At Monday's Town Council meeting, members approved a resolution to address the General Assembly and request that legislation be enacted authorizing the town to finance improvements and repairs to school facilities by issuance of not more than $8,550,000 in bonds.
Superintendent Mike Convery, Director of Physical Plant Brian Steverman, School Department Finance Director Robin Pelletier and School Committee member Tom Hetherman explained to the Council the need for improvements such as a new fire alarm system and roof at Coventry High School totaling $5.4 million. Other items include an updated athletic complex that would cost about $1 million along with ground improvements (sidewalk, parking lot pavement, etc), floor repair and HVAC systems at several Coventry schools.
"Roofs are a priority along with the fire alarms," said Convery. " and Chief Seltzer said if another issue like that happens in the high school again, this school will be shut down and the kids sent home."
If the school department is allotted a portion of the $400,000 needed to upgrade the fire alarms through capital funds and some progress is made on the project, Central Coventry Fire Chief Bob Seltzer will address the Rhode Island Fire Safety Code Board and attempt to get the town another year to obtain full compliance.
Convery pointed out that items such as the roof and fire alarms are considered health and safety matters by the Rhode Island Department of Education and would therefore warrant a 50.26% refund over an extended period of time as part of the bond repayment.
Council president Gary Cote suggested that the school department plan on splitting up the items into multiple bond referendums when the time comes for Coventry taxpayers to vote - an option that had been discussed at the Feb. 28 School Committee meeting.
He also suggested that the school department develop a way to educate taxpayers on each of the items that need to be funded.
"I think the taxpayers of Coventry are very giving as a whole, as long as they know where their money is going and that it goes to the proper places, he said.