NORTH SMITHFIELD – Town Councilor John Beauregard said Monday that he thought the Halliwell Committee had already given up on the idea of developing a building at the former elementary school site, a comment that didn’t sit well with committee members who have invested years of planning into the property.
“There’s so many different things that we can do with that property instead of putting a brick and mortar building, I think that’s what we have to direct the committee to focus on, what can we do with for open space on that property,” he said.
Beauregard added that he had discussed with Councilor Claire O’Hara that having open space at Halliwell would reserve the spot for a potential future school. Council President Kim Alves agreed, saying that changing the objective of their efforts would not make it less important of a task if they created a beautiful outdoor facility.
“It’s not a failure, it’s not a lesser important objective, it’s just a different objective,” she said.
Councilor Douglas Osier said he was confused about the discussion, as he thought the conversation was going to be about what the council had discussed previously, which was the Halliwell Committee focusing their efforts on working on a new grant-funded community center at Scouters Hall.
Osier added that when he watched the Halliwell Committee meeting last Thursday, members seemed to think they had direction to move forward with a master plan for Halliwell. He added that the town had two-plus years to help the committee narrow their focus, and the town would have a hard time starting construction on Scouters with a proposed start date of May 1.
“If you don’t think it’s fair to let them keep going down the road to put up a building, then fine, let them keep doing it, but it’s not going to happen for at least 10 or 15 years, so why not do something with that space now,” said Beauregard.
Halliwell Committee Chairperson Jeff Porter stepped up during public comment to clarify statements made. He said the committee had never made the recommendation to proceed with open space, as it had been part of their report that they had shown last June.
“We do not expect that the brick and mortar building is going to be in the next couple of years, we understand that this is a 5, 10, 15 even 20-year process,” he said, but what they have been asking to do is move forward with a master plan.
“Quite frankly, I’d like to let them know if the council is going to move forward in master planning or not...” he said.
The committee has collectively spent some 800 hours on this project for the past two years, he said, adding that if they were were to put that at a billable rate, that would come close to more than $200,000.
Public Works Director Ray Pendergast suggested that the council sit down with the Budget Committee or the planner and put a budget in place for a master plan, as the abatement and demolition that had been dragged on for years would cost a total amount of more than $1.2 million. He added that the town is sitting on reserve money in the amount of $300,000 and it can’t go into a master plan.
“Before we can put any thought into what you want to do down there, you’ve got to take the buildings down,” he said.
Porter responded that he went through the budget process last year to fight for money for Halliwell, and he’s continually asking for at least “a very small drop in the very big budget bucket to move us forward.”
Osier said he was on the Budget Committee and had questions if American Rescue Plan Act funds could be spent, and he supports a master plan process to give the committee some type of clarity going forward.
“I think it’s been needed for a long time,” he said.
The council didn’t end up taking a vote on the matter.
The council discussed a potential group of seven to nine people to take on planning at Scouters. There will be a resolution drafted by the town solicitor to determine the composition of the committee.
Paul Nordstrom of the Municipal Building Review Task Force asked the council to approve two invoices to Tecton Architects with a contract amendment for repairs and plans at the police station.
According to Nordstrom, Tecton is wrapping up the bid documents for temporary repairs to the existing building. One of the loose ends is asbestos abatement for the problem areas to be addressed. Tecton proposes utilizing the services of Fuss & O’Neill to do testing, to update the 2018 asbestos abatement plan, and prepare specifications for repairs. The task force recommended approval of a contract amendment not to exceed $7,500.
Beauregard asked Nordstrom if it would just be cheaper to condemn the building and create a deal with Woonsocket to use the cells.
“That’s true, but on the other hand we have some liability issues,” said Nordstrom, but there’s extensive work on the exterior and outside the building that still needs to be done.
Why is there a story about the police station with a headline about Halliwell?
That's because the T.C. is h**l bent on a new police station !
Here is an actual business idea for the property. Lease the property to a developer or business and have them create jobs. The property asset would also create tax revenue and annual land leasing revenue. The town is never going to need a new school. The enrollment has been decreasing by 1% each year for the past 10 years. Also the high school had 782 students before the middle school was built and now the school on has 524 students. So the town has plenty of school capacity.
Tom, if you build it they will come!
Welcome to the discussion.
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