October 20, 2014
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Committee asks city to waive fees on school building projects

The School Committee’s first regularly scheduled meeting of the year, held Tuesday, Jan. 10, featured a light agenda. In addition to receiving an update on the progress of graduation by proficiency (GBP) senior projects and listening to a presentation from the coach and senior members of the Pilgrim Lacrosse team, the committee took action on a couple of items.

The first was the approval of a resolution regarding building permit fees, in which the committee requests the city waive the fees for building permits on school-related construction products. An issue arose during the December committee meeting when it learned that construction projects that had already been approved were costing more money than initially determined during the bidding process due to fees for multiple building permits when it was under the assumption that the projects only required one permit fee.

“We’re charged a permit on every project we do,” said Paul Jansson, interim assistant director of buildings and grounds. He explained that each project, even if multiple projects pertain to the same building, requires its own separate building permit, and there’s a fee attached to each permit.

School Committee Chair Beth Furtado said, for example, if there were six projects being conducted on one building, instead of getting one permit for the work on the building, six permits would be required, each with a fee.

After learning how the building permit and fee process worked, School Committee Vice Chair Patrick Maloney requested a resolution be drafted requesting the city to reduce the permit fees it charges the school department for construction work and building upgrades on buildings the city owns in the first place.

“We’re being charged $17,000 in permit fees on buildings the city owns and the school department incurs that cost,” he said at the December meeting.

“That’s ludicrous!” added Terri Medeiros, following Maloney’s comment at the December meeting.

Following the December meeting, a resolution was drafted, and approved Tuesday, requesting the city waive any fees and associated costs in regards to building permits for school-related construction projects.

According to the resolution, “… the building permit costs for School Committee projects have amounted to thousands of dollars per year; and … it is anticipated that significant future expenses for construction projects need be incurred to comply with fire code requirements …”

“It’s not right to be charged the fees that we are being charged,” Maloney said at Tuesday’s meeting prior to the vote. “The Pilgrim roof permit was $18,000. That’s $18,000 that did not go directly into our students and programs. There are a lot of things we could be doing with that money.”

Following the vote, Furtado said she felt the permit fees are “excessive and unreasonable.”

Mayor Scott Avedisian could not be reached by press time.

The other item the committee took action on at Tuesday’s meeting was the approval of a temporary custodial position at the administration building annex, formerly the John Greene Elementary School. The position is full-time, consisting of 35 hours per week, with a seven-hour shift from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week.

After John Greene Elementary was closed during the second round of school consolidation, the plan was to move administrative offices, currently housed in the administration building on Warwick Avenue, into the vacant building because the central admin building was old and crowded, and it was suspected there were also mold issues.

Rosemary Healey, director of human resources and legal counsel for the School Committee, explained that before administrative offices could be transitioned over, the West Bay Collaborative was utilizing a small portion of the Greene building and a full-time custodian wasn’t needed to maintain the building. However, once administrative offices started transitioning in, more of the building was being used and additional custodial help was needed.

Healey said the situation created a grievance issue on the part of the Warwick Independent School Employees (WISE) union, so a resolution for the temporary custodial position was drafted and offered to WISE, which the union accepted.

“The West Bay Collaborative was only using a few classrooms, so we started using more of the building,” she said, adding that the 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift will allow the custodian to cover work during the day as well as at night.

“It was posted as a temporary position, as we’re still in a state of flux of combining our administration offices,” Healey said. “It could be eliminated through the consolidation of staff.”

In other committee news, GBP Coordinator Denise Bilodeau provided an update on the status of GBP senior projects. She said the department is currently tracking 727 seniors, 718 of which have approved senior project mentors and 649 have already completed proficient research papers. One of the new features of the program this year is the option to perform an early project presentation, which will be held on Feb. 15 at all three high schools; Bilodeau said 65 seniors have chosen to take advantage of the opportunity. The next deadline for remaining seniors is March 15, which is when the fieldwork logs and mentor evaluations must be turned in.

Finally, the committee heard a presentation from Pilgrim Lacrosse Coach Tom Flanders, as well as several senior members of the team, who were there to share information about the team following its first season, as well as to request the addition of a paid assistant coaching position. The team, which consisted of more than 40 girls last year and currently has 67 signed up to play, didn’t win any of its 14 league games last year, but, Flanders said, “the goal differential went way down, and we scared some teams. Last year we had the will; now we have the skill and we’ll do more than scare teams.”

Flanders said there’s no feeder program for the team, so the players are beginners, many of whom are successful athletes in other sports, which can make it frustrating trying to learn a new one.

“The assistant coach will help with ensuring all players learn the fundamentals and also have fun doing it,” Flanders said. “It takes a lot to learn a new sport, but the girls have done well with it.”

Maloney thanked the girls for “putting your heart into this” and starting the team.

Furtado, who has three kids that played lacrosse, said extracurricular activities and programs such as art and music, as well as sports like lacrosse, are important for students.

“What you learn on the field goes with you in the classroom and beyond,” she said. “One person can’t do it alone; you have to work as a team. We look forward to your home games and cheering you on.”

Before the meeting ended, during the public comment portion, Richard Santurri of the Coalition to Defend Public Education reminded everyone of a rally at the State House on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan. 16 at 2 p.m., to oppose Achievement First, a Connecticut company that would run the proposed Mayoral Academy in Providence if approved.


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