North Smithfield to resume town meetings virtually

North Smithfield to resume town meetings virtually

NORTH SMITHFIELD – After a brief hiatus from most of its meetings due to the protective measures surrounding COVID-19, the town of North Smithfield is resuming some of its public meetings via videoconference.

On Monday, March 30, the Town Council will meet using Zoom at 6:45 p.m. Among the agenda items to be discussed is the approval of up to $400,000 of Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank financing for a water line extension on Mechanic Street and Old Great Road.

Earlier this month, Gov. Gina Raimondo issued an executive order relaxing the Open Meetings Act and allowing government bodies to meet in private or remotely provided the public was given an opportunity to participate virtually.

Members of the public who wish to participate in the Town Council meeting can follow the link here for instructions.

The School Committee will also meet next Tuesday, March 31, at 6:30 p.m. On the agenda are discussions of graduation, missed senior activities and emergency funding due to the coronavirus. Information for participating in that meeting is available here.

Town Administrator Gary Ezovski told The Valley Breeze on Friday the town is resuming some meetings to deal with time-critical issues. In the case of the water line extension, the town is attempting to move forward with a project intended to resolve water quality issues for residents on Mechanic Street and Old Great Road. Though the Town Council had previously approved financing for the project, bids opened in February came in higher than engineers had estimated.

After receiving the new information, said Ezovski, the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank agreed to provide $400,000 of additional financing with forgiveness, effectively keeping the town’s portion of the project cost the same, but the Town Council needs to approve the change.

Last weekend, the town of North Smithfield extended its state of emergency to April 5 to parallel the current distance learning initiatives and comply with national and state order related to the coronavirus.

Under the current circumstances, town employees are continuing to report to Town Hall, but residents are strongly encouraged to conduct municipal business online or by phone. The entrances to municipal buildings have been locked to protect employees from the spread of the virus.

“We’re trying to make progress in all things but also try to respect the need for our employees to maintain appropriate social distancing,” said Ezovski. “It applies everywhere, it’s not just in meetings and such. I’ve discouraged (the Department of Public Works) from going out with two people in a pickup truck. They can’t be six feet away. They need to be in two pickup trucks.”

Earlier this week, the Rhode Island Department of Health released information on the distribution of COVID-19 cases around the state. As of Thursday, at least one, but fewer than five, cases had been reported in North Smithfield. Both Woonsocket and Burrillville stood in the same category, with at least one but fewer than five cases each.

As of Friday, the statewide count of coronavirus cases was up to 203.

According to Ezovski, he and other municipal leaders had been asking for the community breakdown information in order to protect emergency responders.

“If they’re going into a building, I think we owe it to them to know that the virus has been present there so they can properly protect themselves and provide the service that they want to provide,” he said.

The North Smithfield Emergency Management Agency, he said, has also been working under the leadership of Director Peter Branconnier to prepare town buildings to use as Medical Emergency Dispensing Points of Distribution (MEDPODs) if necessary. Though not equipped to serve as testing sites, the sites could be used to distribute vaccines to residents quickly if one becomes available.