Lincoln physical education center moving forward

Lincoln physical education center moving forward

LINCOLN – Town and school department officials seem to agree that building a new Physical Education Center (PEC) at Lincoln High School is a priority.

The question is: what amenities might that facility encompass?

During a joint meeting on Monday evening, the Town Council and School Committee discussed some of their goals for the PEC, along with their concerns at this stage.

Council President Keith Macksoud said the primary objective is meeting the educational needs of Lincoln’s students.

The council requested that the school department share a list of their priorities/needs that need to be met with the PEC. School leaders indicated that one of their main concerns is the lack of physical education space at LHS currently.

The Rhode Island Department of Education’s construction regulations call for 20.3 square feet of physical education space per student. Lincoln falls short of this, providing less than 10 square feet per student.

Macksoud said the PEC should “give the high school students a facility they need, paid for entirely with money we have from the bond premium account.” He said

That leaves a budget of about $5.8 million for the project.

“We have a unique opportunity with the bond premium money. This is a one-shot deal. We need to spend it wisely and we need to get the most bang for our buck that we can,” he said, keeping in mind the cost of maintenance and upkeep on the building.

Officials recently toured Johnston’s athletic facility, which was built for roughly $3.5 million in 2017. Macksoud said a building like that could check off a lot of items on the school department’s list of needs, including storage space for large equipment and space for indoor activities.

Johnston’s facility includes three basketball courts, a suspended batting cage, storage and offices.

“If we’re looking at $5.8 million, I think we can be right in the ballpark of something along those lines,” Macksoud said. He’d like to build a facility with at least two basketball courts, lined for multiple uses, storage and locker rooms.

Councilor Bruce Ogni said he likes the idea of having three courts. A larger space could also “solve the indoor athletic needs of the town for many, many years to come,” he said. By charging rental fees, maintenance could help pay for itself, he added.

Macksoud said the reason they’re looking at two courts versus three is that they “didn’t want to cannibalize that much of the field” currently used for outdoor athletics.

Superintendent Larry Filippelli said the field space would be impacted if the PEC is built, meaning the school department will need to explore making changes to the so-called “pit” area to make up for lost practice space.

A discussion ensued over whether or not RIDE would reimburse money on a project that goes over and above meeting the needs of the students.

School Committee member Mario Carreño, who works for RIDE, said the application would be based on projected enrollment (not current enrollment), which is expected to rise to more than 1,200 students by the end of the decade.

Councilor Ken Pichette suggested starting with “looking at what that money can get us.”

Ogni agreed, saying he’d like to see a conceptual design showing possible locations and sizes for the building.

Filippelli said those detailed conversations may be better suited for later stages of the project, if it’s to move forward.

The LHS Building Committee, which has overseen construction on the LHS campus thus far, will convene for the last time this week before the committee reforms with some fresh faces to oversee future projects.

TJ Russo, co-chair of the current committee, suggested passing the project planning on to the “new” Building Committee, which would begin planning the PEC under the $5.8 million budget.

Their first move will likely be hiring an architect. Town solicitor Tony DeSisto said the job should be sent to bid.

Ogni said he’s in full support of the project, but that he wants it done “… so we don’t say: we should have added that, or we should have added this.”

“The bigger the better. That’s my position. It’s smarter to go bigger,” he said. He’s hoping to be part of the new committee, seeing the project through to fruition. “I don’t want to have to revisit this again.”