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The application for the next key phase of South Kingstown’s proposed $85 million facilities plan survived two close votes this week, in what has become a bumpy road to try to get the document submitted to the state by a mid-February deadline.

The School Building Committee voted 7-4 on Monday to recommend submitting the Stage 2 application to the Rhode Island Department of Education. Then on Tuesday night, the School Committee discussed the application for more than an hour before approving it on a 3-2 vote.

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Robotic-assisted surgery – while still in growing stages – shows a bright future for patients, doctors and hospitals embracing this advanced technology, say local and national experts studying this surgical evolution having roots in South County Hospital.

Wakefield’s Ortho Rhode Island and South County Hospital are celebrating the 10th anniversary of using this technique transforming surgery in thousands of local cases – nearly a million nationwide last year — and whose use is forecasted to expand more widely.

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COVID-19 shows it can heat up body temperatures and well as the local real estate market, bringing boom times this past 10 months with home sales and bringing out-of-state buyers to the Ocean State.

Local real estate agents confirm the obvious that many residents have been chatting about for months: Homes are selling like hot cakes and they aren’t on the market long.

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The holiday season is traditionally a popular time to pop the question, and even in such a year as 2020, a quick scroll through a variety of social media feeds show that was no exception. Still, with COVID-19 present and many venues closed, engaged couples looking to plan out that special day face a variety of challenges, including finding the right photographer, planner, music and other quintessential wedding services, as many bridal and wedding expos that allow couples to meet with, get quotes and see the work of such professionals also closed.

Enter Kelly Carlini, owner of Bridal Shows by Kelly.

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Right now, life is tough for Megan, 34, and her family because she cannot pay their modest monthly bills and debt is piling up as COVID-19 financial ruin plunges them deeper into debt and despair.

“We’re taking money from bills we need to pay so we can go food shopping each week,” said the mother of two teenagers and a young child and who had been laid off for a while and whose husband is also out of work.

“It’s scary to see, it’s so sad. My heart breaks and we’re all so broken and we’re trying just to get by with the skin of our teeth,” she said between tears during an interview with The Independent about her struggles and putting her pride aside to seek help.

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Health care workers at all three of Thundermist Health Center’s locations, including those in West Warwick and South Kingstown, have received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Bourassa said hundreds of workers at the three campuses were immunized by Dec. 31. Many have been on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, at Thundermist’s respiratory clinics, or they’ve been providing various sorts of health care – medical, dental, behavioral and social services – despite the challenges of the pandemic.

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Officials in South Kingstown spent much of 2020 in Zoom meetings, working to shepherd an $85 million proposal for a new high school and other educational facility improvements to the state early next year and then to voters.

Residents elected new members to the Town Council and School Committee, and the town’s longtime clerk finally took a well-deserved retirement.

With seasonal traffic down because of COVID-19, the state completed a major upgrade to Tower Hill Road, and finished work on a new dormitory building at the University of Rhode Island — just before the coronavirus sent students home in the spring.

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Yes, 2020 intimidated us, but didn’t beat us.

Pandemics don’t come very often – thankfully – but as the world has seen, they bring life to its knees in many ways.  

And so it happened in South County that vast changes invaded everyday life. Even with devastating hurricanes in the last 100 years delivering destruction all around here, COVID-19’s sweep remains broader, stronger and perhaps much longer lasting.

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Sylvia Blanda knows well the local impact of a recent report that 25 percent of Rhode Island households are worried about lacking adequate food because of the pandemic and accompanying lockdowns.

She runs two take-out dinner programs — one in Peace Dale and the other in Westerly — that have seen a 140% increase since October in people seeking these once-a-week meals, given away free, without questions asked.

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South County Hospital’s fight against COVID-19 has taken another step as front line medical staff continue this week to get first doses of a vaccine as cases of the virus continue to climb in the area.

Emergency Department nurse Kevin Hurley became the first person to get vaccinated as South County Health offered inoculations to more than 1,000 staff members.

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With the General Assembly’s approval of a $12.7 billion state budget for the current fiscal year, local leaders are keeping a close eye on the levels of aid their towns can expect to receive.  

The House of Representatives voted 59-6 Dec. 16 to approve a pared down state budget for the 2021 fiscal year that restores funding to cities and towns, uses federal coronavirus relief funds to aid struggling Rhode Islanders and does not raise taxes or fees. The Senate approved it 31-5 Friday and Gov. Gina Raimondo signed it Monday.