Letter: Portsmouth bond issues will benefit both young and old

Posted 10/11/21

To the editor:

The voters of Portsmouth have an opportunity to approve two ballot initiatives in a special election on Nov 2. Both are forward-looking projects that voters should give strong …

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Letter: Portsmouth bond issues will benefit both young and old

Posted

To the editor:

The voters of Portsmouth have an opportunity to approve two ballot initiatives in a special election on Nov 2. Both are forward-looking projects that voters should give strong consideration to approving. 

Question No. 1 is a $21.44 million school facilities bond. This bond makes good financial sense for Portsmouth taxpayers because it allows the town to take advantage of additional financial incentives being offered right now by the R.I. Department of Education. In 2018, Rhode Island voters approved the Statewide School Construction Bond, which activated six new temporary bonus incentives and access to $250 million in funding to increase the state’s cost share of capital improvements to school buildings. The proposed Portsmouth bond targets common sense health and safety projects and should result in 40-percent reimbursement from the state, saving the town nearly $8.6 million. In order to qualify for 40-percent reimbursement, the total amount of the bond has to be approved. Then the state will pay Portsmouth approximately $1.5 million upfront, but the remainder will only be reimbursed as projects are completed. Given the time limited incentives from the state, the time to act is now.  

The projects will help all our school buildings meet the health and safety needs of our current and future student population. While the school department approved a prudent policy years ago to earmark any budget surplus for capital improvement projects, this “pay as you go arrangement” is not sufficient to tackle the larger but necessary projects needed to not only maintain but also improve our buildings. This type of maintenance is critical if Portsmouth residents want to avoid much larger bonds in the future to pay for new schools.       

Question No. 2 will authorize the town to enter into a long-term lease of the Anne Hutchinson School property with Church Community Housing (CCH). CCH will then construct an affordable senior housing complex that includes a new space of similar size for the senior center on the same property at no cost to Portsmouth taxpayers. 

Studies have shown that the existing building that has housed the senior center is too expensive for the town to bring into compliance with current fire and safety codes. This project will allow our town to take care of two problems at the same time while also putting the property back onto the tax rolls. We will be able to address our lack of affordable housing by creating 50-plus affordable apartments for seniors and also provide new space with state-of-the-art features to continue the valuable programming offered to our town’s seniors. Our existing Portsmouth Senior Center board will continue to manage this new space which will include a thrift store, fitness room, game room, kitchen, dining room, multi-purpose room and library as they managed the center in the Anne Hutchinson building.     

Approval of these two projects will benefit both the youngest and oldest citizens in the town of Portsmouth and ultimately will also benefit our taxpayers. I ask my Portsmouth constituents to join me in voting “yes” on both.

Rep. Terri Cortvriend

District 72 (Portsmouth, Middletown)

46 Mary Lane

Portsmouth

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