Rocky Hill School's spectacular location – at the mouth of the Greene River where it flows into Narragansett Bay – is usually a selling point. But for two years in a row, the school has suffered damage at that hands of severe storms, first Irene, in 2011, and then Sandy, in October, precisely because of that prize location.
"We're on the water. Narragansett Bay is right there," acknowledged the school's business manager, Mark Buckley. But they do appear to be in line to get some help with the possibly $70,000 in damage from Sandy, following last week's federal disaster declaration for Kent County.
Sandy hit RHS harder than Irene. Both brought down tree limbs, but Sandy managed to pull up and peel back the rubber roof liner on the school's gym, causing water damage inside and the need for a brand new liner on top.
And Sandy's high tide and storm surge dumped debris on the school's sweeping lawns, and the brackish water burned the grass. Getting rid of the debris alone cost $6,000, said Buckley.
The school's dock was damaged during the storm, too, and a shed was picked up by the tide and moved. Most falling tree limbs did not do damage on their way down, but one did break a fence at the preschool. Another large tree on the property will have to be taken down. It's leaning now and there's a bulge where the roots have started to come up.
The damage at Rocky Hill School proved to be the tipping point for Gov. Lincoln Chafee to request that Kent County be declared a federal disaster area, Buckley said. Declarations only come after a certain dollar amount of damage is reached – the RHS damage put Kent County above that threshold. Bristol, Newport, and Washington counties had already been declared disaster areas.
Gov. Chafee announced that President Obama has approved Rhode Island's amended request for a disaster declaration and for public assistance for Kent County late last week.
This designation means that eligible municipalities, state agencies, and nonprofits of these counties are eligible to apply for repair to storm-damaged buildings or infrastructure or for projects to mitigate effects for future damage from similar storms.
Rocky Hill School is a nonprofit.
According to Buckley, the roof is the largest expense. The school does have insurance and it will first go through its insurer to cover the cost of repairs. he said the company will weigh a number of factors with regard to the roof damage to, first, see if it is covered under the policy and then if it is what the deductible will be.
"It's up to the insurance company's discretion," Buckley said. If the insurer does not cover the gym repairs, the school would apply to FEMA, which will cover 75 percent of the repair costs, he said.
Buckley said the school could looked into a lower insurance deductible but "the cost is prohibitive."
This might be two bad years and the next 10 to 15 years will be all right, he said. "If we have claims every year, then maybe we have to think about it."