WESTERLY — The Town Council will continue its review of the proposed $71.4 million school building project during a meeting scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall.
The project would allow the town's fifth-graders to move out of Westerly Middle School and into a new State Street School, to be built at the site of the current elementary school. It is expected to be reimbursed at a rate of 50 percent by the state.
The new State Street School would house all of the district's Grade 3-5 students. The project also calls for renovations and additions to Dunn's Corners Elementary School, Springbrook Elementary School and Westerly High School. Work would also be performed at the former Tower Street School building to make the facility available for students and teachers while construction is underway.
A Stage 2 application, which must be endorsed by the Town Council, is due to the state Department of Education by Feb. 15. The council is expected to vote on whether to approve the next round of state analysis on Feb. 11.
On Monday the council will review information from and talk with the town's financial adviser Steve Maceroni, director of PFM Financial Advisors LLC of Providence. In December, Maceroni provided the council and School Committee with an analysis of the town's current debt load and its bond rating.
The town's total outstanding debt supported by the general fund, which includes school building projects, was $63 million as of June 30. More than 85 percent of the debt will be paid off within 10 years.
Based on an estimated 45 percent reimbursement rate, the proposed new school bond would cause the town's debt obligation to increase through 2023. If no other borrowing occurs and the town continues paying off its obligations at current rates, the overall debt would drop to about its current level in 2027 and continue falling thereafter.
Council President Christopher Duhamel said the council was trying to gather as much information and data as it could before the Feb. 11 meeting. "We want to understand the scope of the work and we're trying to see its effect on the operating budget," Duhamel said Friday.
On Monday the council learned that interest charged on borrowing for the project will be reimbursed by the state at the same rate as the principal amount.
The council will also discuss how it will go about filling a vacancy on the School Committee. The committee has asked the council to offer the position to Diana Serra, the runner-up in the November election, and to schedule a special election if she declines the position. Serra did not return a message seeking comment on the issue last week. The vacancy was created by the death of Patricia Panciera last month.
The municipal Bicycle Path and Cycle Advisory Commission will make a presentation to the council on its work. The town has been approved for a $300,000 grant through the state Green Economy Bond to be used for a multiuse loop (for bicycling, jogging, walking) with a focus on Shore Road. The grant expires on July 1, 2020.
In June the Town Council expressed support for a dedicated lane separated from the roadways with a painted line and painted markings in the lane. Signs would also be posted. The loop would run along Shore Road, Weekapaug Road, Atlantic Avenue and Winnapaug Road.
The council will also discuss a proposal to resume involvement with a housing rehabilitation effort offered as part of the federal Community Development Block Grant program. The town has not participated in the program since 2015, when the council opted to leave the East Greenwich Community Development Consortium, which ran the program for towns in the region. A number of property owners have expressed interest in the program, Duhamel said.
Interviews for the position of planning and zoning assistant solicitor will be conducted by the council. Five lawyers and law firms have expressed interest in the position, which provides legal representation to the planning and zoning boards. The council is also expected to discus the town's solid waste contract with the town of Hopkinton, which uses the Westerly transfer station.