Barrington meeting: Bike path bridges, unfunded mandates and an asphalt plant

School committee and town council members share priorities with lawmakers

By Josh Bickford
Posted 2/26/21

The conversation topics ranged from the replacement of the East Bay Bike Path bridges to unfunded mandates handed down to the school department.

Members of the Barrington School Committee and Town …

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Barrington meeting: Bike path bridges, unfunded mandates and an asphalt plant

School committee and town council members share priorities with lawmakers

Posted

The conversation topics ranged from the replacement of the East Bay Bike Path bridges to unfunded mandates handed down to the school department.

Members of the Barrington School Committee and Town Council shared a Zoom meeting with Sen. Cynthia Coyne and Rep. Liana Cassar on Friday morning to discuss a variety of issues that impact Barrington.

Early into the meeting, council member Jacob Brier asked if there was any update about the replacement of the East Bay Bike Path bridges. For more than a year, the bridges have been closed, forcing pedestrians and bicyclists to use the car bridges that span the Barrington and Warren rivers.

Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha said he recently spoke with Rep. Jason Knight — he was unable to attend the meeting — about the bike path bridge replacement project. Mr. Cunha said there is nothing new to report, adding that he also reached out to the director of the department of transportation but has not heard back yet.

Mr. Cunha said he was not expecting the state to begin work on the bridges this month, but would like to know if there’s a plan in place.

• Maritime task force: Mr. Cunha asked for legislative support for a proposed bill that would bring money to coastal communities who help with maritime emergency responses. Sen. Coyne said she would trying to find out more about the proposed legislation.

• Vaccination update: Mr. Cunha said the town’s vaccination distribution is going well. He also spoke about a proposed plan by the state that would bring a regional municipal vaccination clinic to East Providence; it would service residents from Barrington and a half-dozen other communities.

• Testing site: Sen. Coyne asked how long the asymptomatic testing site in the Barrington Shopping Center would remain open. Mr. Cunha said he expects it will remain open until late March or early April. Sen. Coyne also offered praise to the school department for its weekly testing program for staff and student-athletes.

• Seekonk asphalt plant: Council member Rob Humm said he had spoken with Council President Michael Carroll before the meeting, and they were hoping that the local legislators would keep pressure on state officials to oppose the construction of an asphalt plant in Seekonk, near Four Town Farm. Sen. Coyne said she reached out to the AG’s office and they said they were still looking into all aspects of the proposed asphalt plant. Mr. Cunha said it did not appear that there was much town officials could do, as Barrington is not a direct abutter to the proposed project, and the plant is planned for an appropriately zoned section of Seekonk. He added that the plant would be more of a modern facility. “That being said we’ll keep pressing to have it moved to another community or farther away from ours,” he said.

• Legislation impacting the schools: Barrington School Committee Chairwoman Gina Bae said there have been a flurry of bills proposed impacting schools, and said she hopes legislators would reach out to committee members before taking any action on the bills. School committee member Dr. Megan Douglas referenced a proposed bill that would deal with early retirement for teachers and how districts would handle their pensions. Dr. Douglas said the proposed legislation could be devastating to school districts. “It’s an answer to pension reform. I just don’t think it’s the right answer,” she said.

• Unfunded mandates: Barrington Schools Assistant Superintendent Paula Dillon told legislators that the district was struggling with the funding and timeline associated with required curriculum changes handed down by the state. School officials also said that they were expecting a lot of money to be coming into the state to address “the Covid slide” and learning loss among students during the pandemic. The officials suggested that some of the money be used to implement the new initiatives. Rep. Cassar asked about the timing of the mandates. Ms. Dillon said the district needs an additional two years to meet the state’s mandates. Barrington secured some funding through grants — about $55,000. But officials said the implementation would cost about $30,000 per grade.

• Thanks for the work: Legislators shared thanks and praise with school and town officials for their work during the pandemic. Rep. Cassar said she was also deeply impressed with the district’s ability to maintain an athletic schedule, especially during the winter months. Officials agreed to hold another legislative meeting with the school committee and town council in the fall.

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