Warwick, RI — Following the Nov. 4 election, the results in Warwick were notable for what didn’t happen: Only one of the incumbents lost a seat on the city council or school committee — and that was in September, when Kathleen Usler unseated Ward 7 Councilor Charles Donovan in the Democratic primary.
Mayor Scott Avedisian easily swept to an eighth full term and ninth overall, too, meaning essentially the same roster of officials will be in place for the near term.
Facing them will be the same issues that have been kicked around for the last several months and years — economic growth, infrastructure upgrades [most urgently the roads], and school consolidation.
It could be argued that Eugene Nadeau’s close shave in his school board race may put some fear into the committee to actually get the consolidation plan done within the next year or two — and it would certainly be a relief to reach that point after all the recent wrangling.
Unfortunately, immediate action still seems unlikely, after the school board collected four bids for a new consolidation study that all exceeded the $150,000 set aside to pay for it, according to the Warwick Beacon.
Most puzzling about this situation is how obvious it seems that consolidation should go forward — and how long it’s taken to make it happen.
First, Avedisian has taken pains to insist that any savings from consolidation would stay with the school department, effectively promising no loss in revenue and knocking out one major concern preventing movement on the issue.
Also, there is the state of the actual buildings, a visible and constant reminder that Warwick’s schools are in urgent need of improvement.
And those factors are in addition to the stark fact that the school population has lost half its number in the last 10 years.
So, with far fewer kids attending run-down buildings and the promise that they can keep the money already being spent on the school department, why would the school board continue in stalling the inevitable?
Same goes for the paving budget — after all the wrangling this past summer about whether the city should take money from its operating budget or issue bonds to pay for upgraded roads, Warwick is going into a potentially harsh winter no closer to actually having roads repaired.
To be fair, there was one piece of good news: The Potowomut Fire Station finally got started, eight years after the bond for it was first approved.
Most of that delay can’t be blamed on city officials, either, as initial bids for the new station were higher than the $2 million approved by voters, and the Great Recession stalled the release of the funds.
It’s worth giving city councilors credit, too, that they didn’t just roll over for the contractors who submitted those first bids, and instead changed the overall plan for the fire station to fit the budget.
Going forward, maybe city officials will see the fire station as an example of how Warwick government can work when given the opportunity.
With their collective victory on Nov. 4, the elected leaders of the city have been given another opportunity — here’s hoping they take advantage of it to get things done.
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