Town celebrates historic day as safety complex opens

Town celebrates historic day as safety complex opens

North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi addresses those gathered for the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new Public Safety Complex on Saturday morning. (Breeze photos by Robert Emerson)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – There was a good reason for the gridlock on Mineral Spring Avenue last Saturday morning, Sept. 21, as public officials and residents celebrated a watershed event with the opening of the new North Providence Public Safety Complex.

Judge Frank Caprio, acting as emcee for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, called it a magnificent facility. He was one of several officials to praise the foresight of Mayor Charles Lombardi in advocating for this final product.

The new safety complex is a hub that all public safety employees and town residents can be proud of, said Caprio.

The complex, Lombardi told the crowd, provides citizens with the best possible public safety services for generations to come. Most importantly, it won’t cost local taxpayers one penny.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this public safety complex will be the envy of all other cities and towns,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said Lombardi showed relentlessness and tenacity.

“Literally, ladies and gentlemen, this is the house that Mayor Lombardi built,” he said, and generations of residents will now benefit.

Police Chief David Tikoian, in his speech, thanked everyone who had a role in this complex, including Deputy Chief Arthur Martins who gave him the time he needed to shepherd it through. He thanked Lombardi for having the vision and courage to propose the building and ensure that it came to fruition.

“Without your leadership, we would not be here today,” he said.

The complex will serve first responders, residents and the community at-large for generations to come, said the chief.

Tikoian shared about department circumstances both before and after the safety complex, including how life has changed with the overall station itself, the evidence room, crime lab, training room, and the emergency operations center, and amenities for the community.

Former Chief Paul Martellini, who was involved with securing the Google funds originally, thanked Tikoian for moving the complex to completion, calling this a “very historic occasion for the North Providence Police and Fire Department,” as well as all residents. He thanked Lombardi for including him in the event, which he said was “full of joy and emotion, joy for a celebration of a new beginning as well as emotion for the closing of a chapter of legacy and devotion to the past.” This day was a long time in the making, he said, and one many thought would never come, but hard work, perseverance and vision paid off.

He said former U.S. Attorney and current Attorney Gen. Peter Neronha, who also spoke, was a staunch advocate for the state and town during the deliberations over a 2012 settlement agreement with Google that brought $60 million to the town and made the complex possible.

Martellini thanked the task force from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, led by Special Agent Jason Simonian and including former Detectives James Watts and Timothy Heston. Their work proved vital to the culmination of the case against Google, which ended in the search and advertising giant paying $500 million to avoid criminal prosecution for serving ads from Canadian companies offering illegal pharmaceuticals to U.S. buyers.

Neronha noted that holding Google accountable represented a sort of beginning of the fight against the current opioid epidemic, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Last Saturday was a “great day for everyone,” he said, and he hopes those who have been impacted by opioids will look at this building as a sign of hope.

Martellini said he remembers the mayor telling him that they would do the right thing with the Google money, spending it prudently, and the mayor followed through after countless conversations about the town’s proposal with his bid to make it a police and fire complex instead of just a new police station.

“Our vision was to build a complex that would serve the town residents, facilitate the growing needs of the Police and Fire Department, but most importantly (be) one town residents could be proud of,” he said.

Lombardi recounted how former Acting Chief Dave Palmer, now chief in Hopkinton, came to his office to discuss the possibility of local officers being assigned to the task force. Lombardi asked how it would benefit the department, and Palmer explained and recommended that he follow through.

He and Chief of Staff Dick Fossa, when they learned of the settlement, immediately began considering how they could possibly spend it, he said. The pension fix was one of the first priorities, and today the system is 94 percent funded, the second highest level in the state.

Now North Providence has a state-of-the-art public safety complex, including municipal court, located in the center of town and across from a high school thousands of students attend, he said.

“This complex, I must tell you, was completed on time and on budget,” said Lombardi. “In order to accomplish a project of this magnitude, you need cooperation, support and dedication.”

He thanked everyone involved for their “commitment to perfection.”

Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, Lombardi’s friend, said Lombardi made local mayors proud for what he did with both the pensions and safety complex.

Giving the invocation at last Saturday’s opening was the Rev. Dennis Keiton, chaplain for the police and fire departments and pastor at Mary, Mother of Mankind Church. The Rev. Joseph Pescatello, former chaplain, gave the benediction. The national anthem was performed by Olivia Picard and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Michael Persaud. Residents toured the facility after the speaking program.

Fire, police, politicians and others gathered for the ceremonial ribbon cutting for the North Providence Public Safety Complex last Saturday morning.