislation allows the Town to "double-dip" and begs the question what are the PILOT funds used for."

Is the town of Smithfield stating in effect that the burden of Bryant on public resources is greater than these $500,000, in effect $750,000+ a year based on these new fees?

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