NORTH SMITHFIELD – After more than a year of delays, a project to build a concession stand and bathroom facility at the North Smithfield High School football field is back on track, according to the developer overseeing the project.
Green Development agreed to construct the facility, valued at approximately $275,000, as part of its deal with the town surrounding a 38.4-megawatt solar farm off Iron Mine Hill Road. The deal also included about $270,000 in annual tax payments for the expected 20-year project.
Kevin Morin, director of engineering and development for Green Development, told members of the Town Council on Monday the project has faced delays related to the existing septic system’s nitrogen levels and securing a water source for the concession stand. Morin last gave an update to the council in February.
“We’ve made a significant amount of progress since then,” he said.
Last October, he said, Green Development learned the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management would require an alteration permit for the facility to tie into the existing septic system at North Smithfield Middle School. In reviewing data, they found the nitrogen levels for the existing system were too high. Morin said they worked with the operator of the septic system between February and June to adjust cleaning products and other chemicals that might affect the pH levels of the system.
“We were able to get the system on track to meet the nitrogen standard, well below the standard,” he said.
With the septic system problem addressed, Morin said the company’s alteration permit application is currently under review with the RIDEM. Once approved, he said, they can complete a building design.
“The memorial that’s there at the entrance going from the parking lot towards the field, we’ll need to work with the town to relocate that,” he said.
Morin said the earliest the town could see a groundbreaking on the new concession stand is November.
At the same time, the school department has continued its replacement of the artificial turf field and track at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Councilor Paul Vadenais said on Monday the project was supposed to be done by the end of this month but was prolonged by shipping delays.
“Stuff will be coming onsite this week to begin finishing the project,” he said. “You will start to see progress again.”
Councilors said they expect the turf field replacement will be complete soon enough to not interfere with the concession stand construction.
Green Development representatives on Monday also requested an addition to the company’s tax treaty based on changes to the proposed layout of energy storage features at the solar farm. While the company initially planned to place batteries at the individual power inverters for the solar farm, company founder Mark DePasquale explained they have decided to move the batteries to one storage facility next to the substation.
“The intent here was to put all the maintenance and everything in one location,” he said.
DePasquale said they are proposing to amend the tax treaty since the batteries might no longer be considered part of the solar hardware the company has already agreed to pay taxes on. Under the new agreement, he said, the town would receive an additional $100,000 per year.
“I felt that it was a taxable item that was not captured, and I didn’t want anyone to think we were trying to put something on the site that I was not paying tax on,” he said.
The Town Council did not vote on the tax treaty amendment, opting to take it up at a future meeting.