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Price Tag On Wickford Elementary Conversion Drops

Council discusses proposed Wickford Elementary School project and hears annual audit report.

The North Kingstown Town Council last night heard the latest refinement of the price tag for the proposed renovation of the disused Wickford Elementary School.

If approved, the plan would convert the former school building at 99 Phillips Street, vacant since its closure in 2005, into offices for the town and school administrations.

James Grundy presented a brief summary of a report by the School Department’s Facilities Management and Planning Subcommittee.

The subcommittee examined the budget list prepared for the project by Edward Rowse Architects and arrived at a figure of $3.85 million for the project, down considerably from the $6.9 or $7.4 million quoted by Rowse .

“There were some major changes that we thought would be savings,” Grundy said, “Some of them very simple.”

These savings included relocating the handicapped parking spaces, for a savings of $16,500, and a re-evaluation of the roof repair costs after the slate roof was found to be in good condition despite its age, Grundy said.  

Of the 167 items on the original list, the subcommittee adjusted 78 in scope or cost, cut 34, kept 52 as they were and increased three.

The $3.85 million estimate includes a $425,000 contingency fund, and does not account for potential savings that Grundy said the subcommittee saw in items such as sign making and waste disposal that could be taken care of “in house.”   

The council discussed the possibility of wording the bond referendum for the project in such a way that, should the bond be denied, the town would be authorized to sell the building, but concluded that the two should be kept distinct. 

Council members agreed to hold an additional meeting April 6 at 6 p.m. to discuss the issue again before the next regularly scheduled meeting in April.

In other business, Jim Wilkinson of Braver PC presented the annual audit report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, giving the town a relatively clean bill of health.

The town’s general fund increased by $162,637 and the town spent $205,447 less than it appropriated for the fiscal year.

“I wish more of our clients had a fund balance like North Kingstown’s,” Wilkinson said.

Due to state aid cuts school department revenues were $644,939 less than anticipated, but expenditures were $925,056 below appropriations.

The status of the three state-managed town pension plans for municipal, police and fire employees has continued to deteriorate since 2000, according to the Braver presentation.

The town has made all required contributions and further analysis would be necessary to determine the causes of the downward trend, Wilkinson said.

The council considered a request from the School Committee and a proposal from NORESCO to pursue a lease of energy conservation equipment for schools.

There was some confusion regarding the funding of the lease and whether there would be any cost to the town, and council members unanimously approved a motion to delay a vote on the measure to the April 6 meeting.

Town Manager Michael Embury gave a report to the council in which he highlighted the launch of the town’s new website, which went live Monday. ()

“This really is a great improvement. It’s not nearly as cluttered as the old site,” Embury said. 

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