Management and Finance | 4 MIN READ

Prudent Board Training in Prudence Island, Rhode Island

November 27, 2023 By Matt Cassedy, State Manager, Connecticut, RCAP Solutions
PendletonTownship10 14

Among small and rural communities, those with water utilities face additional complexities that range across a vast spectrum of realities and considerations. These can range from topics such as source water programs and additional water treatment to emergency response plans and access to funding to managerial support and training. RCAP Solutions has continued to help and serve communities using a Technical, Managerial, and Financial (TMF) centered approach. RCAP Solution’s broad spectrum of tools and experiences allows the Technical Assistance Providers (TAPs) to meet any unique needs of a community. For a small community in Rhode Island, all the above are just some of the hurdles faced by a board of valiant individuals, who are trying to create community sustainability.

Prudence Island sits in the middle of Narraganset Bay, Rhode Island. Prudence Island Water District (PIWD) is a drinking water community on the island with 335 customers and is managed by a board of five volunteers. Adding to the previous hurdles, PIWD is also a small seasonal island community, which demands the technical, managerial, and financial processes and planning to be, very creative. To a small board that is volunteering a lot of time and energy, the need for managerial support becomes a large part of keeping consistency and continuity to endure the challenges of producing safe water for the community. One specific challenge for a community like this stems from location limitations, which create more complexity for managerial and financial planning. A couple examples of location limitations include having no road access, and limited access to critical replacement parts.  These factors impact asset management and financial sustainability.   For example, having to purchase a replacement pump, which holds additional considerations like costs in shipping, available carriers, and a possible timeline to receive a crucial asset. For the board of PIWD, attempting plans to improve water quality and fulfilling simultaneous compliance to regulations are mountainous with consideration of their unique challenges.

To assist the board and provide beneficial options, the approach from RCAP Solutions was to support funding opportunities and increase managerial capacity. This two-fold methodology focused on financial and managerial aspects specific to the RCAP Solutions’ TMF approach. The services RCAP Solutions provided included an income survey, a disadvantaged criteria assessment, and a series of targeted board trainings. This approach included preliminary characteristics and information gathering, depicting the need for additional data and review. For example, the customer base for the district is primarily residential with little prospects for expansion, thereby affecting opportunities for increasing customer base and revenue streams from business or commercial property. Looking at the existing data PIWD is not designated as a census-marked area. The district falls within the US Census Bureau data as Block Group 3, Census Tract 401.05 of Newport County, RI. Any other available data from the US Census incorporates the town of Portsmouth, RI, and limits the eligibility for funding programs. Important data was collected and used to complete a disadvantaged criteria assessment for PIWD. The assessment used information from the US Census, the community, the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB), the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), and an RCAP Solutions Community Characteristic Income Survey. The result of the assessment identified qualifying criteria that narrate the needs and desired outcomes for potential projects and associated financial responsibility and debt service. The final approach for PIWD was for RCAP Solutions to provide a series of board trainings, targeting specific conversations to increase managerial capacity and sustainability.

RCAP Solutions recognizes those individuals who serve as board members and oversight committees, and work to improve and empower better sustainable communities. Behind any successful managerial group and plan is a supportive system. RCAP Solutions is continually committed to supporting a framework that serves to increase capacity and sustain drinking water leadership. As economies shift and fiscal cycles continue, the cost to provide the same services is increasing exponentially.  Small systems are experiencing project costs that revenues may not support. Such discouragement is unshakable but for small and rural communities, especially the disadvantaged, they should not feel like they are alone on an island. The impact of RI state funding programs and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD), create a way for small and rural communities to, not only survive but thrive. With the direct technical assistance funding from these funders, and the grants that allow RCAP Solutions to continue serving, communities and boards can get the support needed to maintain a sustainable future.

By Matt Cassedy, State Manager, Connecticut, RCAP Solutions

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