By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN – Just two weeks after the school committee voted down a request to the town council for submiting enabling legislation for a $6.5 million bond for the purpose of funding Capital Improvement projects, it was back on the agenda at Tuesday's school committee meeting and, this time, for reconsideration.
The original vote took place on Nov. 3, failing 3-2 with William Mudge, Melvoid Benson and Joe Thompson casting the dissenting votes. Committee members Larry Ceresi and Richard Welch were absent from that meeting.
“We voted on such a huge thing and we didn't have the entire committee here,” said member Lynda Avanzato.
After a lengthy discussion, which included the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) officials, the vote was re-taken, this time passing 4-3 - with the same members casting the dissenting vote as they did in the first time.
The $6.4-million figure includes a new roof at Davisville Middle School at a cost of $5,211,041 and repairs at Fishing Cove, Hamilton, Quidnessett and Stony Lane Elementary Schools.
DMS is at the top of the list because the roof is at the end of its life cycle and needs to be replaced as soon as possible. In addition, a new elevator and chair lifts needs to be replaced, as well as a new boiler which is reported to be in bad condition. The scope of work at the other schools range from HVAC replacement and American’s with Disabilities Act repairs for accessibility.
“The projects listed within the bond go along with the basic education plan (BEP) which need to ensure the health and safety of our students,” said Carolyn Diaz from RIDE. “These projects have gone through a rigourous process and RIDE has vetted them. I urge you to reconsider this bond.”
The reason Benson voted against the bond both times is she feels many of the projects are cosmetics and the committee is being pressured.
All the projects were approved by RIDE Board of Regents on Nov. 3. Architect and engineer Edward Frenette from Symmes, Maini and McKee Associates of Providence compiled the scope of work for the projects and has cited the roof at DMS as an “immediate health and safety issue”. Many of the projects in the schools have to deal with state building codes.
The description of work at DMS includes asbestos abatement, replacing the washable ceiling tiles in the kitchen and consumer science classrooms, these two projects are code violations.
The same ADA work needed at DMS needs to be done at Fishing Cove, Hamilton, Quidnessett and Stony Lane Elementaries. At Quidnessett and Stony Lane, the HVAC systems need replacement. The packaged rooftop unit serving the cafeteria is leaking, creating a hazardous situation.
The school district has an opportunity to take advantage of a 30 percent reimbursement from the state legislature via the RIDE's board of regents. The department has until May 2, 2012 to bring the bond to the voters, if not, they lose the reimbursement.
“You have to trust the process,” said Carolyn Diaz from RIDE. “If you don't proceede with this projects you're jeapordizing the health and safety of the children in those buildings.”
Superintendent Dr. Philip Auger expressed the urgency to get move forward with the projects.
“These are not luxury items. We are risking students' safecty.”
DMS principal Ruthann Logan told the committee that after rain storms large barrels are scattered throughout the school to catch leaks, tiles are falling down and teachers complain about a “dank” smell. There's three areas of the school where a dehumidifer has to be ran year round to help with dampness.