URI Spends $47,290 on Unusable Trailers

The University of Rhode Island spent $47,290 on two trailers that were intended to be used for COVID-19 testing in July, but has not used them since discovering the trailers did not meet Rhode Island state code.

The state ended up denying permission to use the trailers because of modifications the University made to them. Among the $47,290 spent, only $13,000 was put towards buying the trailers themselves. The remainder of the money was spent on installations intended to improve the quality of the trailers. 

According to NBC 10 News, the University spent $16,000 to add electricity and heating, ventilation and air conditioning to the trailers, $10,372 to install power, $2,610 for fire and code evaluations, $2,500 for structural evaluation and tie down design, $2,479.50 for graphics on one trailer and $328 to evaluate if the trailers could be viewed as RVs instead of a structure. NBC 10 News reported that the state did not initially request changes made to the trailers, and the University may have done this on their own accord.

Brian Hodge, spokesperson for the Department of Business Regulation, said in a statement that URI never got the trailers recertified after the adjustments were made.

“The trailers purchased by URI, which were modified after leaving the factory, did not obtain recertification, and therefore could not be approved for use by the State Building Office (SBO),” Hodge said.

Hodge also said that the SBO allowed URI to use a third-party company to test the trailers, and did not hear back from any about the success or failures of them. 

The purpose of that final evaluation, according to Dave Lavallee, URI’s assistant director of media relations, was for greater ease in certifying the trailers.

Lavallee said the idea behind using the trailers came from seeing trailers used by the Rhode Island Army National Guard for COVID-19 testing earlier in the year.

“As we began planning to get students back in the fall, we started looking at the use of similar trailers for our COVID-19 testing as an alternative to bringing in students potentially carrying the virus into the Health Services facility,” Lavallee said.

In his statement, Hodge said that the state had “no information relative to the trailers used by the Army National Guard.”

Lavallee also said that, following the SBO informing URI that the trailers did not meet code, URI then attempted to further update the trailers to meet state codes.

“We hired structural, mechanical and fire protection engineers to determine what steps could be taken to resolve that issue, bringing the trailers up to building code within time and cost,” Lavallee said.

Lavallee said the University was able to refund the initial $13,000 charge.

“We bought the trailers from this particular group, and then we turned them over to the vendor who configured them for this purpose,” Lavallee said. “The finished trailers went back to the vendor who reconfigured them.”

The University also was refunded $2,749.50 for the cost of wrapping the trailers up with URI decorations. The rest of the money, $31,540.50, cannot be refunded.

Instead of the trailers, URI has instead been testing those without COVID symptoms in the Memorial Union, and those with symptoms in the Health Services building.

This story was published in the Nov. 5, 2020 edition of the Good Five Cent Cigar.

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