By JOHN HOWELL
A tour of Pilgrim High School expected to take two days, but ending up being no more than five hours and costing $13,000, could result in an additional $7.8 million reimbursement to …
By JOHN HOWELL
A tour of Pilgrim High School expected to take two days, but ending up being no more than five hours and costing $13,000, could result in an additional $7.8 million reimbursement to Warwick if voters approve $350 million for new Pilgrim and Toll Gate High School and the city carries through with the projects.
The tour by Woolpert Engineering was scheduled for June 22 and 23. Steven Gothberg, Director, Capital & Construction Projects, who oversaw the tour, said the team had seen enough after five hours to conclude that at least 65 percent of the school needed renovations or to be replaced.
Gothberg explained the engineers were retained after he inquired of the Rhode Island Department of Education how the city might boost its reimbursement rate of 50 percent for the new schools. He said he was told to concentrate on the Pilgrim FCI or facility condition index. Last time the index was taken six years ago, the school rated 56 to 57 percent. In order for the city to obtain up to 5 percent of the total cost of the two projects in additional reimbursement, Pilgrim would need a FCI of 65 percent or higher.
As the city is close to qualifying for the maximum reimbursement under the formula set for Warwick, the added allowable reimbursement triggered by the Pilgrim FCI amounts to 2.5 percent. It boosts the reimbursement by $7,863,987.75. This would reduce Warwick’s share of the two schools from $192.7 million to $184.9 million. Gothberg said he is waiting for the “final report” before officially celebrating the projected additional savings to Warwick taxpayers.
The big unknown at this time, however, is whether $350 million will be enough to build the schools in this time of escalating material costs.
Gothberg said when plans and cost projections were drafted, inflation hadn’t kicked in. Nonetheless, contingencies were built into the estimates as a precaution. Now they may not be enough.
Since elementary and middle school renovations started more than three years ago, Gothberg said the department only exceeded its budgeted amount for one project and that was the Sherman School roof. This year is a different story and it weren’t for funding earmarked for the high schools, which now is available for other schools the department would have had to cut back projects this summer.
As it is budgeted costs have soared. Sherman School improvements budgeted at $4.5 million are now projected to cost $7.5 million. And Hoxsie School improvements budgeted at $1.2 million are now projected to cost $3.2 million. Hoxsie improvements are on hold.
In view of the mounting costs, Gothberg concludes “this $7.8 million is a big deal. It’s huge.”
Gothberg doesn’t see an alternative to building the new schools.
“The longer we wait the more it’s going to cost,” he said. In addition, by doing nothing, the department will have to keep throwing money into repairs for which it won’t be reimbursed.
“We would be spending a ton of money with little or no reimbursement,” he said.