- Associated Press - Monday, September 29, 2014

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) - Government, education and business leaders launched a campaign Monday to win voter approval for a bond referendum that would provide $125 million to upgrade the University of Rhode Island’s engineering facilities.

Officials including Gov. Lincoln Chafee, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and URI President David Dooley gathered at Toray Plastics in the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown, which has pledged $2 million to the project.

Speakers called the project critical both for the university and for economic development in the state. The overhaul will accommodate a projected 18 percent increase in enrollment at the College of Engineering and prepare students for work in a critical field with high-paying jobs, officials said.

“There is a correlation between education and our economic future,” said Mattiello, D-Cranston, whose son recently graduated from URI’s engineering program and had three job offers. “I would suggest that Question 4 is an investment in that future.”

If approved by voters in November, the bond money would fund a new 195,000-square-foot College of Engineering building and renovations to existing facilities on the South Kingstown campus. Buildings in the engineering school date to the late 1950s and early 1960s.

URI also announced Monday a $400,000 donation from the Taco White Family Foundation. Of that amount, $300,000 will go to the new engineering facilities and $100,000 will fund an endowed scholarship.

The Nov. 4 ballot will feature three other bond questions, including a $35 million arts bond, $35 million transit bond and $53 million clean water, open space and healthy communities bond.

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