Study will gauge community support for athletic facility fundraising

The Westerly (CT) Sun, in a report by Dale P. Faulkner, says, “The School Committee voted 6-1 Tuesday to award a contract for a feasibility study to gauge support in the community for a potential fundraising campaign aimed at improving athletic facilities at Westerly High School.

Narragansett-based Dan Barry Associates was awarded the contract. The firm’s $12,000 offer was the low bid of two received. Convergent Nonprofit Solutions, a firm with offices in Atlanta, Orlando, and Raleigh, submitted a bid of $24,500.

Exactly what part of the school district’s budget the funds for the study will come from is unclear, said Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau. “We’ll find it somewhere in the fiscal year 2020 budget without much difficulty,” he said.

School Committee member Mary Adams, who voted no, asked about the source of the funding. She also asked who would maintain the fields if improvements are made and said that School Committee members were recently told that the town is responsible for maintaining the fields.

She also asked that potential funds that could be raised be used in compliance with the School Committee’s donation policy. A section of the policy requires the superintendent to “take into consideration the educational goals of the district and the operating and maintenance requirements of the donation.”

Garceau said, “Who is responsible for maintaining what grounds and what facilities in what departments has been an issue not so much of contention but of confusion at least since I’ve been here.” The superintendent, who started in the summer of 2017, went on to say that school and town officials met recently to discuss field maintenance and plan to meet again soon.

The idea for a fundraising feasibility study came from a Town Council-appointed committee that was asked to find ways to accomplish recommendations that were set forth in the municipal Athletic Facilities Master Plan.

The committee called for a focus, at the start, on Sal Augeri Field, the quad field, and the athletic track, all at Westerly High School. The study committee discussed several options, including the installation of an artificial turf field at Augeri Field and reconditioning the high school’s athletic track for $1.4 million; adding the installation of new lights and bleachers at Augeri Field to the first option, for $1.98 million; and as a third option adding the installation of artificial turf to the quad field to the first two options.

School Committee member Christine Cooke asked that the committee be given updates on the progress of the feasibility study. “This is a point of interest for many of us,” she said.

Voting in favor of the contract were Cooke, School Committee Chairwoman Dian Chiaradio Bowdy, and members Christine Piezzo, Marianne Nardone, Rebecca Greene and Tim Killam.

Adams has said she favors asking voters in a referendum to consider funding improvements to the fields. Voters rejected a $975,000 proposal for artificial at Augeri Field in a 2014 referendum question.

In other business, on Tuesday, the School Committee voted unanimously to ask the Town Council to approve the transfer of $286,679 allotted for school projects in the municipal capital improvement project budgets. The funds were left over from other previously approved projects in prior years.

The School Committee is proposing spending the money to pay for repairing the roof at Dunn’s Corners Elementary School, and for district wide heating and cooling system repairs, upgrades to wiring for the school security system, and safety repairs at Springbrook Elementary School. The total cost of the projects is $499,044, and the state Department of Education has agreed to reimburse 35% of the total project cost. State approval is good through the end of the year.

Before taking a vote, the committee held a general discussion on capital improvement funds approved by the Town Council for school projects. Members of the committee asked Garceau and Cindy Kirchhoff, the school department’s deputy finance director, to develop a report detailing all of the funds that have been approved and are currently assigned for school district projects.