NORTH SMITHFIELD – After a nine-month public feedback process, the town is moving forward with plans to explore a community center as the primary reuse of the former Halliwell School property.

Last week, members of the Town Council agreed to amend a contract with a consulting firm to focus solely on a community center instead of exploring other options for the property. The decision came at the recommendation of Halliwell Review Committee Chairman Jeffrey Porter, who said that after several months of gathering feedback, the committee realized residents were overwhelmingly in favor of using the former school as a community space.

“The town would really like to see some sort of community center in some capacity, so we felt that having Weston & Sampson further explore what viable uses may or may not be down there, whether they were public or private, was not really worth their time and our money,” he said.

In a survey conducted in June, 41 percent of respondents said they wanted to see a senior center at the former school, while 29 percent said a community center or multi-generational space. Another 18 percent mentioned uses that spanned generations.

According to Porter, the contract amendment will save the town about $8,000.

While the property’s use is one less decision to make, the town still faces many unanswered questions about the state of the buildings. Last Monday, the Town Council postponed a public hearing on the project after a delay in receiving a final report from Weston & Sampson. Later in the week, members of the Halliwell Review Committee expressed disappointment that a draft of the report did not contain any conclusions on whether they should save the buildings or knock them down and start from scratch.

“I feel like this draft is like reading a suspense novel, and the last three pages are ripped out,” member and Town Councilor Steven Corriveau said during a meeting on Oct. 7.

Porter, an architect by trade, said that based on his reading of the report, he did not think the buildings were worth saving.

“After reading this report, and I spent quite a few nights, more than I’d like to admit, reading this over, to me, my conclusion is that these buildings are not worth saving,” he said.

Porter said that he understands the school property holds nostalgia for many people, but the town could attempt to recreate the campus feel of Halliwell in a new design.

“With all of the money that we would have to dump into all of those individual buildings and the uses that we’ve been hearing about from the community, we’re trying to fit a square peg in a circle hole,” he said.

Members said they wanted to request an executive summary from Weston & Sampson expanding on the report before presenting it to the Town Council early next month.

The committee also declined to pay the full cost of a $2,991 invoice from the company for work completed in July, explaining representatives have not yet attended eight town meetings as required by their contract.

(3) comments

Thomas Ficca

All the Town will do is pour more money into buildings that should have been torn down years ago ! Termite infested JUNK buildings . Lack of proper ventilation and much more . These buildings are like owning a boat.........every time you turn around it's $1000 here $1000 there and just like that a new building could have been built with ALL the money wasted over the years !

Here we go....

I think a community center for all age groups is a good idea, my concern is the cost to the taxpayers. Right now there is a multi million dollar proposed new police station that really isn't necessary to be built instead of renovating the exiting police station. The taxpayers just can't afford much more added to our tax bills.

The answer is to renovate the police station & get the best bids for a community center. That makes more sense to me.

SteveC

Another waste of taxpayer dollars

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