Camp Meehan overhaul begins

Camp Meehan overhaul begins

A rendering of what the new recreation building at Camp Meehan will look like when complete.
Town employees will do much of work to save money

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Workers have commenced interior demolition on a building that local officials say will be a vital new recreational resource for all town residents to enjoy.

The project, paid for mostly through recreation grants and the North Providence Police Department's windfall from a Google settlement, will bring modernized recreational rooms and a new police substation to the waterfront of the Wenscott Reservoir.

About $750,000 to $800,000 will be spent on the project when all is said and done next spring, said Mayor Charles Lombardi.

Richard Zarlenga, a North Providence native who has come out of retirement to oversee the reconstruction project, said he and others are taking a "piecemeal" approach, meaning the job will take longer but save money by not hiring a private contractor. Town workers will do as many jobs as they can at a cheaper rate, said Zarlenga, but some projects, like a new roof and porch, will be subcontracted out.

"We have the capability now, with the town and school departments being together, of doing almost anything," said Zarlenga. "Our workers are capable of doing quality work."

Lombardi said his goal remains to get the entire building renovated and expanded "at little or no cost to the taxpayers." Doing the work in pieces "will save a lot of money," he said.

"I'm hoping to complete it for 70 cents on the dollar," said the mayor. "We're using our own people for as much as we can."

Lombardi estimates that there is now between $500,000 and $600,000 in the bank for the renovation of the building, with about $150,000 of that coming from the police Google fund for a substation and fiber optic technology. He plans to pursue additional grant money for the remainder of the project.

When complete, the building will be available for free to town groups, like the Scouts, said Lombardi. It will also be made available as a waterfront rental facility for special events, allowing town officials to bring in extra revenue.

The new facility will have a new defined entrance, large new porches, new bathrooms and kitchen, storage facilities, and a large gathering room with a revamped fireplace, said Zarlenga.

The entire building will feature the latest in energy efficiency, said Zarlenga. The facility is being designed with the idea that it will not be used 52 weeks a year but needs to be protected at all times.

"It will have a very unique, clean, economical design, but yet it will make a statement," he said. "It will make a statement that North Providence is progressing."

Some of the details have yet to be finalized, said Zarlenga.

It was June of 2012 when town officials paid $500,000 for the 15.5 acres of former Camp Meehan property on the Wenscott Reservoir to Gateway Health, but $300,000 came by way of the open space grant from the DEM.

The town's purchase of acreage formerly occupied by Camp Meehan gives residents a "pristine" recreation spot, according to Lombardi.

Prior to the purchase, Lombardi had long opposed to plans for a condo development at Camp Meehan. The property is located right next to Notte Park and its beach, giving residents a much larger recreation facility than they once had.

Other future planned improvements to Camp Meehan include: Refurbishment of two run-down basketball courts; a kayak/canoe center and launch area; a beachfront restoration; a new ballfield; gathering lawn and band shelter; and a new parking facility with drop-off lane.

Clerk of the Works Richard Zarlenga, left, goes over plans for the new building with Building Supervisor Jim Fuoroli, center, and Bernie Salvatore, the town's federal program coordinator.
Camp Meehan's dark and dated recreation building as it appears now.
The supervisors of the reconstruction of the recreation building at Camp Meehan showed gave a tour of the newly demolished interior last Friday. They are, from left, Building Supervisor Jim Fuoroli, Clerk of the Works Richard Zarlenga, and Bernie Salvatore, the town's federal program coordinator and acting assistant director of the Department of Public Works. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)


With all of the focus on the new place the existing parks will keep there rundown appearance.
Typical town politics, drum up interest on something new that does not cost much, yet, and not take care of the investments we have in existing parks where most of the people go to now because the parks are close to where they live.
But while attention in on Meehan, where are the skate board ramps, the bike jumps, you know the things kids do now, this out of the way park would be ideal for kids activities. This will keep preteens and teens out of trouble and give them a place to practice their fun hobby.
And we will have a police station right there, a perfect setup, what do you think?

Here is my list of concerns:

1) Will you be charged to visit this recreation area much like you are charged to visit the swamp beach?

2) Will the area be cleaned or will the trash cans continue topple over with waste as they do right now in the whole of the park?

3) Will the police substation be staffed or abandoned and vandalized as are most in RI?

4) Will this building be a catalyst for water quality improvement or will the beach remain closed most of the summer per usual?

5) By improving the facade of this building are we just putting lipstick on a pig for the overall problems that exist at the park?

6) I wonder who is prepared to answer these questions? Charlie, are you there?