By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN – North Kingstown taxpayers will help determine the future of the Wickford Elementary School (WES) building and decide whether or not to install artificial turf at McGinn Park in a special election Tuesday.
In the first of three questions, voters will be asked to issue $850,000 in bonds to finance the installation of artificial turf and make related improvements to the McGinn Park Field, which is only useable for only two months out of the year due to the intensity of activity.
NK Town Manager Michael Embury has stated multiple times that the field is utilized by a large number of groups in town.
“This is an unacceptable situation that results in large number of hours being devoted to the field by the town facilities staff that could be better spent with other tasks at town buildings,” he said.
In addition, the town’s recreation programs are also in need of extra field space and artificial turf at McGinn would, theoretically, ease that need as McGinn would be utilized much more than it presently is.
The price for the project also includes security fencing and gates to help keep inappropriate uses and vehicles off of the surface to maintain its integrity and guarantee its life expectancy.
Repayment of the bond will come from the Quonset/Davisville Recreation Fund, an enterprise fund that does not use any property tax dollars in its operations. The town has stated that this project will not increase the property tax rate for repayment.
The second and third questions Tuesday deal with Wickford Elementary School.
First, voters will be asked to issue a $3.85 million bond to convert the former WES into a combined town hall and school department administrative offices. The bond would carry a 20-year term and the estimate is based upon a five percent interest rate on the bond. It should be noted that final interest rate depends upon the timing of the issue and a variety of market conditions that the town says are out of the its control.
If approved, all town services would be located in one building for the first time.
“This will provide improved taxpayer service, avoiding the need to travel between the annex and town hall for various business transactions,” Embury has stated.
The project would also allowing the school department to move their administrative offices to the building, something town officials have said should improve communication and coordination
WES has sat vacant on Philips Street for six years and, in that time, many ideas for potential uses of the building have been considered.
In November of last year, the Town Council authorized Edward Rowse Architects of Providence to complete a conceptual study on the building to determine the feasibility and cost associated with the conversion into the town and school administration building. It was completed at the end of January and presented to the Town Council in early February.
Rowse presented the Town Council two options regarding renovations to the building. Both plans for renovations included concrete, masonry, carpentry, some demolition, mechanical and electrical work.
In both options, a small entrance would be built on the western side of the school (the portion facing the playground) which would include an elevator to access all three floors.
Jim Partridge from Rowse Architects said the only difference between the two options is the entrance would be bigger in option one.
According to the site plans provided by Rowse, the basement would house the town’s municipal court, school administration break room and storage rooms for both the town and school. The first floor would house all town offices and the second floor will house all school department offices.
The last question of Tuesday’s election, meanwhile, would give the Town Council the authority to sell Wickford Elementary School in the event the bonds are not issued.
There will be only two polling places open for this special election. Residents who usually vote at Davisville Elementary School, Stony Lane Elementary School, Davisville Middle School, Forest Park Elementary School or Quidnessett Elementary School will vote at Davisville Elementary School, located at 200 School St., North Kingstown.
Residents who usually vote at North Kingstown High School, Wickford Middle School, Cold Spring Community Center, Hamilton Elementary School, Fishing Cove Elementary School or the Slocum Grange, meanwhile, will vote at the Cold Spring Community Center, located at 36 Beach Street.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.