Bryant U. sits down with Town Council on Feb. 25

Bryant U. sits down with Town Council on Feb. 25

SMITHFIELD - It's official: The Town Council will meet in open session Tuesday, Feb. 25 to hear a report from Bryant University's financial consultant on the cost of municipal public safety runs to the Douglas Pike campus.

The meeting, which according to Bryant President Ronald Machtley will be a presentation only and will not include actual negotiations, comes after weeks of scuffling over whether the initial meeting should be held behind closed doors.

The council voted 3-2 recently to seek an open meeting as a kickoff to what it hopes later will be actual negotiations between the two sides. Machtley had asked for a closed meeting.

According to a bill passed by the General Assembly last year, the town is authorized to bill Bryant for police, fire and rescue runs unless a different arrangement is reached by March 1.

The council seeks $300,000 a year in a 20-year agreement, plus a separate $150,000 payment every four years for the purchase of public safety equipment, in addition to scholarships and tuition remissions for town residents.

But Machtley has questioned those figures, and Bryant recently hired financial advisor Charles River Associates to make an independent cost analysis.

The two sides have never met to negotiate, and some council members and the town's legislative delegation have suggested Bryant is unwilling to come to the table.

Machtley last year offered $35,000 a year and the annual donation for a decade of 200 renovated laptop computers for the high school at an annual value he put between $80,000 and $100,000.

The council termed the offer inadequate.

For his part, Machtley has said the town's numbers are an overreach that does not reflect the actual cost of the services. He has said legal challenges are an option for the university.

The council has characterized its proposed agreement as a starting point for talks, indicating it might be willing to negotiate lesser terms.

Next Tuesday's meeting was initially expected to be an informal work session to receive the Charles River report.

However, the council is not permitted to take votes at work sessions, so in case it does wish to make any decisions on the negotiation process it has posted the session as an official meeting.

The two agenda items are a discussion of the Charles River findings and of the council's proposed "memorandum of agreement" that lays out what it wants Bryant to pay.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.