Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian has asked his City Council to approve a contract to demolish the vacant Potowomut School building on Potowomut Road to make way for a fire station. The move could cost the Town of East Greenwich $350,000 a year – the amount Warwick pays EG to provide fire and rescue service to the Potowomut area.
Potowomut sits apart from the rest of Warwick, with East Greenwich in between. At present, the nearest Warwick fire department to Potowomut is on Cowesett Avenue. Warwick has paid EG to provide the service to the Bay Ridge and Potowomut neighborhoods for decades.
“The prior fire commissioners had been negotiating or speaking with Warwick about it – apparently, not successful in convincing them not to pursue the station,” said East Greenwich Town Council President Michael Isaacs. East Greenwich merged the formerly separate EG Fire District into the town in June.
“But we do want to continue discussions with them,” he said. “We still think it would be advantageous to both communities to look at us providing some services to Potowomut.”
Isaacs said the Town Council had directed Interim Town Manager Tom Coyle to talk to Warwick officials about that.
For Avedisian, the move would be the culmination of a long-sought idea. In a recent interview, he noted that Warwick voters approved $2 million for a fire department in Potowomut in 2006. Potowomut School was closed in 2008 and was never cleaned out. Avedisian said leaks in the building may be causing mold. He told a group of residents at a recent meeting that it would cost $800,000 to $900,000 to renovate the building for other uses, according to the Warwick Beacon.
“We talked to a number of realtors if that building would be saleable,” said Avedisian. “I don’t think we’d find a tenant. I don’t think it would be wise to think we could go and market it as office space,” he said, noting its location away from major roads.
That’s the exact reason long-time Potowomut resident Virginia Mathewson objects to the plan to put a fire station on the site.
“I don’t think the place where they’re going to demolish the school is a good place for a fire station,” she said. “It’s on a secondary road. It’s got a big neighborhood around it, with children on bicycles and people coming and going.”
Just as important, Mathewson said, “They’re going to demolish the one school we have here in Potowomut. There will never be another Potowomut school.”
She said the school provided a community focus, something especially important for Potowomut since it’s disconnected from the rest of Warwick. If not a school, she said, the building could be used as a senior center. The nearest senior center in Warwick is in Buttonwoods.It’s not clear when the City Council will vote on the demolition contract – the agenda for their next meeting, Sept. 16, is not yet available. If the council does approve the contract, Avedisian said the next step would be to go out to bid for engineering and architecture for a new building.