Town of Burrillville fined $5,000 for violations at new DPW property

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BURRILLVILLE – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has fined the town of Burrillville $5,000 for suspected violations of state regulations regarding erosion and sedimentation control at the soon-to-be headquarters of the town’s Department of Public Works.

According to a citation notice issued by RIDEM in December, the town failed to meet several requirements in a “Stormwater Discharge Associated with Construction Activity Plan,” for the property at 151 Clear River Drive.

Construction of the building, a 27,000-square-foot facility that will replace DPW’s current headquarters on Union Avenue in Harrisville,  began last year after several years of planning.

Once complete, the new $6.2 million town facility will be twice the size of the Union Avenue headquarters. The town DPW completed much of the site work to save money on the project, estimated three years ago to cost $7.5 million. In August, contractor Urbane Construction Corp. was hired to construct a new salt shed on the property at a cost of $341,945.

Town Manager Michael Wood noted that the town just got an occupancy permit for the building and is now bringing in furniture, putting it about two months away from full use by town employees.

“There’s some outside work to be done,” he said.

According to a memo on the alleged violations from Public Works Director Jeff McCormick, RIDEM performed a surprise inspection at the site on Oct. 17, 2019.  Inspectors found the town in violation on five items including failure to notify RIDEM when construction began; failure to keep the stormwater plan on site; failure to implement all aspects of the approved plan and failure to conduct required inspections.

“Although we do daily visual observations, we did not physically document the inspections, repairs or catalog them,” said McCormick in the memo.

In a citation issued to Wood, David Chopy, administrator for RIDEM’s office of compliance and inspection, notes that his department has “reasonable grounds to believe,” that the town has violated Rhode Island General Law and the state Code of Regulations.

McCormick noted that RIDEM’s inspection of the site was unexpected and unusual in his experience.

“DEM officials that I spoke with after the visit stated that this with a new directive and that these inspections were not being done by them in the past due to the lack of staff,” wrote McCormick.  “I have been in site permitting and construction for 35 years and have not seen this done to private construction projects, and never to a municipality.”

McCormick said that he has been told RIDEM will now be inspecting all permitted projects. He noted that the town has no recourse for fighting the $5,000 fine – the maximum for such a citation under the agency’s guidelines – and that if it is not paid within 60 days, the town could be issued another violation with a charge of up to $25,000 per day.

The new building will replace an office built in 1946.

Wood says he’s confident the town will be able to address RIDEM’s concerns.

“We know what we have to do,” the town manager said. “It was just an oversight.”

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