Town Council will appoint Halliwell advisory committee

Town Council will appoint Halliwell advisory committee

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Town councilors last week said they plan to appoint a nine-member committee to oversee both short- and long-term projects at the former Halliwell Elementary School on Victory Highway.

Newly elected Councilor Stephen Corriveau brought up the request during a meeting on Jan. 5. Corriveau asked Town Solicitor David Igliozzi to draft a resolution for a committee made up of nine members, including one member of the Town Council and one member of the Planning Board.

“I think it’s important that we create a resolution to have a committee for the Halliwell project. I think that a lot of town residents are open to that,” he said.

The committee is one more step in a process that has moved slowly since the school’s closure in 2019. Last August, Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski, then serving as a member of the council, proposed forming a committee to consider the future uses of the property but later agreed to wait when then-Town Administrator Gary Ezovski said the town was hiring a consultant to evaluate potential uses at the former school.

In November, the town selected the Massachusetts-based firm Weston & Sampson to consult on the project for $83,569, but according to Town Council President John Beauregard, the council still has to formalize the contract with the firm at its next meeting.

“It’s probably a good idea to get going with this, because they could meet with the contractor early on and then we can get an update as we go along,” he said.

Zwolenski expressed his support for the committee and requested authority to appoint one of its members, which Beauregard said the council would be open to.

Councilors did not select their own representative to the committee yet, but Corriveau said he would be interested in serving in the role. Councilor Claire O’Hara also said she had a “vested interest” in the project as a taxpayer. According to Beauregard, the meetings would be public, and residents would be welcome to attend at any time.

Jeffrey Porter, a member of the Planning Board, also put his name forward to serve on the committee. The Planning Board is set to discuss their nomination to the committee tonight, Thursday, Jan. 14.

“I think I have a lot to contribute being an architect and having past experience with this in my field of work with all the public work that I’ve been doing over the past five, six years now,” Porter told councilors.

While suggestions on what to do with the property have ranged from selling it to relocating the police station, most of the attention has revolved around a proposed senior and community center. Beauregard said he spoke with Linda Thibault, the former town administrator who recently retired as director of health and wellness for Aging Well Inc., who expressed interest in using it for the town’s seniors as soon as possible.

“I think two things can be going on at the same time. One thing is the board can be doing their thing, trying to figure out what we’re going to do with the Halliwell property, but in the meantime, those buildings should not sit empty,” he said.

“And for a little bit of money, we could turn that building into a community center for seniors and for other residents as well while at the same time the project is going forward.”

Councilor Paul Vadenais also expressed support for trying to use the buildings while coming up with an long-term plan, saying there was “a short-term and a long-term to this project.”

Igliozzi said he would submit a formal resolution for councilors to vote on at the next meeting with the plan of appointing members to the new committee some time in February.