N.S. voters will decide November 7 on $18 million bond for new, single-story police station


NORTH SMITHFIELD – If town voters approve a ballot question at a special election on Tuesday, Nov. 7, North Smithfield will take out an $18 million bond to construct a new, single-story police station at the same Smithfield Road location where the former town annex stands now.

And local officials fear that many residents are not aware of the project – which could lead to a few hundred voters making a decision that will ultimately affect thousands who live there.

The project would see a scaled-down version of the original $22.2 million 21,000-square foot proposal first presented to the town by Tecton Architects in 2021, with a 13,600-square-foot brick building erected on the 2.1-acre lot, along with a 1,230-square-foot outbuilding for storage.

While Town Councilors haven’t officially endorsed the latest iteration of the design plan, recommended this week by members of the Municipal Building Review Task Force that is steering the project, ballot language allowing the issue to be decided in the upcoming special election has already been approved by the General Assembly. Councilors decided back in May to move forward with the ballot question, but at the time, declined to determine if the funding would be used to finance rehabilitation of the current facility or construction of a new one.

In June, they voted to move ahead with new construction, but that was only after language authorizing “construction of a new police station or the renovation, improvement, alteration and repair of an existing building,” had already been approved by the state legislative body.

The vague language was a point of contention among residents who spoke before the council this week.

“If the renovation is not a reality, then it should not be in the bond question.” said Mali Jones. “If it’s up in the air, you’re not going to get the kind of results that you’re looking for. People need to know what they’re voting for.”

“I do find it ambiguous that it does say for a new building or for renovation. As a taxpayer, I’d like a little more security and definition on what’s going on,” said Richard Grubb. “It really is confusing.”

Due to the short amount of time left for discussion before the issue goes before voters, councilors scheduled an emergency meeting with bond counsel to see if the ballot language could be changed. That meeting will be held on Thursday, Sept. 14, but it seems unlikely anything will change. Solicitor David Igliozzi explained Monday that the General Assembly must approve the exact language to go before voters, and that state board won’t convene again until January – well after the scheduled vote.

The approved ballot language also includes the “not-to-exceed” figure of $18 million and on Monday, Jeff McElravy of Tecton made clear that the smaller, scaled-back version is what can be built for the price in the current market following years of escalating costs. The $17,980,000 price tag put on the project this week, McElravy explained, includes everything, from demolition of the current structure and new furnishings for the reconstructed office space, to money set aside for contingencies and additional escalation.

“These days we’re seeing a lesser rate of escalation than we had,” McElravy said.

MBRTF Chairman Paul Vadenais said of the design, “We’ve reduced this as far as we can go.”

And Tecton officials estimated that if the town held off on the project to allow voters to weigh in at a General Election, which generally has a much better turnout, the same building would cost $2 million more.

Councilor Douglas Osier questioned if the $18 million would be enough.

“I worry about this cost,” Osier said.

“Without some frightening, unforeseen thing that you can’t imagine, we’ve never had an issue with exceeding budget,” McElravy responded. “I take maintaining the budgets for our communities seriously. I’ve been very successful doing this for 36 years now.”

The architect added that an independent party verified the numbers.

“I have a lot of confidence in the numbers they put forward and we put forward,” McElravy said. “You need to bring the project in on budget. That’s part of the process.”

He noted that if everything is approved and the community is on board, the project will then go into the design/development phase, which will take around three months before it goes out to bid.

McElravy said potential contractors will have, “quite a pile of materials,” to look at, with a spec of some 1,500 to 2,000 pages and around 100 pages of drawings. Construction, he said, is expected to take around 16 months.

Far from selling the effort, councilors continued to decline endorsement of specifics this week at the latest three-hour meeting regarding an initiative that has been discussed and debated for years, but questioned why others involved have not done more to get the word out.

“There are still a lot of people that don’t even know that this is happening,” said Councilor Paulette Hamilton. “We could have 300 people making a decision. We have really no time left.”

“Are we rushing into this?” questioned Council President Kimberly Alves. “I just think this is being pushed so fast, and now we’re not even advertising.”

To Vadenais, she added, “You said it was your responsibility to put it out there.”

“We’re not taking advantage of opportunities,” agreed Osier, stating that yard signs, sandwich boards, FAQ sheets, banners and more should already be in play to make voters aware of the upcoming opportunity to vote. “Time is not on our side here. This information needs to get out.”

Vadenais pointed out that his board and Tecton officials have provided things – such as a detailed materials – upon request, and are ready to begin community outreach, with informational meetings scheduled over the next several weeks. But the council, he said, has not provided clear direction as to how to move forward.

“I can’t make those decisions,” Vadenais said. “That’s why I’m here tonight.”

“They’re an advisory committee,” said Councilor John Beauregard. “It’s not their job to print out flyers.”

For their part, Tecton officials said they’d be happy to comply with the requests, even offering to have a presence at Saturday’s Pumpkin Festival despite the short notice. Flyers and other materials, they said, could be designed and printed in as little as two days.

Officials have estimated that payback of the $18 million bond would lead to a tax increase of $244 annually on the average North Smithfield home. More information on the financial impact can be found here.

Public meetings providing opportunities to ask questions about the project have been scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m.; Monday, Oct. 2 at 6:45 p.m.; and Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 6:45 p.m., with all to be held at Town Hall at 83 Green St.

Tecton’s design presentation can be found here and a complete video from Monday’s meeting is here.

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  1. I disagree with Fred Flintstone and why not use your real name if you have something to say? The TA and John Beauregard can’t push anything they want, it does not work that way. This is up to the people and what the O’Hara and Beauregard did was to let the people decide. The other two want to take away our vote. Next year a new station will be over one million dollars more. When do we finally just do it? I support O’Hara and Beauregard 100%. We are lucky to have both of them on the council. Our men and women in blue deserve a new police station.

    • I would not trust Ohara or Beauregard with one red cent. They want a special election so they can get there agenda and union thinking approved. Nice comment Tony or should I say John.

      • Sandy should be able to tell the answer of who that comment belongs to. As previous comments made by that name don’t fit the current comment.

        If it is someone from that group, just add it to the unlawful acts they’re known for. Silencing peoples first amendment rights, is one thing, it’s another to steal someone’s identity.

          • Yes, but that group of people have cried about them not being a real person. They have gone down a very low road with the new tactics.

            Beauregard had already claimed that he was in fact Mr Simpson on the police info page, when it was first started, when he was trying to hide his own identity. Which brings up more questions of why was he trying to hide his identity. I wonder if it must be from trying to hide from lawsuits about first amendment infractions, which sadly the town will probably have to pay for.

  2. Even if the taxpayer turns this down. The T/A and John Beauregard will push and push till they get what they want. The taxpayer in that town has ABSOLUTELY NO say in what is done over there. When we overwhelmingly turned down the Middle school what happened? It was re worded and low and behold we got a 30 million school that we did now want!

  3. The whole process is like watching a circus with the main attraction being the lion taking a bit out of the taxpayers.

    • As mentioned above, it is happening tonight. The purpose is to meet with bond counsel in hopes to clean up the ballot question. (This was not mentioned it other media coverage.) But bond counsel will tell them exactly what the solicitor said: the GA has to approve ballot language & they are not in session. (It’s worth noting it seemed pretty clear it was a one shot deal when they went ahead with this in May.) They could finally endorse a plan, but not much else can really change at this point. They’ve voted on the ballot question, and nothing other than this proposal will meet the budget that’s already approved. They could try to overturn it entirely and take it off the ballot but it’s unlikely they’d have a majority vote to do that on the council.

  4. If they want the voters to be aware of the Nov ballot question, they should put their electronic traffic sign in front of the Police Station noting it. It will be seen by most all….

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