NORTH SMITHFIELD – A new fire contract in North Smithfield will result in added staffing and reduced emergency wait times, according to officials.
Resident Denis Lapierre said at Monday’s Town Council meeting that it took 25 minutes for his mother to receive medical attention during an incident last year because the Fire Department was out on other calls.
“I’ve addressed the Town Council over the past year with my concerns,” said Lapierre.
He thanked them for taking steps with a new three-year contract to add new firefighters.
During the council meeting on Aug. 1, Chief David Chartier told the council that individuals had already been hired and would fill scheduling gaps, allowing the department to finally be staffed fully Monday to Friday. The increase from 23 to 25 members was passed in the annual budget approval. The cost of the new firefighters would be $216,000 annually for the next three years.
“We all heard horror stories of people waiting forever,” said Town Council President John Beauregard during the Aug. 1 meeting.
A member of the Board of Directors for the North Smithfield Fire and Rescue Services, Michael Crepeau, also addressed the council on Monday, confirming the language of the contract and thanking the council for their due diligence.
In contentious times, he said, “it’s nice to know that we can actually sit down and talk to each other,” said Crepeau. Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski agreed to sign the contract after it was approved by the council, but needed the chief’s signature to finalize the document. Chartier was not present at the meeting.
Junk removal continues
Also on Monday, Zoning Official Larry Enright updated the council on the cleanup of junk at a private property at 282 Quaker Highway, saying that more than 100 tons of material has been cleaned up from the exterior of the property. The material filled 45 dumpsters. Items included boats, propane tanks, tires, forklifts, and cars.
“I think there was a lot more material than anyone thought,” he said.
Zwolenski commended Enright for spending his work days making sure the property gets cleaned up.
“We’re not done,” said Zwolenski. “No one could have predicted the amount of heavyweight material that had to come out of there.”
Enright added that he had never seen anything that bad in his years of working, while council member Paul Vadenais recounted that when cleanup was happening on one Saturday, he could see people dumping more trash off at the site.
“Honest to God, they were still showing up while they were trying to clean … my biggest concern that it will get back to the way it was,” said Vadenais.
The council approved a motion to add $16,557 to the original $50,000 cost of the cleanup, to be added to the lien on the property.
More parking needed
Also Monday, Beauregard brought up the idea of expanding the parking lot at Veterans Memorial Stadium. He recounted that several weeks back, he had a discussion about the dangerous parking conditions after someone was hit crossing the street. Beauregard said when he was checking up on progress with the town’s new restrooms and concession stands, a representative from Green Development asked him about the possibility of putting solar canopies up in the existing parking lot.
“I said I can’t make that decision myself. We have a real parking problem here,” he said.
“If you put solar canopies on that I’d like to bring it to the council and find out if it’s advantageous to the town,” said Beauregard. Councilor Claire O’Hara made a motion to hold a meeting with Green Development and the School Committee to review a plan for the parking lot.
Zwolenski also brought up the Town Hall parking lot, saying that everyone knows it’s dangerous and a liability. Thankfully, residents who have fallen in the lot have been understanding about the conditions, but the town might not be so lucky in the future.
“What exacerbates the situation is that we’re coming up on primary elections and we’ve been notified by the Secretary of State that we need to have that parking lot safe,” he said.
Finance Director Cynthia DeJesus said they would table the discussion until Sept. 6 as council members consider their options.