Providence Water wants to borrow tens of millions for new building

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Officials at the Providence Water Supply Board want to borrow up to $39 million to move their existing offices on Academy Avenue and Scituate Avenue in Cranston to one location in the capital city.

At a meeting last week, the City Council Finance Committee approved an ordinance that allows the board to borrow the money to purchase 125 Dupont Drive, a 16.5-acre building located in an industrial park near the Mashapaug Pond. The ordinance must still be approved twice by the City Council.

“It met all of our criteria,” Richard Caruolo, the board’s executive director, told the committee. The board has been seeking to leave its Academy Avenue headquarters for several years.

The $39 million revenue bond would be borrowed through the Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Agency and paid back by ratepayers, according to city officials.

Caruolo said he has already put down a $250,000 deposit on the Dupont Drive property, which formerly housed a Bank of America calling center. The board expects to pay $10.35 million for the building, about $1.8 million more than the assessed value. Outfitting the property for the board will cost another $16.3 million, according to figures provided by Caruolo.

Caruolo apologized to the Finance Committee for not informing them of the agency’s plans sooner, but said he was operating under a confidentiality agreement. He said the board needs approval to purchase the property by Sept. 1 and the expected closing date would be Dec. 20.

The offices on Academy Avenue and Scituate Ave would close. Caruolo said there are several parties interested in buying the Academy Avenue property, which is located next to LaSalle Academy.

In his presentation to the committee, Caruolo said the benefits of moving to the new location include having all operations in one facility, easier access to highways and facility upgrades. He said there is a chance the board could also pay taxes to the city, but indicated that would need to be approved by the Public Utilities Commission. (The board currently does not pay taxes to the city.)

The Providence Water Supply Board is a city department and all employees are considered city employees, but it has a separate budget and a higher bond rating, according to Standard & Poor’s. The board provides water to 60% of the state’s population.

The City Council could take up the ordinance as soon as Thursday.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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