Gov. Chafee Endorses Bond to Renovate RIC Buildings

From left, RIC President Nancy Carriuolo and Gov. Lincoln Chafee

Gov. Lincoln Chafee expressed support for Question No. 3 on Tuesday’s ballot – a $50 million bond for renovation of three vital but aging classroom buildings at Rhode Island College.

On Nov. 1 Chafee visited the RIC campus to see the structures. "This is the best investment we can make," the governor said of the bond, after a 45-minute tour of Craig-Lee and Gaige Halls. He noted that most of RIC’s 8,000 undergraduates are Rhode Island residents, many of whom remain working in the state after graduation. It’s important that they be provided with the academic necessities.

Chafee added that the project will also create jobs during the construction phase, a benefit few can deny in a state whose unemployment rate remains among the highest in the nation.

Craig-Lee, with 32 classrooms, and Gaige, with 30 classrooms, are multi-storied structures that also house faculty offices. Fogarty has been the site of RIC’s nursing program since at least 1974 and includes offices, classrooms, a conference room and lab spaces. The structures are at least 40 years old, with Craig-Lee the oldest at almost 50.

All three buildings are plagued with age-related problems: faulty heating and cooling systems, outdated wiring, leaky ceilings, asbestos-tiled floors, inadequate office space and elevators prone to malfunction. The buildings, particularly bathrooms, elevators and corridors, are not equipped for students in wheelchairs. And some faculty have offices that were once closets. They’re so small that faculty can only meet with students in nearby hallways.

RIC President Nancy Carriuolo and Assistant Vice President of Administration and Finance Donald Tencher led the governor’s tour and pointed out along the way the more severe problems at Craig-Lee and Gaige (the governor’s tight schedule did not allow time for a visit to Fogarty), while students were clearly amazed to see Chafee, who often stopped and chatted with them about their studies and plans for the future.

From left, Carriuolo, Chafee and Don Tencher

Carriuolo and Tencher told the governor about a student in a motorized wheelchair who was stuck in a Gaige Hall elevator when it malfunctioned. The student and her wheelchair had to be carried down three flights of stairs, “a fearful experience for her,” Tencher said. It took quite a while to repair the outdated elevator, because parts were difficult to find (parts were finally located in the mid-West). There’s also about $200,000 in roof repairs needed for Gaige, Tencher said.

Approval of Question 3, Higher Education Facilities Bonds, will allow the Board of Governors for Higher Education to modernize Craig-Lee Hall, Gaige Hall and the Fogarty Life Science building at a projected cost of $50 million, with work to begin in March and to be completed by January 2017. Assuming an interest rate of 4 percent, with bonds amortized in level payments over 20 years, the actual total cost would be $73.6 million, including $23.6 million in interest.