Decision on Hanaford – New or Add-Reno – Coming Soon

by | Nov 14, 2023

In first meeting since the $150M bond passage, School Building Committee moves forward

Following the passage of the $150 million school construction bond Tuesday, the School Building Committee met Friday to discuss the process of filing stage II of the plan, which must be submitted to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) by Feb. 15, 2024. 

After reviewing the stage II submission, RIDE will inform EG officials if the project as described is eligible for certain reimbursements. This process will not result in RIDE telling EG the exact dollar amount the town will be reimbursed, but it’s a strong indication of what will happen upon completion of the project.

During the stage II process, detailed designs will be drafted on all aspects of the project but will not be finalized. While the plans submitted in February won’t be final, RIDE requires these designs be accurate enough so they “can be used to provide dependable cost estimates,” according to RIDE’s website.

“The primary objective is to make sure we secure the 55 percent [reimbursement] from the state,” said Derek Osterman, EG’s representative from the project management firm Colliers. “The reason we are moving so quickly is this is the one and only window to achieve the state funding.” He later explained that while aspects of the projects will “continue to change for the next year plus, what won’t change is we will have a lock on what the state is going to contribute.”

One of the major looming decisions is the scope of work at Hanaford. Voters approved bond language allowing flexibility for either an addition and renovation of the elementary school or the construction of an entirely new building. 

“This is where we’re going to start to challenge you,” said Philip Conte, president and CEO of the architecture firm StudioJAED, told members of the School Building Committee. He said members would need to decide between a addition-renovation and a new build at Hanaford “ideally … in the next three weeks or so.”

Multiple committee members, including Town Council President Mark Schwager, voiced concern about making such a large decision quickly without community impact implications, cost estimates, and effects on teaching and learning. 

“Will we have more information in a month? Six weeks?” Schwager asked. He continued by inquiring if the town could propose a new building but still have the option to fall back to an add- reno in the stage II filing.

“I would say let’s give the design team the benefit of the doubt and see what they come back to us with to see if you’re more comfortable when we next meet to be closer to making a decision,” said Osterman. He said he and the design team “need a decision” to give to RIDE, but he also said constructing the exact building that they submit to RIDE is “a little bit squishy.”

Abutter Concerns

School Committeeman Tim Munoz and Town Councilor Renu Englehart mentioned concerns from residents who live close to the areas earmarked for construction.

“What happens if there is a site concern?” said Englehart. She later brought up concerns regarding a potential new parking at Frenchtown being too close to residents and wetlands in the area of Hanford.

Tim Munoz added to Englehart’s concerns.

“We have abutters who are very interested in this, as well they should be,” he said. “When will we know exactly where the buildings sit on their respective plats?”

Osterman responded that by Feb. 15, the town will have a “suggested location” but that would be the “first look.”

Resident Bea Lukens, who attended the meeting and lives adjacent to the proposed site where a new Hanaford building could be built (on the current baseball fields), mentioned flooding in the area as a possible concern about placing a school in that location. 

The School Committee and Town Council must approve the Stage II plan before the Feb. 15 submittal date.

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November 15, 2023 7:51 am

Why not tear down Hanaford and renovate and add on at Eldredge the most solidly built school in town. Put wings on sides, and back and use your minds and intelligence to come up with the rest. Eldredge is the anchor school of this town and should not be torn down.
Tear down Hanaford and split students between Meadow Brook and Eldredge.
Ps. Wings should go over side field and back and side parking lots.

November 15, 2023 8:45 am

Thank you to Renu and Tim for bringing up some of the concerns of abutters. I hope the building committee and town council will consider addressing this in a more specific and extended capacity in the coming weeks as abutters still have many unanswered questions and concerns. An official agenda item on this topic seems warranted for both the SBC and TC.

I realize some decisions can’t be made until the design is further along, but that is not the case for having a reasonable discussion about preventative measures such as offering pre-construction surveys, agreeing on sensible vibration limits and monitoring, and considering more community members for the building committee, preferably before the stage 2 submission. The cost of such measures is a drop in the bucket for a project of this scale.

Bea Lukens
Bea Lukens
November 16, 2023 9:05 pm

I am glad the Elementary schools are getting funding, but I’m afraid I have to disagree with all the decisions being made regarding the new builds. I am an abutter to Hanaford. I can get up early and see the foxes or deer run through the field. My children have grown up playing with their neighborhood friends in the space, which was one of the great reasons we purchased the home over 20 years ago. While we have had issues with water and flooding during the 100-year flood, we have made improvements to the home so that it will not occur again. The water table in the area is high, and wetlands surround it, which is why we see the many beautiful creatures living there. If you put another building in the space adjacent to the current school and then pave the area that the building takes up, water will be displaced. Currently, my home can manage the high water table and may still even with the build, but certainly, water will have to go somewhere, and if the abutting homes are pumping water into the neighborhood, how is it guaranteed that other homes will be ready to handle an increase in water. Will there be permanent floodplain changes that would then cause my neighbors or myself to pay additional charges in flood insurance? Where is the guarantee that the watershed and our homes will be protected? The town has shown no concern for the current abutters or past ones. Counselor Englehart has been the most active in engaging the community. I don’t know why the schools would not stay on the same footprint they are on. A rush on plans is not letting everyone vet the options available. Community input is being tabled until after the plans are submitted to RIDE.


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