North Smithfield's 'steady' growth focus of State of the Town address

North Smithfield's 'steady' growth focus of State of the Town address

NORTH SMITHFIELD - Citing growth in both the business and residential sectors, and developments in open space, public transit and town government, Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton took an optimistic look at the State of the Town in an address delivered this week at Banneker Industries and sponsored by the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.

An influx of new business at Dowling Village and upgrades performed by National Grid allowed North Smithfield to decrease taxes in 2013, and Hamilton pointed to more growth expected on the horizon including the addition of Bridgestone-Firestone, Aspen Dental and Kohl's to the Eddie Dowling Highway development, and the pending construction of a Walgreen's and Navigant Credit Union elsewhere in town.

"Each decision we make has a lasting impact which is carefully weighed and executed," said Hamilton. "A steady growth is a sign of good fiscal health."

The town is projecting that 12 new homes will be built this year, and other projects, including a solar farm on Great Road and an expansion for Anchor Subaru, are in the process of gaining approval, Hamilton said.

"Departments are working closely to alleviate many procedural headaches that can plague new or expanding business requests," she added.

Hamilton said her office has also instituted monthly development meetings that bring together representatives from varying departments to coordinate on common goals, including police, fire, tax assessment, planing, public works and zoning.

"We are much more likely to find issues and correct them early on in the process if we are all in the same room and reading from the same page," she said.

Recently, the town began service at two new Park and Ride locations, allowing residents to save gas on trips from Slatersville to Providence.

Hamilton also lauded the work of the Town Council, discussing issues up for North Smithfield voters on this year's ballot, including changes to the town charter, and bonds to improve facilities and infrastructure.

"The town council authorized an engineering study of all roads in town. That study will provide us with a path forward to repair, replace and resurface roads in priority order," she said. "Too many years have transpired with no funds being allocated to road repairs."

Two controversial questions regarding the charter, the administrator said, could allow for more fiscal control of the School Department. They include a proposal to consolidate school and town facilities management, and an option to appoint two out of the five School Committee members. Currently, all five members are elected for two-year terms.

Hamilton pointed out that the town also recently purchased a 42-acre parcel of land for open space, thanks in part to a $400,000 grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Recently, she said she also met with new Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt to discuss issues that affect both communities.

"Our residents are proud of their community and strive to maintain a rural character that has always been so important through the years," Hamilton said. "Planned development, sound fiscal practices and open communication are the keys to a healthy and prosperous community."