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By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN â For the better part of a couple months now, North Kingstown school officials and town administrators have debated two key questions: Whoâs going to pay for a new roof at Davisville Middle School and what account or bond it will come from?
Monday evening came the first glance at a potential solution.
Superintendent Dr. Philip Auger spoke before the town council at Mondayâs meeting to continue discussions on the roof and said that action on this replacement is in the works through a $6.5 million bond that Governor Lincoln Chafee signed earlier in the day.
Auger stressed that itâs imperative a new roof be put on as soon as possible because itâs been a problem for years and has been put off because of funding difficulties.
âWeâve had a hard time keeping the capital reserve fund in shape,â he said. âAnd itâs projects like this one where we donât have the money to fund it.â
The project itself can be paid for from multiple sources and thatâs where it gets complicated. Thereâs two million dollars left over from a previous nine million dollar bond that could potentially be used. However, enabling legislation would need to be introduced for those funds to be released. The earliest that could be done would be in the fall.
Another option is to go out for the $6.5 million capital improvement bond and let the voters decide in May.
Lastly, the project could be paid for out of the townâs fund balance, which is what the school department is hoping for.
Another twist in this story is the school department has 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.
Auger is worried that a bond in these economic times will have a difficult time passing. However, the facilities subcommittee is in action in case the bond does pass, in which case it would be replaced during the summer. The school department is waiting to hear back on requests for proposals but itâs estimated that this project will cost between two and three million dollars.
âWhat Iâm asking of you tonight is a commitment to use the fund balance, otherwise called the rainy day fund,â said Auger. âThis is a rainy day issue because the roof is leaking like crazy and now we have to deal with all the other issues that go along with it like mold and moisture.â
In order for the town to keep its bond rating, at least 10 percent of its budget needs to be in the fund balance. Town Council President Liz Dolan, doesnât disagree with Auger that a new roof is needed but she suggested that a âPlan Bâ be made.
Town Manager Michael Embury, meanwhile, said Monday he wants something in writing from RIDE stating that if the town uses the fund balance for the roof, it would get reimbursed. Embury said he didnât see any language referencing that when reading the memorandum of agreement.
The architectural firm of Symmes Maini and McKee Associates has listed the roof as âPriority 1: Failure is imminentâ and said itâs at the end of its useful life and may fail at any time.
Committee member William Mudge said at Mondayâs meeting that he disagrees with the architectureâs report and that âitâs not a life-threatening issue.â
He feels there are other more important issues that need to be addressed.
The council tabled the discussion for further consideration.