WARWICK, RI — The Warwick School Committee approved Phase II of its school improvement bond Wednesday, now estimated at $79.9 million with extensive HVAC repairs at Winman Middle School and Toll Gate High factored in.
In 2018, the Warwick City Council approved a $40 million school repair bond, instructing the committee to place the balance of the $85 million they estimated were needed to address all the schools’ building repairs into a follow-up bond request.
The school department designated the two rounds of bonding as Phase 1 and Phase II, with the original estimate for the phase two needs, including what were considered minor repairs to the two schools’ HVAC systems, at $45 million, according to School Finance Director Anthony Ferrucci.
In a report to the committee from Warwick Schools Superintendent Philip Thornton, a July 10 meeting of the School Building Committee, the second phase will require more extensive repairs of the schools’ HVAC systems, nearly doubling the cost of finishing building repairs, bringing it to $79,988,757.
“We acknowledge that the $79.9 million capital project recommendation is significantly higher than what was previously communicated, the most significant bulk of the increase is due to the now inclusion of two HVAC systems, one at Winman Middle School and one at Tollgate High School,” Thornton wrote in a report to the committee.
Winman and Tollgate are the district’s two newest schools, Thornton said, and it was believed they did not need “significant” HVAC work. However, the heating units at Winman have failed, “and the systems are in worse shape than reported,” Thornton wrote.
Ferrucci, a member of the schools’ building committee, said during Wednesday’s meeting that the board is under a tight deadline to put the $79.9 million bond referendum before the voters in the November 2020 general election.
The committee has until Aug. 15 to send a Letter of Intent to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE).
Additionally, before a bond vote, the district needs to apply for State Housing Aid to pay for part of the construction, then, the state legislature must vote to let the district put a referendum on the ballot. All of that requires the district to hire an architectural firm, Saccoccio and Associates, to prepare plans to submit to the state, at $200,000. Money to pay for the contract will come from an additional $280,000 in state aid, which the district discovered it will be receiving in July.
Saccoccio and Associates also planned the Phase I repairs.
“The longer we wait to do this,” Ferrucci told the board, the more costly the work will be, “these buildings will be past their useful time.”
After listening to Ferrucci’s report, the committee voted to send a letter of intent to RIDE, and hire the architectural consulting firm for the Phase II plans.
It should take about two months for Saccoccio to create the necessary plans that will be part of the submittal to the state, Ferrucci said.
The next school committee meeting will be at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 20, and it will be a regular meeting.