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Council Votes 4-1 For $1 Million EGHS Library Redo

“This is a want in my opinion, not a need,” says Mike Kiernan, voting no

The Town Council met in joint session with the School Committee last week and voted 4-1 in favor of spending $1 million . Councilman Mike Kiernan was the lone dissenting vote.

The money will come from passed in 2008 to build a new Cole Middle School and complete other school renovations. The School Committee did not have the EGHS library on its list of projects to be completed with the $52 million. But it had been on an earlier list, part of the School Committee’s initial request for . The Town Council cut that number to $52 million, which was the figure that was passed by voters in November 2008.

The downturn in the economy, however, resulted in on both the new middle school and other projects. The advisory School Building Committee spent months discussing how best to proceed with the surplus, eventually proposing roof fixes at several of the schools, a technology upgrade at EGHS, an expanded plan to fix the moisture and floor problems at Meadowbrook, and renovation of the EGHS library.

The School Committee voted in early August. The Town Council had to approve the library, however, and time was suddenly of the essence, with the state General Assembly’s decision in late June to stop reimbursement on all school building projects not complete by Dec. 31.

School Building Committee Chairman Jay Gowell stated the case of the library renovation to the Council.

“Clearly the high school library is the top priority - it’s state-of-the-art 1967,” he said. “It was sort of glaringly obvious that this is the most important thing at the high school.”

The plan would replace light fixtures, reconfigure the circulation area, provide increased seating and computer areas, and new paint. If costs allow, the library could expand into the hallway to increase space there and provide an additional classroom on the second floor.

“The goal is clearly to get the extra space as well,” said Jon Winikur, with project manager Strategic Building Solutions.

The work would be done without the usual bid process. Rules set down by the General Assembly require that any additional work to part of an existing project - E.J. Burman is already working at EGHS, putting on a new roof so to be able to get the 40 percent state reimbursement, E.J. Burman must undertake the library job.

While school officials conceded that the arrangement is less than ideal, they argued that the money was there (through the surplus), the 40 percent state reimbursement would be available and Burman had done a lot of work on the high school in time and for less than anticipated (including the science wing in 2009).

As Town Council members spoke, four of the five indicated that they would support the project.

“I like to make good investments. I look at this whole situation as an investment,” said Mark Gee. And, he added, “I love a good discount. Forty percent is a good deal.”

Councilman Jeff Cianciolo said he wanted to make sure that students coming from brand new Cole Middle School did not take a step down in coming to the older East Greenwich High School.

“I think we really have a critical need,” he said. He said that the lack of a firm commitment on price did not concern him greatly since the track record had been a good one with Burman.

“I’ve struggled with the additions to the bond,” said Council President Michael Isaacs. “We do have the ability to bring [the high school library] up to par with Cole. I think it goes beyond cosmetics. I think we do want to maximize the reimbursment … and this furthers that goal. And we will still some savings.”

Under the plan outlined by school officials, there would be a $613,000 savings to the $52 million bond.

For Kiernan, however, those reasons were not convincing. Not only did he see the plan as little more than a redecorating proposal, but he questioned if it could be done with the money proposed.

“We have no firm bid,” he said. “We have no commitment from the contractor.”

In addition, Kiernan brought up the extra costs that were coming the town’s way next year. “We’re looking at some serious, serious budget issues,” said Kiernan. “Wants and needs have to be balanced.”

Lynn Krim September 02, 2011 at 11:06 AM
Thank you Mike! The only sane voice I hear. For those of you who seem to have forgotten, any state or federal reimbursements/matching funds, etc, also comes from your tax dollar. In case you haven't been reading the papers, both of them are in financial trouble.
randy jones September 02, 2011 at 11:14 AM
Ditto to Lynn's comment. Always better to spend the surplus, then ask for more when an emergency hits.
Heather Larkin September 02, 2011 at 11:37 AM
State money is not "free"! It all comes from the same place. Reimbursement is stopping because of the financial crisis. To react by grabbing as much as possible is wrong. MFS roof was a structural need, HS library is a want. I would love to have a beautiful library over there but this is not the time for these sort of projects. Our little darlings would not be too scarred going from Cole to a less than perfect library. It probably would prepare them to leave the EG bubble- the world is full of run down spaces that function just fine.
Carl I. Hoyer September 02, 2011 at 12:13 PM
EG is beginning to sound and act like the feds. Spend, spend, spend. As Heather Larkin said, it's not free money. Another example;nor was it "free" when we acquired those park benches which adorn Main Street and other areas. I was told by someone at Town Hall (no longer there) that they cost $1800 each ! But, they are supposed to be "virtually vandal proof". Didn't know that was ever a problem... 'nuff said!
Patti DePriest September 02, 2011 at 12:39 PM
I think the bigger issue is getting the library better equipped technologically (which I believe they're working on) and staffed, so that the kids can really utilize it. If the librarian can't stay there after school due to union rules and the budget doesn't allow for an admin position, can parents volunteer to man it? Sign me up when I have a child there next year!
Roberta September 02, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Your are right Patt and Heather! The HS kids biggest complaints are that the library is NOT open after school for their use! I have several nieces and nephews who all have recently graduated from the HS and some currently there, the lack of hours and computers are their biggest complaints. Paint and lights are not going to allow better access to the library....just a prettier picture.
Lynn Krim September 02, 2011 at 01:31 PM
Not sure how you came to that conclusion from what I wrote. The surplus should be returned to the taxpayers or put is an emergency fund.
M Berg September 02, 2011 at 01:32 PM
SHAME on the Town Council for voting for this expenditure for the library. The Town Council just followed the School Committee down the proverbial "black Hole" of spending the 52 million hell or high water. No bid process or commitment on price is not good business. Free money Huh......it's your tax dollars and Rhode Island is going to end up like Central Falls with East Greenwich following. I always knew the school committee was out of control now it the Town Council. Where is the fiscal responsibility? Have they seen the state of the economy? The bill for all this is coming due. KUDOS Councilman Kiernan you have my vote!
La Dolce Vita September 02, 2011 at 01:37 PM
Thanks to Mike Kiernan for employing common sense. Remember, he is the ONLY councilor who grew up in town, and has made his family's home here. As soon as the 'new Cole' was approved and building commenced, it was certain that there would be an issue with going from the building with all the bells and whistles to one without the trappings. There will be a new high school built sooner than you think. As for library use, I will gladly volunteer for afterschool hours at the high school library so these students can study and research
M Berg September 02, 2011 at 01:44 PM
La Dolce Vita and Patti, the union will not let you volunteer....they will file a complaint as they are the only ones who can get paid to do this....it's in thier contract! They will not let you volunteer when they can get paid for extra hours.
GameMaker September 02, 2011 at 01:49 PM
Agreed 100%. And have we even started paying for Cole yet, or does that start with next year's taxes?
Spring Street September 02, 2011 at 04:25 PM
WOW ! I was told they didn't have the measly money needed to air the meetings on tv & the internet !? They were suppose to place it in the spring budget and this summer the town was to start covering them. Heather Sheldon did for approximately a yr at her own costs ,she purchased a new cameracorder, dvds/cases/ postage to mail them to the PBS/PEG public acess tv plus taxis to the school meetings as well ! The committment was made but the council decided not to in the end. Ms Sheldon then stepped back. Now EG is once again in the dark ages. It would of been nice to click on to your computer or tv & watch the meetings.Mark Gee said he doesn't need to watch himself on tv and the EG residents don't care about watching the meetings either !? No transparency !
Class of 98 September 02, 2011 at 04:35 PM
who talks about themselves in the 3rd person?
Leo September 02, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Thank you, school committee, for finally recognizing the need for a state of the art library at the high school. Students need access to computers, the latest and best literature and comfortable well-lit space conducive to working together on projects.This is all part of 21st century learning. Just make sure that they have access to this great space being created.
Cerrito September 02, 2011 at 11:20 PM
That's nice, now why wasn't this money returned to the taxpayers? Is EG starting to operate like DC? We're going to be in serious trouble and it will be too late to do anything about it...kind of like the unfunded pension problem. Thanks EG!!!!

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