School Dept. Presents $35.8 Million Budget For ’15, Up 3%

Supt. Victor Mercurio presented a $35.8 million budget to the School Committee Tuesday night, a $1.2 million – 3 percent – increase over this year’s budget. The bulk of the increase, $956,658, would come from the town budget, with the remaining $235,374 coming from EGSD revenue sources. Enrollment for EG schools is trending upward – from 2,368 students in 2009-10 to 2,432 students in 2013-14.

By town charter, the School Committee must pass a budget and submit it to the Town Council by March 15.

School Committee Chair David Green asked Mercurio to prepare a list of possible cuts for the panel’s meeting next Tuesday.

“If there are budget reductions that can bring us back more in line with what we have been granted as an increase from the town in years’ past,” he said. “I’d like to see any potential cuts, a list of items … to use that for discussion and potential action next week.”

But he said he was grateful for the cushion afforded the district since the state implemented an education funding formula in 2012. East Greenwich is one of the districts that has received extra state aid because of underfunding in previous years. The funding formula built in a seven-year transition for districts like East Greenwich that would be getting more funding. (For districts where the funding has been cut the transition is over a ten-year period.) East Greenwich is budgeted to receive $2.5 million in state aid in 2015, up from $1.4 million in 2012, $1.9 million in 2013, and $2.3 million for 2014.

“I would note, it is fortunate that we are in a period of time that … we have been able to benefit by the change in the funding formula and we will do so for another three years,” Green said. “So that has buffered … the challenges that we have a little bit, but that certainly does not by any stretch eliminate them.”

Salary costs represent 59 percent of the budget, with the second largest portion of the budget – 21 percent – designated for benefits. However, the School Committee and the teachers union are still negotiating the teachers contract (retroactive, now, to Sept. 2013). The budget calls for a 2.1 percent increase in the salary line item, which includes teachers, paraprofessionals and custodians. Paras and custodians settled their contracts with the district last year and their contracts both call for a 2 percent pay increase in 2015, so it appears as if the district is looking to provide about the same increase for teachers.

About contract negotiations, Green said, “We continue to make progress with our negotiations, but not through yet.”

One big-ticket item in the proposed budget is $206,000* to lease Chromebooks for every high school student starting in September. That cost includes the price of the devices ($308 apiece) and one additional staff member. The School Committee approved the program at a meeting in January. Green, a supporter of the program, said it was not possible to say absolutely it would make it through the budgeting process, but he was optimistic.

“I personally don’t think it will go away,” he said. “I’m a supporter of it and I hope it doesn’t.”

The committee meets again Tuesday, March 4, at Cole Middle School at 7 p.m. 

*An earlier version of this story stated the figure at $725,000. I regret the error.

EG Contractor Tom Primeau Arrested For False Invoices

State police arrested developer Thomas Primeau, 56, of Trappers Lane, Wednesday for obtaining money under false pretenses and forgery, the Providence Journal has reported.

He was arrested after the State Police Financial Crimes Unit investigated a complaint from someone who had hired Primeau to build a house in East Greenwich.

Primeau, owner of Philip Ryan Homes, entered a “cost plus contract” in which Primeau would bill the customer for the cost of the work plus a 12 percent management fee, said a press release from the State Police.

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The customer found $28,213.86 in fraudulent invoices. The investigation found that Primeau kept the funds for his own use with none of his subcontractors sharing in the overcharges.

Primeau has a long history of building housing in East Greenwich, starting with Harbor Heights condominiums on Crompton Avenue built in the late 1980s.

More recently, he ran into problems with the town over his failure to complete town-dictated finish work of Long Meadow Farms, a development off Frenchtown Road.

Primeau was arraigned in Kent County District Court and released on his own recognizance.

The Real Mr. Larry of Hanaford School

Memories from a friend and colleague, Jennifer M. Foisy. Larry Audet, a retired EGSD custodian, died Feb. 20 at age 61.

     You may have seen him in the hallways of Hanaford Elementary School on any given afternoon or evening. His name was Larry Audet and he was our beloved school custodian for many years. At first glance, you might think of him as the grumpy old janitor as that’s how many affectionately knew Mr. Larry. As one colleague fondly recalled, no one could open a door and lovingly hurl a rubbish bin into a room quite like Mr. Larry.  But for a few of us at Hanaford, we got a glimpse inside the real Mr. Larry.

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     Who was the real Mr. Larry? 

 

     The real Mr. Larry was a father who loved his children with all his heart. If you asked him, he’d tell you all about them and his grandchildren as well. 

     The real Mr. Larry was the man who gave lollipops to the students who helped with the recycling program, after school of course… even if he got the evil eye for it.

     The real Mr. Larry would always make you think he was going to say NO, but in reality, he was the first to lend a hand when you really needed it.

     The real Mr. Larry would always tell you “don’t move the furniture, call me and I’ll help you”…. We knew he was being kind and helpful… but he would tell you he didn’t want you to put scratches on his newly waxed floor!

     The real Mr. Larry had a fondness for children, after all he did work in an elementary school! Every summer, my seven-year-old son would look forward to going to “mommy’s school” to see Mr. Larry and he didn’t disappoint. The real Mr. Larry was always there! He always took the time to talk with him and joke with him.

     The real Mr. Larry loved his Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. 

     The real Mr. Larry loved his chips and Dr. Pepper (when he was at school) and sometimes he would share, if you were seven. 

     The real Mr. Larry could be found at suppertime, sitting at a little desk in the cafeteria, eating his big, old sandwich…most nights by himself…except every year on Valentine’s Day when he looked forward to the tradition of Chinese food with a good friend.

     What you probably didn’t know about Mr. Larry from a first glance was that he was incredibly dedicated to his work. He took pride in his work the way that few do today and it was reflected in halls of Hanaford School. He quietly set an example. Mr. Larry was the type of guy who insisted that you pack up your ENTIRE classroom the end of EVERY school year so that he could painstakingly move every piece of furniture out of your classroom.     Then he would strip, wash and put no less than three coats of wax on your floor before returning every piece of furniture to its exact spot in your classroom, well before the teachers were ready to return for the first day of school. For ten years I grumbled about this process, HIS process, but my floors always looked amazing and have never looked the same since his departure.
    

      He was the man who would stay late or come in on the weekend, including Labor Day weekend, to make sure that every classroom and hallway in the school were done before the first day of School. This wasn’t about putting in for overtime pay, this was pride in his work. This was the real Mr. Larry.

You will find Larry Audet’s obituary here.

3 EGHS Students Named National Honor Finalists

eghs 1Three East Greenwich High School students have advanced to the finalist round in the 2014 competition for National Merit scholarships: Andrew Miner, Connor Ross, and Heather Shen.
“On behalf of the entire East Greenwich High School community, I would like to congratulate these students for receiving ‘Finalist’ status,” wrote Principal Michael Podraza in his EGHS Success blog. “This designation is a testament to the hard work and dedication to learning that they show everyday, both inside and outside of the classroom.”
Four EGHS students received “commended” by National Merit and four were named semi-finalists (of which 3 are now finalists). The National Merit program named a total of 16,000 semi-finalists last September. Finalists will be considered for scholarships later this year.

Congratulations!

 

Station One Floor Fix Could Cost $245,000

EG fire truckThe East Greenwich Town Council voted 5-0 Monday night to allow the Fire Department’s contractor to seek bids on reconstructing part of the floor at Station One on Main Street. SGH, the engineering company working with the town, estimated the cost to fix the floor at $245,000.

The fire department has avoided parking larger trucks on that half of the garage for more than a year, due to concerns over the floor’s stability. The floor has cracks and, below the floor, the ceiling is rusting and failing.

In 2013, the former EG Fire District had set aside $100,000 to repair the floor (the independent fire district became a town department last June).

“That was just me and the fire chief guessing,” said Chief Russ McGillivray Monday night, referring to the initial estimate put together with former Chief Peter Henrikson. “This is a much more scientific estimate.”

SGH’s plan calls for demolishing the floor on the south end of the station and replacing it with 6 inches of solid concrete.

McGillivray said the floor was last replaced in 1980, but that it hadn’t been engineered to accommodate the weight of today’s trucks.

“The truck are much larger and carry a lot more equipment. For example the average fire truck carried just 500 gallons of water, where now many fire engines carry upwards of 750 to 1000 gallons,” he said via email Tuesday. “Also both of engines carry the ‘Jaws of Life’ and other such rescue equipment that adds to the overall weight of the vehicles.”

He said the problem with the floor was called “deflection.” “It would push the floor down and push it up. It made cracks in the concrete. The salt and the water got in and destroyed all the interior reinforcement bars.”

The new floor, he said, would essentially be a bridge.

The work should take six to eight weeks, according to McGillivray, and could take place as soon as May or June.

“The only issue we really have is we have to move the dispatch room from where it is and put it in the back room during the day while they jackhammer. It’s going to be really noisy.”

Another idea, to expand Station Two on Frenchtown Road by adding a second floor, has been put on the back burner for now, said McGillivray. “That’s the 10-year plan.”

EG Calendar: Community Meal, Council Meeting

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Christ Community Kitchen: The monthly community dinner in the dining room at St. Luke’s Church is open to all. From 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Town Council meeting: On the agenda is a vote to authorize the Fire Department to go out to bid for floor slab repairs at Station One. The full agenda is here. Town Hall at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

School Committee meeting: The panel will hold a public hearing on the 2015 budget during its regular session. The full agenda is here. Cole Middle School library at 7 p.m.

Zoning Board meeting: A developer is seeking a variance to build a 6,000 sq. foot office building and a 4,000 sq. foot animal shelter on land adjacent to New London Turnpike near Coventry. The land is currently zoned farmland. The animal shelter would be for the East Greenwich Animal Protection League. The full agenda is here. Town Hall, 7 p.m.

Avenger Boys Basketball Senior Night: The unbeaten EGHS boys basketball team meets Johnston Tuesday night at home in their second-to-last regular-season game. Making the game extra-special, it’s Senior Night. 7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 27

Citizens Who Care meeting: The community group meets once a month to discuss issues pertaining to teens and wellness. Police Dept. Community Room, 10 a.m.

Trash Pickup Monday Despite Holiday!

That’s right, just when we think we’ve figured out this trash/recycle pickup thing, the town throws a curve ball: trash pickup is Monday through Friday this week, even though Monday is the Presidents Day holiday.

There is NO recycle pickup this week.

Here’s a printable calendar for 2014 with information on both trash and recycling pickup. Printer-challenged? You can pick up a copy of this at the Public Works office, 111 Peirce St. Questions? Call 886-8620 or 886-8621.

From the town’s website:

Trash is delayed one day for the remainder of the week for the following weeks with these holidays.

Wednesday, January 1st – New Year’s Day
Monday, January 20th – Martin Luther King Day
Monday, May 26th – Memorial Day
Friday, July 4th – July 4th!
Monday, August 11th – Victory Day
Monday, September 1st – Labor Day
Monday,October 13th – Columbus Day
Tuesday, November 11th – Veteran’s Day
Thursday, November 27th – Thanksgiving
Thursday, December 25th – Christmas

 

Valentine’s Day In EG: Love At The Odeum

LoveisintheAIRThis from Patti DePriest:

If you’re looking for something romantic to do for Valentine’s Day that’s close to home, consider attending the “Love is in the Air” concert tonight at 8 p.m. at the Greenwich Odeum. Featuring Michael DiMucci, Phoebe Madden, and Ritchee Price, accompanied by Phillip Martorella, the evening’s music will consist of Broadway love songs with a twist of jazz. Also on the program are the vocal students of Ms. Madden, Alexandra Fortin, Michelle Houle, Rose Kaczmarek, Kathleen Morlock, and Rachel O’Donnelly. Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling 401-885-4000, reserved online at www.theodeum.org, or purchased at the box office Friday from noon until show time.

 

Symposium Books Reopens Next To Panera

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It took a little longer than planned, but Symposium Books has reopened at 1000 Division Street, next door to Panera Bread. The space is bigger then their old spot on Main Street, but the real selling point was the easy parking. 

“We really wanted to have the store on Main Street work, but it didn’t work because people couldn’t find parking,” said Anne-Marie Keohane, who owns the business with her husband. “In East Greenwich and in a lot of towns, it all hinges on parking. They’ll drive by and want to come in, but if there’s not a parking spot within one block, off they go.

“We knew for a while that we wanted to move over here because of the parking and I saw this empty space,” Keohane said. “We talked to Jessica from the Savory Grape and she said her business really picked up when they moved over here and we thought, ‘Let’s go for it.'”

They realized, too, to make it as a bookstore in 2014, they needed to tweak their model a bit. 

“We knew we’d have to get a bigger space, where we’d have the selection of books we wanted and also have gifts and non-book items,” she explained. “That’s what a bookstore needs to be today: You come in for your book and pick something else up. Or come in for a gift and then get a book.”

It doesn’t bother Keohane that Barnes & Noble is just up the road in Warwick or Amazon online.

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“We are wholesalers, so we can get books at prices nobody else can and that has always been our strength. If we have the book, it’s going to be 40 percent off if it’s a remainder or an overstock. And the new releases are 10 percent off, no shipping, come on in and get it. So, we’re competitive with online,” she said.

Children’s story hour takes place Wednesdays at 1 p.m. The store is available to host book clubs and will be featuring author readings and book signings. 

“Since we opened, all the authors are contacting us now, which they didn’t do in the smaller space, so obviously, size matters,” Keohane said, laughing.

Symposium Books, 1000 Division Street, is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

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