The Hummel Report

Investigative Reports That Get Results

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Year-End Update

As we get ready to put 2016 in the rearview mirror, Jim Hummel has new information on a handful of our investigations: from mixed reaction to the completion of a high-profile state road project and repairs on another; to a much-needed infusion of funds for one community with several rapidly-deteriorating school buildings.

 

SCRIPT:

As we get ready to put this year in the rearview mirror there is new information on some of our investigations in 2016 - beginning with the completion of a high-profile road project that has brought mixed reaction.

The $71 million Apponaug Circulator project in Warwick began back in 2014 with the goal of realigning a series of historically problematic intersections.

Last month the state Department of Transportation unveiled a totally new traffic pattern that includes four rotaries spread out at strategic points across the circulator - which traffic engineers say dramatically reduces accidents at what previously were four-way intersections.

But we’ve heard from some motorists who say it has been a rocky transition - as drivers get used to who is supposed to yield to whom, despite multiple signs in the rotaries - which used to more common in Rhode Island decades ago, but are foreign to a new generation of drivers.

We will keep an eye on the circulator in the coming weeks and bring you an update sometime in 2017.

It has been years - some might say decades in the making, but the North Providence school system is getting a much-needed infusion of funds to upgrade its deteriorating buildings, after voters last month passed a $75 million bond.

The video really tells this story: century-old elementary schools in North Providence that in some cases are literally beyond repair. We outlined the extent of the problem throughout town in our story from the fall of 2015.

Voters last month agreed with school officials that something has to be done, voting by a 77 percent margin to approved a $75 million bond that will pay for two new elementary schools and fund upgrades to eight other buildings across the town .

Smith: ``We are absolutely thrilled and now the hard work begins.’’

Superintendent Melinda Smith says students will be moving out of the Stephen Olney and Maguire Elementary schools at the end of the school year when the buildings will be demolished.

Smith: ``We’re going to begin meeting with our construction manager and our architect;   we’re going to develop a comprehensive timeline, we need to stick to that timeline,  because we have students moving out of two schools going to swing space, at St. Pat’s in town and then we are leasing space in Johnston at Calef Elementary school.’’

The schedule calls for them to move back into brand new schools adjacent to their old ones, in April of 2019.

Hummel: ``What do you say to the 23 percent who didn’t vote for it?’’

Smith: ``Well they haven’t been in our schools, and I think the last time you and I met you took some really compelling video of inside those schools. And had they been inside the schools they probably would have voted to repair them because it really is staggering the conditions our children are working in. ‘’

Last month we told you about a proposed sewer project in North Kingstown using aimed at helping an affordable housing complex.  Now we’ve found that project will actually help the bottom line of a private, for-profit owner company.

Wickford Village was built as Navy housing in the 1960s, and converted years later to low-income housing units. Our story warned that the town’s plan to use $1.5 million in funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to extend a sewer line by the units, eventually down to Wickford Village, could come with heavy strings attached down the line. The money has been approved and allocated, but the project has not broken ground yet.

Since our story ran, we’ve learned that Wickford Village LP is a for-profit enterprise, and currently pays for professional sewage services, as the entire development is on septic. That means a federally-funded sewer line that would tie into Wickford Village, and nearby North Cove, would benefit private owners and taxpayers would be helping to boost their bottom line.

The current town council president has not responded to several requests for comment.

Finally three years after four sets of Jersey barriers began lining the Iway Bridge, repairs are almost complete to the defective guardrails, meaning an end to the ugly concrete barriers greeting passing motorists.

They had already been there a year before we did a story in 2014 explaining why. The D.O.T. told us a routine inspection showed that one of the guardrails, presumably struck by a truck or other vehicle, had  been compromised. That prompted the state to put up Jersey barriers until engineers could figure out why.

After months of studies and haggling that turned into years the D.O.T. determined the contractor, Cardi Corporation, was at fault and responsible for picking up the repair. That has been going on much of this past year. Over the summer the inside lanes looked like this - barrier free, and a spokesman tells us by the end of the month the outside lanes should be completed too, allowing the bridge to go back to the signature structure it had been when it was installed nearly a decade ago.

We are looking forward to 2017 and hope you come along for the ride . And as always, if you have a story idea or tip that you’d like to have our team investigation contact me directly at jim@hummelreport.org.