JANUARY 20, 2021
At a JOINT WORK SESSION of the Town Council and School Committee of the Town of South Kingstown, County of Washington, in the State of Rhode Island, held via video- and tele-conference, in and for said Town on the 20th day of January 2021 at 6:35 PM.
PRESENT: Town Council
Abel G. Collins, President
Rory H. McEntee, Vice President
Deborah D. Bergner
Deborah J. Kelso
Jessica L. Rose
Emily Cummiskey, Chairwoman
Christie Fish, Vice Chairwoman
Kate M. Macinanti
Also present: Robert C. Zarnetske, Town Manager; Zachary Saul, Finance Director; Linda Savastano, School Superintendent; and Raquel Pellerin, Chief Financial Officer, School Department.
Tracey Donnelly, RBG Architects presents a summary of the Stage II Application to the RI Department of Education (RIDE) for School Facilities Improvements, the Jacobs Report Summary, and examples of building deficiencies. Changes to the Stage II since September include adjustments to the design scope: adding renovation of the Curtis Corner Middle School (CCMS) bathrooms, and adjustments to the renovation areas including Science Labs, Life Skills, Health Classroom, CNA/EMS and Conference Room to be completed with Pay-Go Funds allocated to the project. Other changes include updated demographic data and updated cost estimates. Discussion ensues regarding public information strategies.
The proposed project description includes approval of an $85 million bond to fund renovations at CCMS to convert to South Kingstown High School for grades 9 – 12, expansion of Broad Rock Middle School (BRMS) for grades 6 – 8, and enhancements at the four elementary schools. In addition, Capital Improvements are planned in the amount of $7.66 million to address health and safety and asset protection. The High School addition at CCMS is proposed at 85,966 square feet, plus renovations of 92,691 square feet for a total of 164,670 square feet. At BRMS 32,485 square feet of additions are planned. Bond project costs total $85 million. Proposed alternates total an additional $1,486,400. The operational cost savings is estimated at about $1.1 million annually, but transportation savings are yet to be determined.
Discussion ensues relative to how the cost of adding bathroom renovations is being made up for by reconfiguration of some rooms, science labs are now excluded but plan to be funded with the Pay As You Go program, large CTE spaces are still in the project, but most classrooms in the 1995 addition will not be renovated except for health and safety improvements.
Discussion ensues relative to potential cost savings from transportation of high school students to sports practices and games at CCMS.
Discussion ensues relative to the potential operational cost savings of $1,189,885. Ms. Donnelly notes that it comes from reductions in utility costs and maintenance of old equipment, based on losing square footage in buildings. Discussion ensues relative to potential savings and/or revenue from the high school building on Columbia Street.
Discussion ensues relative to consolidation of teaching spaces and shared classrooms. School Superintendent Savastano notes that a decrease in enrollment will result in a decrease in staff.
Discussion ensues relative to operational cost savings being identified as they become known, and being used for tax stability. The increased cost to taxpayers is estimated at $209 per household for this project, based on a home valued at $400,000.
Discussion ensues relative to there being tax costs to fixing school buildings; under this project RIDE will provide up to 50% reimbursement of those costs.
Paula Whitford, School Committee member comments on tax increases. Affordable housing will keep young people in town, families will create enrollment increases in schools.
Discussion ensues relative to the differences between the original facilities plan and the current plan. Emily Cummiskey, School Committee Chair notes that the old plan was not supported by RIDE, closing Wakefield Elementary School was a one-time savings. RIDE supports this vision of education. We need operational savings and efficiencies to support good educational programming.
Council President Collins comments that comparison of the school plans is not appropriate.
Council Vice President McEntee expresses concerns with RBG’s former President being under indictment, and questions why the Town should continue with this firm. Ms. Donnelly responds that they are a stable company, one person’s actions are in question, let the justice system address it. RGB knows all these buildings, they have developed plans to a schematic design level and this will enable efficiencies going forward.
Linda Savastano, School Superintendent presents the operational cost impacts of the proposed project. The School Department’s operational cost analysis of today vs. Stage II shows maintenance reduced by $48,081 and utilities reduced by $127,543 with a total building reduction of 157,157 square feet. Transportation cost savings are anticipated, as well as repairs and the cost of managing old buildings, and doing emergency repairs. Enrollment and staffing will decrease together. Redistricting will be done when moving grade 5 to the elementary schools. They are meeting RIDE’s purpose and priorities.
Samuel Bradner, Peregrine Group discusses the savings produced by using more efficient equipment and the cost of adding air conditioning. CCMS will have more efficient fixtures, newer HVAC systems, they will have to meet new energy standards in the new construction. They won’t know the savings until the energy consultant reviews this in Stage III.
Robert Zarnetske, Town Manager reviews his assessment of the viability of the proposed plan. Mr. Zarnetske discusses the potential tax increases in the future with inflationary costs, the increasing needs throughout Town buildings and road infrastructure. We can build this project within the proposed budget, it will not have a negative impact on our bond rating, we can afford to maintain it after it’s been built, operational cost savings can be used to offset the tax burden, we do not have the in-house skills to execute the project. Mr. Zarnetske discusses landscape and building aesthetics, noise, potential for light pollution, traffic management, management of vacated buildings, and retention of current residents and attraction of new residents. The operational costs savings are important because they will contribute to our capacity to maintain this program.
Discussion ensues relative to staffing and operational cost savings.
The following are present and offer comments:
Melissa Towle, School Building Committee Chair
David Palazzetti, Recreation Commission Chair
Adjourn at 11:56 PM
Susan M. Flynn, CMC