Residents voted in favor of the project by 69%
East Greenwich voters approved the $150 million school construction project in a 1,567 to 696 vote Tuesday.
The project calls for a new school building at Frenchtown Elementary and a renovation and addition or new building at Hanaford Elementary, with both schools transitioning to a 1-5 grade level structure. Meadowbrook and the high school will receive renovations, while Eldredge will be closed as a school.
Officials have discussed making Meadowbrook a pre-K-K center and targeting the locker rooms, special education area, and auditorium at the high school. However, final plans have not been set.
The flexible language of the bond question was meant to allow for the bond money to be used in various ways, according to officials, including shifting money from one project to another with potentially more money for the high school.
“I’m so grateful for everyone who voted today,” said School Committee Chair Alyson Powell, who is also co-chair of the School Building Committee. “We had an amazing turnout for a special election. I’m very excited to move forward with this project because it is a wonderful opportunity for East Greenwich now and well into the future.“
A total of 2,263 votes were cast.
The passage of the bond keeps EG in contention to receive up to an additional 20 percent of reimbursement from the state for the project. Currently, the state will pick up 35 percent of the $150 million. However, if EG achieves certain construction criteria, the town will be awarded up to an additional 20 percent in 5 percent increments. The bonus money expires in June 2024 for towns without resident approval via a successful referendum.
Voting was temporarily halted Tuesday morning when construction debris from the basement at the Swift Community Center tripped an alarm, resulting in first responders needing to shut it off. Voting resumed 10 minutes later.
“It’s great that our community showed up to support our legacy of excellent schools,” said Town Council President and member of the School Building Committee Mark Schwager. “That’s what makes our town a dynamic community. Great schools are part of the core of East Greenwich.”
Not all residents supported the plan. Many have voiced concerns about an increase in taxes, possible damage to homes due to construction, not enough money being allocated to the high school, and the shuttering of Eldredge.
“Approval of the bond tonight is the next step in a long process,” Schwager said, noting that things like architectural designs will be discussed over the next year. When asked if those who did not approve the plan would be able to have input, Schwager said, “There will be an opportunity to continue to modify the project,” adding, “there will be a lot of public discussion about that.”
With the bond passed, the next deadline for the town is the stage II filing on or before February 15. This requires the town to submit detailed drawings and estimates to the Rhode Island Department of Education. Stage II requires the town to submit detailed drawings and estimates to the R.I. Department of Education.
The next School Building Committee meeting is on Friday, Nov. 10, at 11 a.m. at Cole Middle School.