Amidst a light agenda Tuesday evening, the School Committee voted to approve the establishment of a contingency procedure for summer capital projects.
Chief Budget Officer Anthony Ferrucci explained the procedure provides the superintendent and the chief budget officer joint authority to approve change orders on summer capital projects in the interest of keeping projects moving during a tight summer construction schedule.
In order to accomplish this, a contingency fund of 8 percent of the project contract award would be established, allowing the superintendent and chief budget officer the flexibility to draw from the contingency fund to cover any necessary change orders so as not to delay the construction process while seeking approval from the School Committee at an emergency meeting.
“The process was used last year, where I believe we were authorized to spend up to $250,000 on a $3 million project, and we only ended up using $8,000, so it worked very well,” Ferrucci said.
With Phase II of the fire code compliance project scheduled for this summer in addition to other time sensitive capital projects, Ferrucci said the school department will be “under tremendous pressure” to have the schools ready to be opened on time this fall.
“The Phase II fire code project consists of 7 buildings simultaneously undergoing fire code renovations. The other capital projects are Park Elementary roof, building security improvements, Winman fire alarm, Toll Gate gym floor replacement and finally the roof on the physical plant,” Ferrucci wrote in a letter to the School Committee.
Ferrucci said the total bid for all projects is $3.3 million and the timeline for completing the work, which must be finished by the end of August, is eight to nine weeks.
In other committee news, Ferrucci provided an update on the status of the school department’s food service contract, which will not be renewed by the current vendor, Sodexo, for next year.
He said in early May, the department was advised by Mike Grey, VP Sodexo Operations, that “Sodexo would not be in a position to continue managing our food service program under the current terms and conditions of the existing contract.” As a result, Ferrucci said, Sodexo was not willing to agree to renew the agreement for next year.
Ferrucci said over the past two weeks, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) has announced the state’s Request for Proposals (RFP) for food service was complete and Aramark has been awarded the state contract. However, he said he’s been unable to complete a review of the terms of the state’s program, as he was busy preparing for the school department’s city budget presentation as well as following up on budget questions raised during budget hearings. As a result, Ferrucci said he doesn’t yet know if Warwick should “piggyback” the state’s RFP or go out to bid on its own.
“We plan on having a recommendation available by the week of June 24th,” Ferrucci wrote in a letter to Superintendent Richard D’Agostino that was also provided to School Committee members. “If a special meeting with the School Committee is scheduled the last week of June, we should [be] prepared to make a recommendation at that time, if not, we will be prepared to have a recommendation available for the School Committee meeting scheduled for July 9th.”
Ferrucci assured that with two and half months lead time, there won’t be a disruption in food service and the matter will be resolved in time for the start of school in the fall.
During public comment, Linda Principe, who represented the lunch workers, said 59 of the 62 school lunch workers are Warwick residents and they want to make sure they will be able to continue to work under the new food service vendor.
Although the committee did not address what it plans to do about balancing the schools budget, as it must now bridge a $3.4 million gap by June 30 following approval of the mayor’s budget, a special School Committee meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 27 at the Warwick Schools Administration building on Warwick Avenue. The school department had requested an additional $3.8 million in city funding but was only granted $437,000. When asked what areas, if any, had been considered for cuts, both D’Agostino and School Committee Chairwoman Bethany Furtado said those hadn’t been identified yet but would be addressed at the meeting.