WESTERLY — The Town Council is expected to complete and vote on a fiscal impact statement on the proposed school building project on Monday.
Town Council President Christopher Duhamel said the council will review a modified version of the proposed financial impact statement it started reviewing last week. Developed by Finance Director Dyann Baker in collaboration with Town Manager J. Mark Rooney, the revised statement will reflect the council's decision to pay for $921,000 worth of furniture, fixtures, and equipment at the Springbrook and Dunn's Corners elementary schools with project bond funds.
The meeting is scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall.
School officials were informed last week by the state Department of Education that the items at the two schools would not qualify for reimbursement, but the state does plan to reimburse the town for other work planned at Springbrook and Dunn's Corners. The work that will not be reimbursed — a fraction of the project costs scheduled for the two schools — was factored into the original estimate. The state's decision will not affect the overall project cost.
The state Department of Education has approved a 35% base reimbursement rate for the $70.48 million project, which would provide about $36.4 million in aid, according to the fiscal impact statement reviewed on Tuesday. Once the project is completed, an additional 17.5% reimbursement is available as long as the work meets certain bonus standards set by the state.
In other business, the council will also take up the question of whether to seek deauthorization of Watch Hill Cove as a federal dredge project. In September the council voted 4-3 to seek deauthorization through a request to Congress, but a new council has since taken office. On Friday, Duhamel said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., had asked the new council to convey its position on the potential deauthorization. The move to deauthorize the cove is tied to the town's effort to adopt its first ever harbor management plan, and could soon be worked on by congressional committees, Duhamel said.
The state Coastal Resources Management Council, which must approve the harbor plan, has said the current mooring system conflicts with federal policies for areas, such as the cove, which qualify for federal funds to assist with dredging. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has also said that the current cove arrangement is illegal. The town is currently working under a temporary plan.
The council is also expected to vote on whether to put two proposed amendments to the Town Charter before voters on Oct. 8, when a referendum on the school building project will be on the ballot. One amendment would eliminate the term limit on members of the Town Council that voters approved in 2016. The other change would push the date for Town Council approval of the proposed municipal budget forward by three weeks.
A closed-door, executive session is also scheduled on the potential sale of the former municipal garage building on Beach Street. The building has been used for storage since the town's new public works facility opened in 2008. Duhamel said a majority of council members favor selling the building. "In my opinion we should sell it. I think it will be a greater value to the town if it's privately owned," Duhamel said.