Smithfield Town Council gets down to business

Smithfield Town Council gets down to business

Council passes motions affecting town commissions, businesses, and infrastructure

SMITHFIELD – Improvements to both the Route 44 entrance ramp to The Crossing at Smithfield and Mountaindale Road Bridge are moving forward, Town Engineer Kevin Cleary told the Smithfield Town Council at its Feb. 7 meeting.

Using designs described as only 10 percent complete, Cleary showed a proposal to create dual left turn lanes into The Crossing at Smithfield.

The dual left turn lanes would allow for the stacking of additional vehicles, which intends to prevent blocking of the eastbound lane.

This would also allow more green light time on Route 44, particularly in the westbound lane, which could in effect lessen the queuing into I-295.

Traffic has been backing up to I-295’s northbound lane from the Route 44 West Exit 7B since the opening of the shopping plaza.

There is also a proposal to install communication antennas and communications sensors on the route, so the traffic lights can communicate with each other and eliminate need for manual control during peak hours.

Cleary also provided an update on the construction of Mountaindale Road Bridge.

“This is quite an exciting project,” Cleary said.

Structural deficiencies were found in the bridge back in 2013, so traffic on it has been limited to one lane. But the Engineering Department is ready to ask the Town Council to make a request for proposals on its behalf for construction services.

Cleary said the project would be around $925,000 and the department would like to issue a contract in May, so construction could begin before Memorial Day and finish around Thanksgiving. Pending approval of the request for proposals by the town solicitor, a motion of support was passed.

Last week’s meeting revealed signs of strain in the working relationship between the School Committee and the Town Council.

Since the 2017 School Committee has scheduled its meetings for the same time slot as the Town Council, communication has changed. Later in the evening, members of the community expressed frustration that the School Committee changed its meeting time, since it directly conflicts with the Town Council.

“It’s totally unacceptable that the residents of this town have to make a choice,” one Smithfield resident said.

Town Council President Paul Santucci said he would draft a letter to the School Committee members asking them to stagger their meetings.

On the subject of the School Department, the council scheduled a work session with the School Committee for March 7.

The council was also asked to consider referring the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center building and grounds to the Smithfield Asset Management Commission for a report. The report is requested because the neighborhood center is asking for a new roof and needs assistance paying for it.

The neighborhood center had already asked the town’s finance director, Randy Rossi, to solicit quotes, a move that diverges from town procedure. Councilwoman Maxine Cavanagh suggested scheduling a workshop with the center’s board of directors and council members Suzy Alba and Paul Santucci offered the idea of a report or presentation detailing center updates.

Since the building is also listed as a historic structure, the council concluded that the board of the Asset Management Commission and members of the Historical Society of Smithfield could tour the neighborhood center on Feb. 21 to assess necessary renovations.

The Town Council also scheduled a work session for Feb. 24 to discuss the selection of a new town manager, since current manager Dennis Finlay is preparing to retire.

Alba said the council should consider creating a citizen committee to welcome public input on the town manager candidates.

Town Manager Dennis Finlay also read a press release announcing that Smithfield was chosen by Rhode Island PBS as the location for an “Our Town” documentary. Each year, the state’s PBS station features two towns in a documentary that highlights local folklore, businesses, and traditions.

In addition, the council addressed some more standard fare:

• The council met Georgia Lowe of the United States Census Bureau, who discussed plans for a 2018 end-to-end test and shared designs for the 2020 census.

• The council approved the appointment of Albert Gizzarelli Jr. to the Asset Management Commission, with a term expiring in April 2021.

• Rocco’s Pub & Grub, at 55 Douglas Pike in Smithfield, had its intoxicating beverage license renewed without public comment and Smithfield Senior Center was approved for a one-day beer/wine license.

Town Council Vice President Alberto LaGreca Jr. and Councilman T. Michael Lawton were absent.