Last week one of our fellow Town Council members Richard Welch wrote an opinion piece that said voters were not presented with a plan to properly consider the proposed renovations to our historic (and vacant) town hall located at 80 Boston Neck Road. We are writing to offer a different take.
In January of 2018 the previous Town Council of which Mr. Welch was president, hired an architect to design a plan to renovate our historic town hall at a cost of $72,545. Shortly thereafter on April 19, 2018 our town manager provided a list of approximately $27 million for proposed capital projects to be put on the ballot in 2018 for voter approval. Included in this list was $5 million to renovate our historic town hall. According to the minutes of the meeting no plans were provided for any of these proposed projects.
In fact, at the next Town Council meeting then-town councilor Ellen Waxman said that “she wouldn’t approve $5 million for Town Hall without a plan.” Councilor Maloney agreed, and they both voted against the bond referendum proposal because of that. Notwithstanding their objections, the $27 million proposal passed by a 3-2 margin and it was subsequently approved by the voters.
Fast forward to July 9 of the same year. The architects made a presentation to the council for a “plan” that they developed to renovate historic town hall that they characterized as “detailed” information on the renovations.
The architects’ presentation informed the then -Town Council and the public that the existing structure needed numerous improvements including window replacements, new electrical and heating systems, and replacement of certain partitions. They also recommended restoration of council chambers to the second floor, restoration of all historic hardware, and some minor structural improvements. Lastly, the proposed plan proposed a two-story addition that would accommodate all town departments, and a new site/parking plan.
The presentation and question/answer period lasted one hour and fourteen minutes. According to the architects, the information was “detailed” enough for their construction manager to provide reliable construction cost estimates with industry standard escalators for a total budget is $12.5 million. Five million dollars were approved last fall. The upcoming bond is for the taxpayers to consider the balance.
Now, the two of us do not agree on whether this project should be approved. However, we do agree on the fact that there is a proposed plan with an associated budget for which the citizens of our community can make an informed decision about whether or not to approve this project.
The presentation may be viewed here: https://legistarweb-production.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/attachment/pdf/401369/1806_North_Kingstown_Town_Hall_FINAL_07.06.18.pdf
Gregory A. Mancini
Town Council President
Mary K. Brimer