2017-09-21 / News

Schools need $16.3M in building fixes, according to state report

BY TIM RIEL

Town Administrator Andy Nota unveiled a daunting figure at Monday night’s council meeting: $16.3 million.

That’s the total cost of infrastructure improvements recommended by the state for Jamestown schools.

The estimate was included in an independent report of all public schools in Rhode Island. The yearlong assessment by Jacobs Engineering forecasts $2.2 billion in improvements, including $627.5 million in high-priority construction to keep classrooms warm, safe and dry for students.

“Every generation of Rhode Islanders has worked hard and made sacrifices so the next generation has more opportunity than the one before,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a press release. “But most of our classrooms and school buildings haven’t been improved in 25 years.”

According to Nota, the report for Melrose recommends $6.7 million in renovations, including $2.4 million for mechanical work and $525,000 in technology upgrades. Melrose School was built in 1991.

At Lawn, which was built in 1951, the report recommends $9.6 million in repairs, including $3.9 million for mechanical work and $750,000 for plumbing. The good news, however, is less than $100,000 of the $16.3 million calls for critical infrastructure repairs to keep the schools open.

“This is going to take some time,” Nota said. “There is a lot of work ahead.”

The town has hired RGB Consulting to corroborate the state’s report before it moves forward.

In the meantime, a working group has been created to start breaking down the Jacobs report. Along with Nota and Councilman Mike White, the school department will be represented by Superintendent Ken Duva, maintenance director Peter Anderson, business manager Jane Littlefield, Melrose principal Carrie Petersen, Lawn principal Nate Edmunds and school board Chairman B.J. Whitehouse. On the town side, Finance Director Tina Collins and Town Engineer Mike Gray also will be on the board.

Nota has been appointed to Raimondo’s task force that will decide financial options. He is the representative for the League of Cities and Towns on the 15-person group, which is co-chaired by state Treasurer Seth Magaziner and state Education Commissioner Ken Wagner.

“I somehow finagled my way on that board,” he said.

The task force plans to produce a report of recommendations by December to Raimondo, who will turn them into an action plan.

According to Nota, all districts will be available for up to 85 percent reimbursement. While Nota’s appointment to the 15-member task force will give him added insight, he isn’t optimistic about the funding.

“The best we can hope for is 35 percent,” he said, referring to the low mark. “The burden will fall on the community.”

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