Posted Wednesday, May 3, 2017 5:24 pm
By Jacob Marrocco
The Cranston City Council Finance Committee unanimously passed a resolution Monday night in support of renovations to the Cranston High School West auditorium, asking the administration to “supplement” the funds and efforts of the project.
Cranston West Alumni Association President David DiMaio spoke to the committee about the money raised thus far totals upwards of $100,000. The goal is $200,000 and the project would get underway after graduation.
City assistance could come through funds or extra workers to assist in the process. According to Finance Director Robert Strom, there is no money allocated in the budget specifically for this endeavor.
“We took a lofty goal on 18 months ago to raise enough money to repair the auditorium,” DiMaio said. “That is the first place any student will see when they walk into the institution. It’s just horrendous. I would like to say that it in any other manner, but it hasn't been repaired since 1963. We’re looking for any support.”
DiMaio said a schedule has been established for work on what will be dubbed Cranston West Alumni Auditorium. It has been approved at several levels, and the remaining steps are to raise more funds and get the renovations completed. He mentioned the renovations might be necessary anyway with any potential accreditation visits in the future.
The initial $100,000 was raised in a variety of ways, including individual and corporate sponsorships of the 673 chairs that will be featured in the new auditorium. Sponsors could contribute at bronze, silver, gold or platinum levels, ranging from $200 to $5,000.
Gold-level sponsors will have a personal message engraved on a plaque on the back of a front-row seat, of which there are only 26 available. Silver would receive the same treatment in rows two through four, while bronze would take up the remaining seats.
Platinum-level would receive, among other amenities, recognition at the dedication event and sponsorships of either the back right or back left handicap seating area or the back center video/sound board.
“Each seat will be numbered, each aisle lettered, the venue could be used to actually generate some money for the city,” DiMaio said. “We will have handicap seating with companion seating. We will have 16 handicap seats, 16 companion seats. Whatever support can be made in council or committee would be greatly appreciated.”
DiMaio said that lettering the aisles and numbering the seats would make the auditorium easier to rent out, which could generate money for the city.
“I just would like some support to try to finalize this and show the community can come together and actually complete a project they say they’re going to start.”
DiMaio added that the minimum goal is $150,000, but the extra $50,000 would come in handy should seats break or emergencies occur down the line.
“Our ultimate goal is to raise $200,000 to have some funding in escrow in case of an emergency,” DiMaio said. “If it’s rented it generates money and we can get another 53 years out of this one.”
The support for the resolution was overwhelming. Council President Michael Farina, a West graduate himself, said it is a “great project.”
“As a graduate of Cranston West, this is something I hold close to my heart,” Farina said. “I know the East auditorium was done with some CDBG [community development block grants] money and it still looks very good. Through this resolution, we can let people know this is something we’re passionate about.”
Citywide councilman Ken Hopkins, who has put three kids through West, also voiced his support.
“I want to congratulate you with the work you’ve done, and I encourage people to take part in this,” Hopkins said. “I would encourage it anywhere I can.”
The backing crossed party lines as citywide councilman John Lanni Jr., who doesn’t serve on the committee, encouraged passage as well.
“It’s asking [administration] to help out to fix the auditorium if they can, not demanding, not making an ordinance, not tearing the budget apart,” Lanni said. “Simple request. At least maybe this can get out to the general public. More people are aware, more people will contribute.”
While the measure passed unanimously, there was some concern from Ward 1 Councilman Steven Stycos and Ward 3 Councilman Paul Archetto. While both liked the intent of the resolution, and even offered support of it, both saw more pressing matters within the district.
“It’s a feel-good resolution, but the school department is $800,000 in the hole, so I really can’t see where the money’s going to come from for the Cranston West auditorium,” Archetto said.
Stycos had similar concerns to Archetto, though it is worth noting neither are on the finance committee. Ward 2 Councilman Paul McAuley is the only Democrat who voted on the resolution.
“We have a problem with the school budget and this is a school-related project,” Stycos said. “Implication is there could be funds. It’s great to ask the public to supplement the funds, but asking the admin gets us into an area we should not be in. If the school department wants to spend money on this, it’s their call, not ours. There are certainly more important projects in the schools than this one.”
Once discussion closed, the Cranston West graduates on the committee were informed they did not have conflicts of interest and the vote was taken.
Anyone interested in donating can visit www.cranstonwestalumniassociation.org for more details.