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Council Approves $6.1M School Bond Release

Warwick Police Headquarters at 99 Veterans Memorial Drive.
Warwick Police Headquarters at 99 Veterans Memorial Drive.
Warwick Police Headquarters at 99 Veterans Memorial Drive.

Editor’s note: This report has been updated using a recording of the meeting.

WARWICK, RI — The Warwick City Council approved release of $6.1 million in school improvement bond funding to the Warwick School Department Monday night at Warwick Police Headquarters, 99 Veterans Memorial Drive.

The release of the funds from the $40 million bond was approved

unanimously by the Council, said Coucilor Jeremy Rix Monday night. The votefollowed a successful vote for the measure in the Finance Committee, which metat 5 p.m. then recessed until about 8 p.m. to wait for Warwick Schools Finance DirectoryAnthony Ferrucci to attend.

In October 2018, School officials reported the $40 million bond would be allocated as follows: $13,138,637 for mechanical improvements; $11,486,016 for ADA compliance; $9,034,233 for new roofs; $2,352,356 for fire and life safety upgrades; $2,100,000 for “all student access” playgrounds; $1,077,283 for interior upgrades; and $811,476 for asbestos abatement projects.

During the Finance CommitteeMonday night, School Committee Chair Karen Bachus. Bachus said the Committee’sconsultant, architectural and engineering firm SMMA, had assessed the SchoolDepartment infrastructure, finding the districts’ buildings in need of improvementscosting more than $238 million, “To get them into good condition,” Bachus said.

She said the state’sconsultant, Jacobs Engineering, estimated improvements costing more than $190million are needed to update school buildings. Using the two assessments, theSchool Committee developed a five-year capital plan to begin repairs to thedepartment’s schools, which was the basis for the $40 million bond approved inNovember 2018, Bachus said.

The $6.1 million release fromthat bond will funding the first year’s projects, running from 2019 through

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2020.

“We will replace six out of13 schools’ fire alarms that are in dire need,” Bachus said, and repair threeschools’ roofs, make accessibility improvements at one school and create twoADA –accessible playgrounds, and install a district-wide building securitysystem.

Bachus also noted the RIDepartment of Education has agreed to reimburse the City of Warwick for apercentage of about $45 million of approved improvements. “All $6.1 millionworth of projects being pursued this year are included in RIDE’s approval,”Bachus said.

Of the $6.1 million approve,Bachus said, the state will take on $ 2.4 million, leaving the City with only$3.7 million to shoulder. She noted that failing to complete the approvedprojects within five years will jeopardize the state reimbursement funds,making the timely approval of the release of the funds a critical step.

Rix asked when the work wouldbe put out to bid and begun.

“Most of the work is doneover the summer,” Thornton said. He said the bidding committee would startmeeting Tuesday to requests bids for the fire alarm work.

Council President SteveMerolla asked how the School Committee would make itself accountable forcompleting the work. Thornton noted the School Department would maintain apublic website where that progress would be recorded, and that the departmentwould also send those updates directly to the City Council.

Councilman Ed Ladouceur askedSuperintendent Phil Thornton how much money Warwick Schools had saved this yearfrom closing three school buildings: Veterans Memorial High School, and two

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elementary schools. Thornton deferred the question to School Department FinanceDirector Anthony Ferrucci, who arrived later that evening.

Ferrucci said the departmentrealized an average savings of $1.2 million per elementary school closed. Hesaid there was some savings from repurposing Warwick Veterans High School intoa junior high school, but he did not know exactly how much. He said a roughestimate of the savings there would be about$250,000.

When asked by Ladouceur andMerolla, Ferrucci said the total savings could be between $3 million and $4million. He said the savings were usedon instruction, mostly in the process of establishing a middle school model andbusing. Some of the savings were also used to increase building maintenancefunding to $800,000 to meet state law requirements. Ferucci.

After a follow-up questionfrom Ladoceur, Ferrucci estimated that switching to the middle school modelcost $2 million in staffing, and that the bussing cost about $1 million, inaddition to the amount used to increase building improvement funding to$800,000.

In addition to the websiteupdates, Ferrucci noted the School Department would present a progress reporton each year’s work on the improvements every January, when they ask for thenext round of funding release from the $40 million bond, and will be able towithhold the next round of funding if they don’t meet their deadline for thework.

“But I fully expect it to beachieved,” Ferrucci said.

Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of WarwickPost.com. Contact him at editor@warwickpost.com with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.