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By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN â€“ North Kingstown Superintendent Dr. Philip Auger, along with a majority of school committee members, are hoping residents will pass a $6.4 million health and safety bond to make what they call â€śnecessary improvementsâ€ť to many of the districtâ€™s schools in a special election this Tuesday.
The bulk of the money, which has drawn debate from residents on both sides of the issue, would be used to replace the roof at Davisville Middle School (DMS), which has come to the end of its lifecycle.
Because the school buildings are worth a combined $125 million, the school department argues that is tasked with properly maintaining them and says this bond will do just that.
â€śIt can be devastating if we put this project off,â€ť Auger said in a recent school committee meetings. â€śJust this project alone will address the many issues that come with a leaking roof: mold, air quality and more. Just this part of the project will address issues relating to the safety of over 500 students and 70 staff.â€ť
In addition to the roof at Davisville, Auger says all of the districtâ€™s elementary schools need to meet American with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations and part of the bond money would be used to install items such as new elevator and chair lift systems in those schools.
If the bond passes, Auger said, the district would also replace the heating, ventiliation and air-conditoning systems (HVAC) at Stony Lane, Quidnessett and DMS.
Other projects included in the bond are at the four elementary schools and include asbestos abatement at DMS and washable ceiling tiles at DMS, Hamilton and Stony Lane.
Auger argues that because ADA is a federal law, the school district has no choice but to comply but some residents, and school committee member Bill Mudge have questioned the validity of those assertions.
â€śWould it not be prudent for the school committee to first exercise it's fiduciary responsibility to determine what the ADA accessibility rules and regulations are and, second, determine by inspection if we are in violation?,â€ť Mudge said in a letter to the editor submitted to the Standard-Times this week. â€śThird, should we spend $900,000 of our taxpayers hard-earned dollars to mitigate an undetermined ADA violation?â€ť
Auger counters that this bond will fund the compliance needs and should a complaint be filed in the future and the funding isnâ€™t available, there will be no choice but to forgo critical school programs and/or ask the taxpayers to fund it. If the bond passes, these projects will be completed in the summer of 2013.
Another reason Auger thinks this is the right time to pass the bond is because there is currently a 35 percent rebate on the cost and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) Board of Regents and the stateâ€™s legislature are unsure about the availability of these reimbursements to school districts in the future.
There will be only two polling locations for this special election: Cold Spring Community Center and Davisville Middle School. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Voters from districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 13 will vote at Davisville Middle School. Voters from districts 5, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 14 will go to the Cold Spring Community Center.
Tuesdayâ€™s election will not only settle the hotly-debated bond issue, it will be the stateâ€™s first test of the new voter ID law, where poll workers will ask voters to show a current and valid ID before voting.
Any of the following are listed as appropriate IDs: a Rhode Island driverâ€™s license, U.S. passport, ID card issued by an educational institution in the U.S., U.S. military identification card, Rhode Island or federal government-issued ID card, government-issued medical card, employee ID card, health club ID card, insurance plan ID card, public housing ID card, ID card provided by a commercial establishment, credit or debit card or a R.I. voter ID.
If you do not bring a photo ID, you can use certain non-photo IDâ€™s. The ID must include your name and address as it appears in the poll book and must be dated after Nov. 2, 2010, unless the document is intended to be of a permanent nature such as a birth certificate, social security card or a government issued medical card. If thatâ€™s the case, then only your name is required. These types of IDâ€™s that have been deemed acceptable include: a birth certificate, social security card, government-issued medical card, utility bill, bank statement, document issued by a government agency, lease or rental statement, student ID, tuition statement/bill or insurance plan card.
Members of the Rhode Island Secretary of State will be in town the day before the election, April 2, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Essex Village Community Room, 12 Fischer Drive, North Kingstown. Voters can also obtain a free Voter ID weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the election division, 148 West River St., Providence.