- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Bryant University has offered a plan to cover the cost of public safety services it receives in Smithfield despite what it calls “serious issues” with the amount sought.

The school proposed paying virtually what the town wants for each police, fire and ambulance run provided to the school, even though a consultant Bryant hired to determine the cost of those runs said some of the town’s estimates were inflated.

Bryant spokeswoman Elizabeth O’Neil said Monday the payments under the university’s proposal are expected to amount to about $200,000 a year.

The town council is scheduled to consider the proposal Tuesday evening. Members were briefed on it last week.

“We will agree to this compensation in the spirit of resolving this matter - despite the serious issues we have with your proposed rates,” a letter from Bryant President Ronald Machtley to Town Manager Dennis Finlay says.

Machtley added: “The role that Bryant plays in the Smithfield community is important to us and important to Smithfield. We believe this agreement is more than fair and reasonable, and that it will fulfill all of the university’s obligations under the statute.”

The General Assembly last year passed a bill allowing Smithfield to charge Bryant for emergency services after the two sides couldn’t agree on a fair level of payments in lieu of taxes by the tax-exempt nonprofit school. Machtley at the time called the bill unconstitutional, compared it to extortion and threatened to sue.

Bryant has now proposed a 20-year agreement and said it would also continue to provide some $300,000 in in-kind contributions it says it has already been making.

O’Neil said she’s optimistic council will approve the proposal.

“Coming to an agreement with the town has been something that’s been more than a decade in the making,” she said. “At the end of the day, I feel like what we put on the table is really more than fair. We just said, OK, we’ll accept your figures.”

Messages were left for Council President Alberto LaGreca Jr. and Finlay, who worked with Bryant’s consultant on the cost issue.

Several tax-exempt schools and institutions in Rhode Island, including Brown, Johnson & Wales and the Lifespan hospital system, have agreements with their host communities to make voluntary payments in lieu of taxes.

Bryant officials vigorously opposed the bill last year, which said the town could start charging as of March 1 this year if an agreement wasn’t reached.

The university highlighted at the time its existing direct and in-kind contributions. It said the town already receives state PILOT money to compensate for Bryant’s use of public safety services and contended the legislation would allow Smithfield to double dip.

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