2015-06-18 / Around Town

Newport Resident Buys Underwood School

By Tom Walsh

The City of Newport formally sold the vacant William J. Underwood Elementary School at 90 Harrison Ave. in the city’s south end on Wednesday, June 17, to John D. Picotte Jr., for $2.5 million.

The City Council had unanimously endorsed the sale to Picotte at its June 10 meeting. Picotte lives close by the former school and its 3.2-acre site at 19 Brenton Road. According to official records, Picotte formed Schoolyard Properties, LLC on May 22, 2015. Picotte could not be reached for comment on what plans he might have for the property.

“Whatever happens, it will fit well into that neighborhood,” said Mayor and City Council Chair Jeanne-Marie Napolitano.

The five one-story buildings that comprise the Underwood School complex have stood vacant since June, 2013 when it and other city elementary schools were closed and replaced by the new Claiborne Pell Elementary School on Dexter Road. The School Committee turned the property over to the city in October, 2013.

“I think it’s a very good deal for the city,” said Napolitano. “I think the Council has acted very responsibly. All in all, we made a good decision.”

Napolitano said the appraised value of the Underwood property was as much as $3 million but that nearby wetlands limited possible uses of the land and diminished the eventual selling price of the property. The proceeds from the sale will go into an acquisitions fund for unspecified future use. She said the funds would not be used to close projected School Department structural budget deficits for the current year and next year.

“There’s an accounting principal that says you don’t use onetime funds to meet recurring expenses,” she said.

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