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By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN â€“ The North Kingstown School Department received a bit of good news Tuesday evening as the results of a special referendum showed that a proposed $6.4 million bond for repairs throughout the district was approved by a wide majority.
In a special election Tuesday, voters approved authorizing the town to finance replacements, renovations and related equipment for projects at the area schools, more specially, to replace the failing roof at Davisville Middle School (DMS).
Out of the 21,027 registered voters in town, a total of 2,036 (9.68 percent) turned out, with 1,276 (62.67 percent) voting in favor of the bond and 759 (37.28 percent) voting not against it.
â€śOur economy is not good right now and the votersâ€™ willingness to support this bond at a time like this makes me ever so grateful,â€ť NK Superintendent Dr. Philip Auger said. â€śTheyâ€™ve shown that working collectively for a good cause, we really do have the power to make positive things happen for our community.â€ť
Auger said he wanted to stress to the community that the bond projects will get done right and theyâ€™ll use only the bond funding, and not a penny more, to pay for them.
School Committee Chairperson Kimberly Page said she was very happy, but not surprised, that the bond passed. With the positive feedback the committee recieved from voters, Page said, she expected it to be approved.
â€śI had high hopes for this and Iâ€™m so happy it passed,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s a win, win situation for both students and staff.â€ť
Prior to the bond, the town and school approved using Edward Rowse Architects of Providence for DMS roof so that, if the bond passed, work could begin immediately.
It was imperative the bond went to voters this month because the school department had six months, which began Nov. 30, to get this project funded in order to take advantage of a 30-percent reimbursement from the state legislature via the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) Board of Regents.
School committee member William Mudge said that, from day one, he has always been a proponent for a new roof at DMS but he was against this specific bond as he questions some of the other projects that would be funded with the money.
â€śThere have been no violations cited regarding the ADA projects,â€ť Mudge said. â€śIâ€™ve been saying all along, we need to get ADA personnel into the schools and get a formal report.â€ť
Mudge also disagrees that thereâ€™s a health and safety issue surrounding the asbestos tiles at the elementary schools. He feels that because the tiles arenâ€™t broken or falling apart, thereâ€™s no need to replace them.
â€śThe high school should have been looked at more closely,â€ť he said. â€śWeâ€™re wasting too much money in that building. Thereâ€™s poor air quality and much more problems. We didnâ€™t prioritize these projects.â€ť
In the upcoming weeks, Mudge says he will be appealing to the town council to finance the various projects either by not using the bond or a combination of bond and town money.
NK resident James Gifford doesnâ€™t have children in the school system but said Tuesday that he feels the projects needed to be done for the safety and well-being of the students.
â€śThese projects need to be completed, whether the bond passed or failed,â€ť he said. â€śBut we have an incentive here for the reimbursement.â€ť
Now that the bond has passed, the NK town council and school committee will begin working together to iron out the details. Public Works Director Phil Bergeron will be spearheading the projects, as he will be handling the bids to the various companies.
â€śWe donâ€™t have dates scheduled to meet with the school committee,â€ť NK Town Council President Liz Dolan said. â€śWhat we know is now we know the funding source and can move forward.â€ť
Dolan said she had no idea how the vote would turn out but after speaking to handful of residents at DMS who all said they voted for it, she said she had a feeling it would be approved.
â€śIt was such a low voter turnout but what turned out made their voices heard,â€ť Dolan said.