URI makes case for $100M Narragansett Bay Campus bond

PAULA S. BONTEMPI, dean of biological oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, explains a model of the planned Narragansett Bay Campus updates. / PBN PHOTO/JACQUELYN VOGHEL

NARRAGANSETT – The Ocean State has the resources to become a global leader in the blue economy, said University of Rhode Island president Marc Parlange, with URI positioned to become “the engine that fuels that activity.”

But to reach that full potential, Parlange said, the university’s Narragansett Bay Campus, which includes the Graduate School of Oceanography, Coastal Institute and one of the country’s few ocean engineering programs, needs major, costly repairs and new construction adding up to a $100 million bond.

As to whether the university will receive that bond will be decided in November’s general election.

On Wednesday, URI administrators, elected officials and other community leaders joined Parlange in kicking off the “Yes on 1” campaign, which asks Rhode Island voters to authorize a $100 million bond dedicated to improvements at the university’s Narragansett Bay Campus.

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Speakers characterized the bond as an investment in Rhode Island’s overall economic growth.

“Rhode Island’s ocean economy is a critical driver of the state’s overall health,” Parlange said. “Defense, tourism, marine trades and fisheries contribute more than $5 billion to the Rhode Island economy, and by 2030, that total is projected to double.

“Rhode Island has the opportunity to position itself to be a leader in the blue economy in the region and in the world, and URI will be that engine that fuels that activity,” he continued.

On the heels of an event he attended a day earlier in support of an additional ballot measure for a $50 million green economy bond, McKee also touted the university’s impact on the state’s overall economy and the state’s financial ability to take on the bond.

McKee urged voters to support the measure “not only because the investment really makes sense, but because the timing makes sense,” he said. “We can afford it.”

Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island will also receive more support going forward, McKee said.

“We are going to make investments in our state schools,” he continued, “because that’s where we’re going to grow a workforce, and my number one priority as governor is to increase people’s incomes.”

Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber is also prepared to invest time and resources in URI’s campaign.

“What we’re doing by doing so is investing in our educational needs, our students our faculty and our ability to forward our research,” White said. “This investment will ensure that Rhode Island continues and remains a leader in the global blue economy, as we are right now, and also find a way to use this to leverage additional funds.”

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.

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  1. Nothing shouts “small time” better than a system that subjugates the investment in public higher education to the whims of an electorate rather than using a more knowledgeable and dedicated legislative committee to make those decisions. That very few states use this approach is telling. Imagine a state like California with its vaunted public higher education institutions – 7 universities, 23 state universities, and 115 community colleges using this RI approach. A voter would have to spend hours in the polling booth to analyze such bond requests. Not to mention that using University personnel as political hucksters is misallocation of those resources.

  2. I wonder if anyone has considered partenering with the town of Narragansett to investigate investing in a desalination plant on the Bay Campus. Many surrounding communities have experienced water shortages regularly in South County . I personally cant remember a summer without water bans. Clean Water will be in high demand if all the climate activists and nearly every Rhode Island politician are right, so then why not move on Desalination before drinking water becomes a crisis?