NS Police station rendering

A rendering prepared by Tecton Architects shows a possible new police station on Smithfield Road.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – In a long expected denouncement of the existing North Smithfield police station on Smithfield Road, an architectural firm is recommending the town build a new station estimated at $18.3 million.

Tecton Architects, a Connecticut-based design firm, made the recommendation Monday during a joint meeting of the Town Council and the Municipal Buildings Review Task Force. The town hired the firm last January for $48,500 to determine whether they should build a new police station or renovate the old one.

“For the amount of money, it is our recommendation that you should consider the new construction,” said Jeffrey McElravy, a principal with the firm.

Based on a 2023 construction start date, McElravy said the new station will cost approximately $18.3 million for a 22,214-square-foot building. Renovating the old station, he said, would cost $17.5 million and result in a 23,354-square-foot building. McElravy called the $800,000 difference a “modest cost savings.”

A 137-page report detailed the many problems with the existing building, including cracking building joints, displaced veneer, water damage, deteriorating roof seals and asbestos. In April, an engineer identified major structural issues during a walk-through of the former school.

McElravy also said the prisoner intake area at the current station does not meet current police standards for protecting against self-harm.

“As the facility stands, it no longer suits the needs of the department,” he said.

The report laid out two options for the town, including renovating the existing building and constructing a new police station on the same site. McElravy said the department indicated the site was the “optimal location” for a new station based on call volume.

“A lot of calls for service are approximate to this location,” he said.

Under the renovation plan, the town would commission two additions to the front and rear of the building that would expand the square footage by approximately 8,300 feet. The department would have to move out of the building during renovation, relying on mobile office space and mutual aid from neighboring towns to detain prisoners.

Under the new construction plan, the town would create a new building between the current police station and a recently enhanced park on Merrimac Road. McElravy said this plan had the advantage of allowing officers to continue working out of the old building while the new building is under construction. Once complete, officers will relocate to the new station and the old station will be demolished to make room for parking.

The downside, he said, is that construction will take longer due to the multiple steps involved. The cost is also higher due to demolition costs and amenities within the new building, he said.

Both options would feature a sally port and improvements to the department’s prisoner detainment area. The new construction option, McElravy said, has the added benefit of more parking and a second exit onto Smithfield Road.

While both plans assume the station will remain on Smithfield Road, McElravy said the town may have to consider relocating the playground or municipal court facilities in the future if the department expands.

“The idea that you may have to expand the footprint is a ways off in the future, but things can change over time,” he said.

He cautioned against relying too heavily on the cost estimates, citing the spike in construction material prices over the past year. One project the firm worked on last February, he said, had material lead times of more than a year.

“It’s a little bit of a volatile time to be predicting construction costs,” he said.

Councilor Kim Alves pointed out that in a cost comparison provided by Tecton, the project had a higher cost-per-square-foot estimate than similar complexes in many neighboring communities. Those included a public safety complex constructed in North Providence for $30 million in 2019 and one in Cumberland for $12.5 million, also in 2019.

“There’s quite a lot of extras in these buildings that are above and beyond,” she said.

Council President John Beauregard described the cost as a “boat load of money” but agreed the current building is not suitable for a police station.

Councilor Claire O’Hara put it succinctly, saying the town should do the project now, do it new and do it right.

“Bushee School was wonderful as a school. As a police department? What can I say?” she said.

Councilor Paul Vadenais said it was an ideal time for the town to move forward with a new police station, as the town expects to retire millions in debt over the next five years. Based on preliminary numbers, he estimated a $20 million bond for the project paid out over 20 years would add $122 per thousand to the tax rate. He also urged the town to advocate for federal infrastructure funds to support the project.

“This is an opportune time to look at this as we’re retiring debt,” he said.

The new station also had the support of both former Town Administrator Gary Ezovski and current Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski, who said he’d be concerned about the safety of any family members working in the existing building.

“If you look at the return on investment, it would meet code, it would be safer, there would be no concerns about structural integrity,” he said.

Zwolenski said the town still has $1,260,000 left in a previous bond fund for improvements at the police station and town hall.

(19) comments

Old Man

[beam] Re Thomas Fica: I moved South 5 years ago. It’s been fun watching you continue rant on since then. I do hope you chose to move out of RI and its Socialistic neighbors. Fresh air, fewer nanny state laws and low taxes will do wonders for you.

MCC

Go big, or go home. Demolish the Halliwell building and put a public safety complex and a brand new community center in that space. This would kill three birds with one stone. I am sorry that the police officers may have to drive all the way to Walmart or the hotels on 146. If that is the case, put a substation at Dowling Village, manned by two officers each shift. Easy access to both problem areas. Another question, what crime really occurs in this town? I view the police logs regularly and we do more building checks than anything else. I think we can do a better job with all that money and provide something for residents as well.

Thomas Ficca

AMEN !

Thomas Ficca

Re: OLD MAN The only thing that has changed is the POLITICAL people and THEIR personal agendas ! The T/C think we are a rich town like Barrington and Newport ! I will not miss the TAX increases every year due to these INCOMPETENT people ! Good luck in the future with your USELESS Town Government !

Old Man

Here’s a thought. Way back in 1976 the police station was on the ground floor of what is now the “Old Town Hall”. What has changed in the population of sleepy North Smithfield?

Has population quadrupled?

Are people more rude, disregarding good public behavior and laws?

I’m wondering what the real problem is.

Thomas Ficca

The only thing that has changed is.....................Town politics ! Back in the day we had people LOOKING out for the tax payer ! Now it's all about how much power the ELECTED Officials have ! They are ALL ABOUT what's on their OWN AGENDA ! I for one WILL NOT miss this BU++ S*(^ !

Ida

Explain please why my non-offensive comment is not allowed?? I have an elderly relative in NS...I posted to taxes hurting and again, as with another column, is not allowed.

Ida

"paid out over 20 years would add $122 per thousand to the tax rate"..... and in all those 20 yrs, what OTHER tax increases might be approved for other agendas. There are a lot of young families and elderly families trying so hard to keep up, a very wise decision really needs to be made here before you tax so high, people will lose homes, not be capable with a home upkeep as well as they need to, food or medical lack due to high bills, buyers refuse to come into the town, etc.

NorthernRI

I am beyond disappointed in this outrageous quote for a new police station. I fully support providing the police dept with a proper station that is up to code but this is just an absurd cost for this size town/dept. The town leadership needs to cut this cost down and stop destroying the local tax payers left and right! Think before making these insane investments.

SteveC

After the town survey I thought the results of the taxpayers was not to build a new police station. What a waste of money.

radar

Who didn't see this coming!!! Amazing how most other towns and cities can cost effectively rehab old buildings but little old NS can't figure it out.

Pete Godon

"an ideal time... to add $122 per thousand to the tax rate. "? It is clear that our elected officials care nothing about the tax payers. This is a HUGE increase in the rate. Enough is Enough. No more.

Thomas Ficca

I am so HAPPY we sold our home in this SO TAXED to DEATH town of politics that DO NOT CARE about the tax payer and ONLY their own agenda ! ADIOS taxed to death Town ! We WILL not be returning ! You can HAVE your TAXES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mydrivec

Tom, I'm happy for you that you were able to sell for a huge profit in this new bubble. Be the bigger person and take your anger to your new town. Congratulations!

Thomas Ficca

Who every you are behind that screen name................you must be on the T/C ! That would make sense !

Mydrivec

Actually, I usually sign my comments but forgot with the new website and small comment box. Art Bassett...20 year resident. 5 years on the PB, 4 years on the SC, and 4 years on the old PBIC which worked on the bond referenced in my other comment. Enjoy your new town.

Thomas Ficca

33 year resident.................and VERY HAPPY to move out !

Bpoll

It amazes me how once again this town continues to be so reactive and short sighted.

It’s no secret that both fire department buildings have been here forever, and will probably also be in the same state as our PD building very shortly.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to make the now defunct Halliwell school property a municipal public safety complex for both fire and rescue, like many other towns have?

I have heard the argument that ‘it’s too far out for the PD’ and most of their calls are at that end of town. Police are in their car patrolling during the majority of their shifts, not sitting and waiting at a desk for a call, so proximity is not a big issue for them. With more than one car out patrolling during any given shift, they should be able to respond to a call rather quickly.

Just my 2 cents….🤷‍♀️

Mydrivec

In 2014, we floated a bond which would have renovated the existing building.

It absolutely covered the must haves and a few nice to haves. It was agreed upon by the former chief and the current chief and would extend the useful life of the building 20-30 years.

Cost? Around 2.3 - 2.8 million back then.

The cost quoted in this article with only an 800k difference is renovation vs new with 100% must haves AND 100% nice to haves.

So its like asking my contractor for a new kitchen and topping off that estimate with new walls and paint for the rest of my house. Would I like that? Of course. Do I want to pay for it? Nope.

For anyone pointing to the study that says the building is almost condemnable, I’d suggest when you pay for a study, you get what you ask for. If this building is condemnable, how were we able to rehab Kendall Dean?

Here's the 2016 bid estimate via google drive: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xXhk6tQ8vJ6lOFUIw6kFIHinrvT5j-f4/view?usp=sharing

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.