Lombardi: Intensifying interest in old safety complex good for taxpayers

Lombardi: Intensifying interest in old safety complex good for taxpayers

NORTH PROVIDENCE – A fourth player has entered the fray in the battle to see who will buy the town’s former public safety complex building at 1967 Mineral Spring Ave., says Mayor Charles Lombardi.

“It seems like every day there’s another $100,000 for the town,” he said.

Lombardi, who isn’t going into details on potential uses for the old building or how much money the sale of the complex would bring, said he wouldn’t describe this as a bidding war, but told The Breeze, “It’s interesting as to the numbers that are coming in for the property.”

He added, “The proposals that are coming forth are putting taxpayers in a better position.”

The mayor said the offers being fielded for the complex are certainly helpful in his goal of offering a budget with no tax increase next spring.

“That’s my goal,” he said. “My goal is to get relief for the taxpayers whenever I can.”

Though a zero-increase budget is in his sights, said the mayor, he’s not going to get anyone’s hopes up all these months in advance. A $75 million bond to upgrade the town’s schools changed the equation a bit when it comes to future taxes, he said, but the town continues to pursue every possible source of revenue to offset any added burden.

Lombardi recalled how the sale of this property was even possible to begin with. He and other town officials went to the U.S. Department of Justice multiple times seeking a waiver to allow the Fire Department to be included with police in a new public safety complex funded through a 2012 police settlement with Google. If fire had to stay in the old location, the town wouldn’t have been able to sell it and it would have been difficult to find a tenant to fill the empty space vacated by police, said the mayor.

“Who else is going to rent the remaining square footage with the Fire Department there?” he said. “When the Justice Department gave us that, I knew we were going to have a windfall of revenue for the taxpayers. I saw that a long time ago.”

The mayor has said he expects to get more than $2 million for the former safety complex building.

Also helping the tax picture next year is the recent signing of a $15,000-a-month lease with the Center for Individualized Training & Education, or CITE, at the former Marieville Elementary School on the opposite end of Mineral Spring Avenue from the old safety complex.

Valued at $1.42 million in the town’s tax database, the former safety complex covers about 19,000 square feet. Built in 1974 on 1.6 acres of land, it has a large gated rear parking lot, fire engine bays, and the municipal gas pumps out back. The gas pumps would likely be moved as part of any sale to a private company.

Lombardi has said he will go to the council for approval on a final sale and use for the property.