WESTERLY — The Town Council will start the New Year with a busy meeting agenda Monday that includes a discussion with the School Building Committee of the proposed elementary school redesign project and plans to draft job specifications for the lawyers who represent the municipal planning and zoning boards as well as those who handle prosecutions on the town's behalf.

Town Council President Christopher Duhamel said he wanted the council to get up to speed on the school project as soon as possible. A Stage 2 application to the state Department of Education must be approved by both the council and the School Committee and submitted to the department by Feb. 15.

The current proposal calls for a $71.4 million project that would include building a new school at the current site of the State Street School for the district's Grades 3 to 5 students, and renovating the Dunn's Corners and Springbrook schools. School Building Committee officials are optimistic that about half of the $71.4 million cost would be reimbursed by the state, thereby reducing the direct impact to the town's taxpayers.

"We hope to receive between 39.5 percent and 50 percent reimbursement for the project; we believe we can achieve 50 percent," said Christine Cooke, School Building Committee co-chairwoman.

If the Stage 2 application is approved by the council, School Committee and the education department, officials anticipate a referendum later this year asking local voters to approve borrowing for the project. 

The elementary school project is the final leg of  the district's Vision 2020 plan. Construction of Westerly Middle School in 2005 and renovation of Westerly High School in 2010 were the first two parts.

Last month, the council discussed formulating more detailed descriptions of the work to be performed by the lawyers appointed by the council to represent the planning and zoning boards as well as lawyers who handle prosecutions in District Court. The discussion arose while the council was reviewing legal bills. The agenda item for Monday's meeting is a continuation of those discussions.

The council will also discuss a proposal to use town-owned property at 75 and 77 Canal St. for parking. The town acquired the property in 2014 as part of a flood hazard mitigation effort aimed at removing buildings from flood plains. The request to allow parking on the property was submitted by Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island. The business hopes to use the area as overflow parking for its facilities farther down Canal Street. The proposed parking area would not be paved.

The council will also consider a proposal to increase the number of council representatives on the Public Works Subcommittee from two to three. The subcommittee has been dormant in recent months but Duhamel, who has served on it previously, has asked to get it back up and running. The subcommittee works in an advisory role to the council. In the past it has reviewed road and drainage projects and studied problem areas.

The meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall, will also include an update from the municipal bike path committee. A swearing in ceremony to mark the promotions of seven Westerly Police Department police officers and the swearing in of one new officer is expected to be one of the council's first orders of business.

dfaulkner@thewesterlysun.com

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