Rhode Islanders to vote on the future of Clarke Science in special March election

Alexis Rapoza

News Editor

Photo via ric.edu

PROVIDENCE, R.I., — On Tuesday, March 2, Rhode Islanders will be asked to vote for or against various bond referendums which would cost Rhode Island $400 million. The ballot includes funding opportunities for affordable housing, transportation infrastructure and projects at all three of Rhode Island’s state colleges.


If approved, the $107 million bond referendum for higher education would be used to help fund a fine arts center at University of Rhode Island, the renovation of Clarke Science at Rhode Island College and renovations at all four of the Community College of Rhode Island campuses. Out of the total allocated funds, RIC is expected to receive $38 million for the college’s highly anticipated renovation of the Clarke Science Building.


“It's going to modernize our science building. Virtually every single RIC student walks through the doors at Clarke Science,” Sanchez said. “I think Rhode Islanders deserve a state-of-the-art science facility with the right technology and the type of equipment that are going to prepare Rhode Islanders for the future.”


RIC initially requested funding for the Clarke Science building in 2019, asserting that the building had “significant deferred maintenance.” President of the Rhode Island College Alumni Association, Micheal Smith, addressed the renovation in a letter to the House Finance Committee last year. He said, “The Clarke Science Building is nearly sixty years old. Designed in another era, it is today woefully inadequate for its purpose.”


According to Director of Capital Projects Kevin Fitta, “Much of the building hasn’t changed since it was first built in 1962. There have been some renovations over the years to specific rooms and laboratories, but generally speaking, the building is in need of major upgrades.”


Fitta says that should the bond be approved renovation is expected to be completed by 2024, with a year spent on design and 18 to 24 months on construction. In addition to construction on the current infrastructure, an expansion will be built onto the side of the building to house new research laboratories.


The seven bond referendums were initially expected to be included on the ballot in last November. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, says that economic uncertainty resulting from the ongoing pandemic caused the questions to be taken off the ballot.


She said, “Usually we would’ve had these questions at the end of the November ballot but, because of the economic uncertainty that the pandemic brought about the general assembly and the governor wanted to be more cautious and make sure that when we issue these bonds we can actually pay for them.” Gorbea continued, “So, the result of those conversations is that we have our own stand alone bond election for these statewide bonds totalling $400 million and your elected leadership believes that we can do that.”


Early in person voting ends on March 1 at 4 p.m.


Polls will be open on March 2. To find your polling location go to vote.ri.gov


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