Concerns grow over how inflation could affect proposed school projects in Warwick

WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE) — With concern growing over the possibility of two proposed new school buildings in Warwick coming in over budget, city leaders are taking steps to avoid a worst-case scenario.

The city of Warwick opened a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) Monday for the $350 million project that will build new Pilgrim and Toll Gate high schools in the city after the council expressed concerns over the project’s budget that was approved by voters in the November 2022 election.

In a statement issued to ABC6 News, Council President Steve McAllister noted concerns for the project with issues like higher interest rates, banking concerns, and inflation looming large, potentially putting the $350 million price tag in jeopardy.

The City Council and the Mayor are concerned about the changes in the market since November 2022 when the citizens of Warwick voted to approve building two new high schools for $350 million… This is a generational project that has a major impact on all taxpayers and students, so the council is taking our time and doing our homework to ensure we have the most accurate information available in order to make an informed decision on whether to issue the bonds at this time.

David Testa, the chairman of the Warwick School Building Committee said Wednesday that the committee will do whatever it can to stay on budget.

“We have to have the project come in on budget. There are not 351 million dollars to do this,” Testa said. “You may have to re-engineer some things if the inflation has really hit some things in an area. But, we know that. We’re very conscious and aware of that. But our intention is we will come in on budget.”

Earlier this week, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives that may help with the timing of these projects, which would allow for more time for school projects to be bid on.

“Right now, you must have a contractor in place by the end of December,” Testa said when discussing the proposed bill and how it could affect the Pilgrim and Toll Gate projects. “And you can’t do that until you have a design, so if you extend it six more months it gives you more time to design the building.”

With the city’s RFQ proposal opened, companies have until May 15 to submit their RFQ proposals and from there the city council will vote on who to hire at a June City Council meeting based on recommendations from a special committee created to review bids.

Afterward, the city will then negotiate with the chosen company to come to a final budget for the new schools.

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