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

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