Who will pay for sewer station, roads in Great Woods Estate?

Who will pay for sewer station, roads in Great Woods Estate?

Bourque Road in the Great Woods development off Little Pond County Road in Cumberland remains a rutted mess. (Valley Breeze photo by Tom Ward)

CUMBERLAND - For those who purchased houses in the Colucci Companies' Great Woods Estate, the deteriorating road and questions surrounding the sewer pump station are an ongoing irritant, especially considering the half-million-dollar price tags on many of the homes.

Roadways remain incomplete six years after the first house was sold and the original binder coat "has failed disastrously," according to the town's engineer.

Also left unfinished is Little Pond County Road where cuts were made for a water main brought in from Diamond Hill road.

The area's Town Council member, Scott Schmitt, has harsh words for town officials over the roadway bond.

"The town has dropped the ball here. Let's get together and get these people what they need," he said.

But Town Solicitor Tom Hefner counters that Cumberland is holding two bonds totaling about $545,000 that can be applied to the roadways, although calling those bonds, a process he started last fall, is so far proving difficult.

Hefner told the Planning Board in a Feb. 26 memo that he began the rare process of calling the Colucci bonds held by Selective Insurance and Hanover Insurance last September in hopes of getting the roadway finished before winter.

At the same time, town officials told the Coluccis that $30,000 from each new lot sold would be held by the town to "cover the expected deficit."

The Coluccis didn't agree, he said, and subsequently the vacant 10 lots were sold in a tax sale and the town has put a stop on issuing new building permits for the undeveloped lots.

Hefner said in his memo, "It is imperative that the town protect the interests of those property owners who presently reside in Great Woods. That requires completion of remaining work, including pavement of all roadways within the development as well as the completion of retention/detention basins. There also remain final paving on Little Pond County Road and Broadview Avenue.

Schmitt suggests the actual pavement costs, including repairs to Little Pond Country Road, may be closer to twice that amount. The binder coat has been damaged by several years of freezing and thawing, he said.

He suggesting adding a $900,000 line item to the upcoming 2014-15 budget to cover the cost.

"The people deserve it," he said. "They were issued a certificate of occupancy."

Mayor Daniel McKee told The Breeze he agrees the town can't walk away from repairs here and says that if needed he'll propose a bond on this November's ballot to cover the remaining costs on the roadway as well as other road repairs, including Forest Avenue in Valley Falls that's been described as the single worst roadway in town.

Although Bourque, Eric and Vincent have yet to be accepted by the town, the town trucks are plowing in the winter, a process that the town's engineer, James N'Tow, notes is damaging equipment because the manhole covers sit above grade.

N'Tow urged the Planning Board to call in the developer's bonds in a Feb. 20 memo.

He says the "base course of asphalt installed on Bourque Road several years ago has "failed disastrously. At this point no amount of patch repair will substantially or significantly improve the condition of the road."

He added that the road will continue to deteriorate and "it is essential that we, as the town of Cumberland, take steps to immediately correct the situation for the sake of the residents, usages of the road, prevention of vehicular damage and damage to town plows."

About the sewer pump station, Schmitt says he was unsuccessful with a request that the town take it over, and is now suggesting that a homeowners' association manage it as planned, with regular inspections. The annual assessment per house had been estimated at $80.

Resident Jeff Bragg is pushing for the town to accept it. He told The Breeze that currently "no one appears to be taking responsibility for the pump station's operation, although it has been running with just one incident in the past six years."

A survey of homeowners found no one willing to take on the responsibility, he said.

He suggests the town's oversight would "be a safer, simpler and more efficient approach."

And he's offering an "upfront payment to defray additional expenses incurred by the town over the next few years."

McKee isn't eager to accept it, he said.

"The town is not looking to take over the developers' and ultimately the neighborhood association's responsibility of the pumping station," he said.

He added, "The town will make sure the road improvements are completed," he said, but noted it's too early to determine if there is going to be any shortfall in funding to complete the roads.

Meanwhile, the director of the Rhode Island Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board, George Whalen, told The Breeze that the registration for Colucci Companies, headed by Stephen Colucci, was revoked last year and a $239,000 fine invoked because of subcontractor complaints they weren't paid. Colucci has filed an appeal that's still pending.

Mohawk Associates of the same Cranston address, and headed by Thomas Colucci, is still registered, according to the state.

Colucci Companies has a "D" rating on the Better Business Bureau website.

The firm did not answer the telephone on Monday.

Cumberland Building Commissioner Neil Hall told The Breeze Rhode Island should step up its oversight of contractors.

"People are continuing to get screwed," he said bluntly, "by contractors who must only show proof of insurance to get a license."

Massachusetts requires a test and has the authority to ban a problem contractor for life, he said.

"But in Rhode Island," Hall complains, "all they have to do is change the name of the LLC and they're off and running, back in business."


Neil Hall is absolutely correct. The Collucci brothers have walked away from their obligations by simply changing the company name. The people who live in Great Woods are not having it so great.