Multiple delays in securing a bid to perform necessary construction work to rehabilitate the former Lloyd Cooper Armory on Sandy Lane, known as the Cooper Building, is causing concern for the Boys and Girls Club of Warwick, that hope to move into the building as part of a lease agreement with the city and begin their operations on Oct. 3.
During the Sept. 6 meeting of the Warwick City Council, a bid request from the Department of Public Works for $15,000 to install new fire sprinklers drew the fiery ire of Finance Committee chair and Ward 5 councilor Ed Ladouceur, who called the bid incomplete and financially irresponsible to a point of being “insulting.”
“That entire doc was a disgrace,” Ladouceur said last Thursday. “I took personal exception to it. It was insulting to the finance committee and city council to even submit a document like that. It wasn’t a proposal. It wasn’t a contract. I don’t even know how to describe it, it was that open ended.”
Ladouceur said the bid, placed by AAA Sprinkler of Cranston, was missing crucial financial information, such as a prevailing wage labor rate, and a definitive overall cost estimate, and that the projected work didn’t include necessary electrical wiring or the installation of a backup hookup for the fire department to attach a hose into should the water pressure in the system malfunction.
Another bid was submitted, but was not received until around 4:30 p.m. on the day of the meeting, much too late to appear on the agenda or be considered by the council for approval. It was reported that the sprinkler work RFP had been sent to 20 potential bidders, twice, with only the one bid actually getting through to council vote. The matter was ultimately held until the next meeting on Sept. 18.
Another bid, requesting an additional $50,100 from an original budgetary award of $10,000, to wire the Cooper Building for data and voice capabilities was held for a second meeting in a row, as the Director of Warwick’s Management Information Services was unavailable to speak on behalf of the bid due to a personal conflict.
The inability to get the building ready and up to code concerns Lara D’Antuono, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Warwick, who said at the meeting that she in worried the club is in danger of losing out on pledged money from a successful fundraising campaign (which raised nearly $500,000 for renovations and equipment) if the club is not opened on its promised date.
“The parents are relying on us,” she said. “They’ve already had to find some temporary care for their children for a month. They would be hard pressed if we had to put this on hold for another month.”
Ladouceur contended, however, that the Cooper Building is not relying on a new sprinkler system to open its doors, as a fire detail could be utilized to ensure safety of the building until a proper bid was submitted and accepted.
Ladouceur maintained that it was important to not allow bids to be rubber stamped with vital information missing, or with an estimated $2,000 worth of financial uncertainty, as was the case with the AAA Sprinkler bid.
“It was not finance committee or city council that is causing this delay. They simply don’t have the information to act,” Ladouceur said. “I am not going to allow any department head to go to the grocery store, fill up their grocery basket and then not have money in the checking account to pay for it. We have got to get control over these types of spending.”
Mayor Scott Avedisian, while admitting that workarounds like a fire detail could be utilized as a stop gap between the new sprinklers being installed, is hopeful the city can go back to the bidding process and acquire a better offer and get the project back on schedule, as he envisions the Cooper Building as a vital link in a chain of afterschool programs available to the youth of Warwick.
“We’re trying to create a real center for teens that’s so needed in the community,” he said. “We’re keeping our eyes on that goal. We’ll meet with the council president and have discussions and try to find a way to get more bids in and find a way where the councilors are satisfied as well.”
Avedisian said that he could picture junior high students – who tend not to participate in Boys and Girls Club activities in his experience – walking to the new center from school at Warwick Veterans, creating a kind of “one stop shop” for teenagers as they would have access to physical activities, a recording studio and educational help as well.
“We have such a great opportunity, now that Vets is a middle school, to piece this together and do this as a teen center right around the corner from there,” Avedisian added.
D’Antuono agreed that the focus of the city council should be on collaborating to better the future of its children, and provide better access to resources that will keep them active and out of trouble.
“We want everyone to work together. Ultimately we're all here for the kids,” she said. “This is an opportunity to show the kids that we're willing to offer them an opportunity to invest in their future. I’m confident we can all work this out so it's a benefit for everyone while stilling being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers, the donors and the children.”
PATIENTLY WAITING: The Lloyd Cooper Armory building currently sits in a state of disrepair on Sandy Lane. Critical fire code improvements still need to be made, and the building is not yet wired for Internet or phone use. The Warwick Boys and Girls Club, that entered a lease agreement with the city to use the building from 2-6 p.m., are concerned about being able to open as planned on Oct. 3. (Warwick Beacon photo)