Pendergast: Planned N.S. multigenerational center should be built at Scouter’s Hall


NORTH SMITHFIELD – Noting that the $4 million the town already has available will likely be more than adequate to renovate Scouter’s Hall to create a new multigenerational center in town, Public Works Director Raymond Pendergast said this week ththe believes that plans for the project should focus on its original location.

His statement before the council this week follows news earlier this month that it will cost a minimum of $5.9 million to build a community center an alternative location: the Halliwell Elementary School property on Victory Highway.

“I firmly believe that it should come back to Scouter’s,” said Pendergast. “That should be the place where it should go.”

The town was approved for a $4 million federal grant in 2022 with a focus on creating a multigenerational center at Scouter’s Hall, a structure that’s primary purpose has been to serve as a meeting place for scouts since it was built in 1973.

But recent efforts have instead revolved around building a center from scratch at the larger former elementary school property, where the council voted to move the project in September.

Discussion of the center came after Councilor John Beauregard requested an update on the town’s effort to widen the entrance to Pacheco Park, which sits beside the hall.

“Once again, we have no funding,” Pendergast said of plans to widen the Main Street entrance, which provide access to both Scouter’s and the neighboring park. “There’s going to be an issue with engineering costs.”

Around six years ago, the town spent $160,000 to purchase a .37 acre lot to accommodate the anticipated driveway improvements. That project is expected to improve safety of the entryway, with a reconfiguration that would also increase parking. Currently, the park is accessed via a driveway that curves around a tight corner adjacent to another historic building that houses several businesses, including Quik Stop Deli, and is only 12-feet-wide.

In 2021, town officials said that work was set to move forward, with the DPW to perform much of the labor. But no discernible progress has taken place since.

“All we have is the $39,000, which is the remaining amount from the sale of the house,” said Pendergast this week of funds left over from the acquisition and transferred to a reserve account more than two years ago.

“In light of the possibility of moving the multigenerational facility back to Scouter’s, myself and the planner have discussed this in length, and we feel that we might be able to grab some of that money if we don’t use the whole $4 million,” Pendergast said. “With that, we’ll be able to use the soft cost money for engineering.”

“I’m kind of confident that we’re not going to use that whole $4 million,” he added of the potential plan to return the project to Scouter’s located on a .76 acre lot originally donated to the “Slatersville Scouting Association,” by the Kendall family. Today, the building serves as a polling location, and also accommodates municipal court, as well as daytime programs geared toward town seniors.

Early plans envisioned the current structure built up and out to create more space for services, including blood pressure screenings and assistance with taxes, while an outdoor area would feature a seating area and walking paths. Currently, the town’s Multigenerational Committee is in the process of analyzing the lot, and obtaining a design of what could be built at Scouter’s for $4 million.

“It has dragged along, but it has purposely been dragged along in the past six months because of the Scouter’s Hall situation,” Pendergast said this week of the work to widen the entrance, which will require approval from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation for curb cutting.

“You’re dealing with a state road. There’s a lot that goes into that,” he said.

Pendergast said he’s hopeful the town can move forward with the entryway improvements once the study of Scouter’s is complete.

“At least we can get the project going and get it engineered,” he said.

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  1. Per NFPA 1, Fire Code, Chapter 18:
    “Access roads need to allow adequate access to the building and room to setup and perform manual suppression operations. Fire department access roads require 20 ft (6.1 m) of unobstructed width, 13.5 ft (4.1 m) of unobstructed vertical clearance and an appropriate radius for turns in the roads and dead ends for the vehicles apparatus to turn around. The minimum 20 ft (6.1 m) width allows for two-way vehicular traffic and for one fire apparatus vehicle to pass while another is working at a fire hydrant or conducting aerial operations while the 13.5 ft (4.1 m) vertical clearance ensures that fire apparatus can safely pass under power lines, bridges, and other obstructions.”

    Per former NS Town Planner Tom Kravitz, as reported December 31, 2019:
    “With the town council having purchased that property last year, that enables us to at least have the ability to expand the entrance now,” Town Planner Tom Kravitz said.

    The project, said Kravitz, has three main goals: widening and reconfiguring the entrance to the park, maximizing parking, and creating a passive recreation space for visitors to downtown Slatersville.

    Though the town is still working out the details, the new configuration, he said, could take several forms, including a wider, two-way entrance or separate driveways for cars entering and leaving the park. In its current state, he estimated, the driveway is no wider than 12 feet, making it an easy target for vehicle accidents as cars hop up on the side of the driveway to avoid others coming in.

    “It’s just not safe,” he said.”

    The property adjacent to the Pacheco Park entry was purchased by the Town of North Smithfield in 2018, and now over five years later, we are still not safe, out of compliance, and potentially exposed to tremendous liability in relation to accidents, fires, or really any emergency response situations. Please let our elected town officials know – this serious issue must get resolved in 2024.

    • No surprise that the DPW head is going to publicly cast his vote for where the mutual generational facility should go. In fact, sounds like he and the planner have already decided on it. That way the seniors can pay for the poor planning of this town with paying for the widening of the access for the park with the grant money.

      No surprise that the comments are also not even directed toward this issue, but for putting a fire / police complex at Halliwell. know who is going to be publicly in favor of that shortly. Mr. DPW is paving the way! Maybe he should worry about the condition of the roads instead.

      • Putting the Senior Center at Scouters Hall is the right financial decision as the town only has a $4 million grant. The director is DPW is 100% correct. Now where the town thinks it is going to get the funds annually to operate the senior center is another issue that no one has addressed. But I can guarantee there will be two maybe three town council members and one NS citizens who will just say we must have a large senior center no matter how it impacts taxpayers.

  2. I agree, I think the MGC should be at Pacheco utilizing the preexisting structure and building off of that.
    As North Smithfield’s only large piece of real estate left, I think this should be used for a municipal complex combining and housing the Main Fire Dept Location & the Police Station. Both will need to be addressed within the next 10 years.

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