Voters took to the polls across the Ocean State on Tuesday and approved all seven statewide bond referendum questions, two of which directly impacted South County through the University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center and the Port of Davisville, for a grand total of $400 million towards projects around the state.
All of the bond questions passed with substantial margins, with the biggest winner of the day being Question 4, which called on voters to approve $71,700,000 in bonds to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to continue their 10 year plan to restore the state’s aging roads and bridges, passed with 80,780 votes (80.4%) to 19,793 (19.6%), while Question 2, which called on voters to approve $74 million in bonds for environmental and recreational purposes, including $33 million dedicated solely to state beaches, parks and campgrounds, passed with 78,058 votes (77.8%) to 22,225 (22.2%).
Nearly one quarter of the bond total approved by voters, $107,300,000, is dedicated to Question 1, which pertained to renovations and improvements to CCRI, RIC and the URI Fine Arts Center, the latter of which is bonded at $57,300,000. Through the bond, URI said they plan to build a new 82,000 square foot main academic building for classrooms and labs to support 5,000 students involved with the theater, art and music department at the state’s flagship university. According to URI, construction is set to begin in 2022 and is slated to take about two years to complete.
Question 1 passed by one of the more narrow votes of the day, but still with a double digit gap as 59,227 (58.9%) of voters approved while 41,354 (41.1%) opposed the measure.
In South Kingstown, Question 1 saw greater overall support, with 2,953 (63.6%) of voters favoring the bond, while Narragansett voters also were more in favor than the state average with 1,406 (59.5%) approving. In North Kingstown, the support was slightly under the state average as 2,448 (56.9%) voted in favor of the bond.
Question 7, which asked voters to approve $60 million in bonds to make infrastructure improvements to the state’s industrial facilities, with $20 million specifically dedicated to the Port of Davisville in Quonset, which has become one of North America’s largest auto import centers taking in well over 200,000 cars annually and will serve as a receiving point for electricity generated by the upcoming Revolution Wind wind farm.
Specifically, the focus will be on making repairs to Pier 1 at the Port of Davisville, a pier which was initially constructed by the US Navy in 1941, as well as adding an additional pier to increase import intake at the park.
“The Port of Davisville supports more than 1,700 jobs, so we want to continue that, provide those good jobs for Rhode Islanders and as we look to incorporate offshore wind and O&M (Operations and Maintenance) and different things connect to offshore wind, the bond issue helps us to grow the port, continue to improve the infrastructure and leverage it for jobs for Rhode Island,” Quonset Development Corporation CEO Steve King said recently.
The other $40 million portion of the bond will also be overseen by the QDC as the state looks to replicate Quonset’s “Site Readiness” industrial site development initiative across the state by using the funds to make parcels of land business ready for manufacturing.
Question 7 had the narrowest margin of victory of the day, though still won by double digits in percentage points as 58,791 (58.7 percent) voted in favor of the bonds while 41,331 (41.3%) voted to reject it.
“The Quonset Development Corporation thanks the voters of Rhode Island for passing bond Question 7 in yesterday’s special election, an endorsement of our work here at Quonset,” King said. “This $60 million investment in Rhode Island’s economic future will bring new jobs to every city and town in our state, increase tax revenue and prepare Rhode Island to be a leader in the growing offshore wind industry.”
Question 7 saw a higher level of support in this area, with 62% of voters in both North Kingstown (2,667) and Narragansett (1,458) in favor of the bonds, while 2,806 (60.7 percent) of South Kingstown voters approved the measure.
Elsewhere on the ballot, Question 3, which pertained to $65 million in bonds for subsidized housing initiatives and the renovation and construction of units, passed with 65,293 votes (65.5%) to 34,386 (34.5%). Question 5, which pertained to $15 million in bonds for the Early Childhood Care and Education Capital Fund to make improvements to and continue the development of licensed early childhood care facilities, passed with 66,534 votes (66.2%) to 33,964 (33.8%).
Question 6, which pertained to a $7 million bond to subsidize arts and cultural programs across the state including $6 million to be administered by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts through their Cultural Arts and the Economy Grant Program for improvements, renovations and the preservation of public and non-profit performing arts centers, passed with 60,191 votes (60%) to 40,160 (40%).
For more information on the election and to view the results town by town for the special election and previous elections, visit ri.gov/election/results.