EG-SC Asks State For ‘Ultimate Control’ Over School Building Project

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by Elizabeth McNamara | Jan 30, 2024 | eastgreenwichnews.com

Town Council slams query; puts brakes on state construction application

Supt. Brian Ricca last week asked the state Department of Education (RIDE) to declare that the School Committee and not the Town Council “has ultimate control over the scope and direction” of the $150 million school construction project approved by voters in November.

The “Request for Declaratory Order” letter was sent to RIDE on Jan. 23 with no prior notification to the Town Council (find the letter here: Declaratory Order Request 1/23/24).

The Town Council, which learned of the request Thursday, expressed their disappointment and anger during their meeting Monday night. (Find a recording of the meeting HERE – the relevant section comes 2 hours, 31 minutes in.)

“This is an unforced error,” said Councilor Caryn Corenthal. “This council has supported the bond. I said we would be fiscally responsible. We consistently reaffirmed our control.”

“This was something that could have been avoided,” said Councilor Renu Englehart. “The fact that this wasn’t even noticed to us … I find completely irresponsible. We campaigned on this … that the town would control the bond. However, I remain hopeful that some resolution will be made.”

One question that came up last night was timing. Specifically, why did the School Committee decide to seek the ruling now, just two weeks before the deadline to submit a “stage 2” application to RIDE? That application lays out how the bond money will be spent and seeks confirmation from RIDE that the town will get the up to 55 percent reimbursement officials are hoping for.  It requires “yes” votes from both the School Committee and the Town Council. 

The council voted 4-1 Monday night to deny the stage 2 application “without prejudice,” meaning they can take it up again. If the town misses the Feb. 15 deadline, they will have to wait until Sept. 15 to submit the stage 2 and they would have missed the deadline for the extra 20 percent in reimbursements (resulting in the loss of millions of dollars).

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