Council approves master plan for Halliwell property

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – It is conceptual, with everything from funding sources, to which elements could be built first – or even if anything will be built at all – still up in the air.

The Town Council has approved a master plan for the property that once held Halliwell Elementary School, which lays out hopes for the future of the lot, including a multi-generational community center.

Design firm Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype, Inc. presented the full document to councilors for the first time last week, the result of a long process that began with solicitation of public feedback on what residents might like to see on the 32-acre lot back in 2021.

“It’s been a good and successful process,” said Halliwell Review Committee Chairman Jeffrey Porter. Of firm BH+A he added, “They have done so much with the 6-7 months they’ve been working on this project.”

At a joint meeting with the Town Council on Thursday, Jan. 25, BH+A Principal Joel Bargmann explained the conceptual designs.

“The core element of this program is a multi-purpose room, activity rooms, a conference room that’s sort of a small meeting room and a kitchen,” he said. “This is sort of the core elements of a community center that serves a multigenerational clientele.”

The firm provided drafts of what the town could receive at various price levels – starting with what could be built on the lot with the town’s already secured $4 million federal grant: a 3,200-square-foot structure Bargmann noted was, “clearly not adequate.”

“At minimum, you want to add a kitchen to it,” Bargmann said of the stripped down design.

Instead, the HRC and BH+A have recommended a 6,600-square-foot building at a cost of around $6 million as the minimum needed if the town moves forward with building a multi-generational center on the space.

“There’s a fair amount of site infrastructure work involved,” Bargmann said of the property. “When we really got down to what could you do for a $4 million grant, the site work takes up a big portion of it. Two million more than the grant really makes a small building into a multigenerational community center.”

Whether or not that will happen remains unclear. Town officials are also in the process of looking at plans for an alternative project that would instead utilize the $4 million grant to expand on an existing structure known as Scouter’s Hall.

But on Thursday, the focus was on the potential for the plot that once served the town’s elementary school students – and a detailed conceptual plan that looked toward North Smithfield’s future – with an understanding that funds may not immediately be available.

“It’s a lego-like approach,” said Bargmann. “You can add on over time. It’s a pretty simple building. The whole point is you can start small with this plan.”

The $6 million proposed structure would be built to accommodate a gym and a pool – with the assumption both could be constructed at a later date. Also presented as a separate element were plans for sports fields, walking trails and additional parking.

“The building is designed to grow. The idea is, the building expands itself,” said Bargmann. “Over time, if you want to build this building bigger, you can add those two program rooms on.”

HRC member Robert Najarian noted that the 6,600-square-foot design accommodates many of the elements residents have said they’d hope to see in a community center, with meeting space, a lobby and a full kitchen.

“The 6,600 seems to bridge the gap,” Najarian said. “It gives us a little bit of everything.”

Cost estimates assumed a construction start date in December 2024, to be completed in 18 months.

“We are not looking to go to bond for any of this,” said committee member Laurie Chartier. “There’s fundraising.”

Porter noted that the committee was hoping the council could pass a resolution in support of the master plan, which would help in the effort to secure potential grants.

“Investors aren’t going to want to invest money in something that’s not supported by the town,” he said.

But Councilors had questions – mostly focused on what might happen to the plan if the town opts to build a community center at Scouter’s Hall.

“I think we need to wait until we have all the information back and see what’s actually feasible, and what we could do for the $4 million, if we could get more for our dollar at Scouter’s,” said Council President Kimberly Alves.

Porter said he supports getting all of the information before moving forward with any project.

“That’s absolutely your preogative,” he said.

However, “That property is only so big,” he added.

Councilor Paulette Hamilton said of the two similar projects, “I’m really confused, a little bit.”

Councilor Douglas Osier, who has served as the council’s liaison to the HRC, offered some clarity.

“Scouter’s is going to exist no matter what we do with the $4 million,” Osier said, adding that the creation of a multigenerational or senior center on the property, situated by Pacheco Park, “doesn’t solve everything.”

He noted that the master plan for Halliwell includes other elements for the community, such as sports fields, and outdoor space for hiking and gatherings.

“This is more forward, longer-term visioning,” Osier said.

Porter said the plan – and hope for Halliwell – is to create a community amenity.

“Honestly, we’re trying to do something for the entire community,” said Porter. “This helps bring people into the town. Right now, our biggest amenity is our schools.”

Councilor John Beauregard expressed skepticism.

“In the past 16 years, do you know what we’ve built in this town? We’ve built a bathroom,” Beauregard said, referencing the structure by the North Smithfield High School Athletic Fields built by Green Development in 2022. “You would have my support, but I don’t know if you’d have support of the town. Don’t forget the zip code that you live in.”

On Thursday, it took time for HRC members to get across the idea of conceptual design, and the type of long term planning they had laid out for the property – similar to the direction and vision often expressed in a town’s comprehensive plan.

“No one is talking about money,” said Najarian. “Eliminate the Scouter’s issue from your mind.”

“Look at the property as a whole,”said member Scott Sevegny. “DEM has trail grants but they want to see that you’ve done the work to get to the point where you’re applying for the money and you’re ready to go.”

“It’s a sales tool. You can take that and go to a corporation,” said Chartier. “Would you do this for the town if you didn’t have to think about the money?”

Alves pointed to one element in the outdoor design, noting, “We probably don’t need another football field in town.”

HRC members noted that they fully expect to make changes and adjustments to the plan going forward.

“This is what we wanted, this kind of engagement,” said Najarian of Alves’ comment.

“This wasn’t a take it or leave it situation,” said Porter. “We want to hear this feedback.”

Of Scouter’s, Najarian added, “You decide what to do with that, then come back to us.”

Hamilton expressed concern at the lack of operational costs in the master plan, and Porter responded that the information would soon come from BH+A.

Councilor Claire O’Hara said that overall, she liked what she was seeing.

“We have to start with something and you never know what can be had,” said O’Hara. “Something else may be presented but we have what we need to go forward.”

Pendergast said a full report on both Scouter’s and the adjacent Pacheco Park will be generated by end of month.

Asked his opinion on the potential project, Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski noted that, “You have possibilities for the future at Halliwell.”

Najarian emphasized that the plan is conceptual and that no money will be spent without further vetting and council approval.

“Whenever it is that we go into design, we make revisions,” he said. “By no means does anyone think that we’re not going to make revisions.

Councilors unanimously approved the Halliwell master plan, specifying that it is, “subject to revisions.”

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24 COMMENTS

  1. Wow I have never seen more people with we need and can afford anything financially mindset. JB and TG think if you spend more life is better. How is that working out with RI education and the bridges. I did see one comment that actually thought about the long term financial impact but that was rewarded with hate comments because being financially responsible does not get you re-elected. I would like to know what is the impact to taxes for just the large annual salary increases added with the new capital spending and new annual operating spending. Looks like another 4% cap increases in taxes. It would even be more if not for the cap. We never seem to bring up the increase in taxes when spending more funds. Well I guess the town needs to just do it.

    • Hey BM, Richard T, Pat, Dave Masterson, Harley and Mike did you see the school committee just approved $50,000 for new athletic uniforms? I’m sure it’s wasteful spending without a cost benefit analysis being performed right? And I’m sure it’s JB’s idea and he was behind the rotten conspiracy of getting athletes new uniforms.

      • I mean your words, not mine, really odd for you to turn on him like that. I thought it was good use of money, that seems it was already set aside for improvements such as these.

        • I do agree that the STREAM classes could be improved a bit more, but that can’t happen until after the school year. That’s unfortunately a RIDE issue I believe, as they pick what can be taught. As for increases and improvements to education, that’s a constant battle of public schools vs charter schools for funding. The report card the schools got, do show a need for improvement, particularly in the math and science portions.

          • No, I said it was a good use of already allocated money for that purpose.

            As for using 50k for math related, that would have to be done during the summer months, since RIDE determines what programs get used for the year(s). Some of the programs they suggest are highly regarded as trash, and don’t get used, unless that’s the only option available, then the students suffer. Such items that could be bought are new and improved forensic science materials, engineering items, computers that can handle complex digital designs. Once again, the school should already have improvements budgeted out, which I believe they do. They also have a 5 year plan that gets revised every so often, unlike our town.

      • The reality is your disturbingly obsessed with him. Every news article that is published about north Smithfield is turned into “John Beauregard, the big bad boogey man or north Smithfield”. For all the things that you, MCC and your leader and his “friends” like Pat, Dave J, Kevin Mutto, Harley53 and other fake names have said about John or what he has supposedly done, he should be serving a life sentence for corruption by now. It’s nice to see and hear that no one really takes you seriously.

        • Sadly most of the fake names come from JB and friends, I think Sandy would be able to confirm. As for the evidence against him and others, the town seems to always turn a blind eye when it’s election time/there needs to be more people to run for town positions if their work/life balance can handle it. Maybe even term limits so more of the town can be heard, but it requires trust, unfortunately previous councils have eroded that by enacting certain policies that made them the laughing stock of the town/state/country for an example.

          • Truly delusional. Can you inform us where Dave Masterson, Pat, Bob Simpson, Kevin Mutto, Harley53 Dave J and others reside and if their taxes are up to date? Or do you really think these “people” are real? Let me guess, they are your friends so they have to be real…

            • Why would I try to look up where someone lives? That’s kind of personal and I think an invasion of privacy, which would border close to realm of cyber stalking, which could result in actual stalking if doxed, which follows suit for your side.

              • What’s illegal is slander and defamation of character. The “sides” mentality is what is going to keep any progress from happening in this town.

                So again, the question remains, do you believe those names listed above are real people and not fake names? How is it every reply turns into you playing the victim?

                • Good thing there’s no slander or defamation that gets said about them, and all first hand accounts by residents, making it all legal.
                  I don’t think AI is commenting on here if that’s what you mean. How is every reply that you do trying to defend unethical behavior by an elected official?

  2. How about this idea, Mr. Beauregard move out of this zip code. That would solve a lot of issues with the current town council.

  3. Going to to be fun to watch the divide between the TC president & the former TA, now councilor and their constituents as they are both clearly in favor of the $4M going to a scouters hall renovation. Head of DPW, who also happens to to be TC president better half, already publicly stated the $4M should go to scouters hall. The seniors are going to get robbed in this. And wait for all the comments from DaveJ, Kevin M, and “others” about how no one in the town understands finances. Alves LTE about getting more done, means actually doing NOTHING for the town. Mary, you’re right, we need a pool and community center but your leaders are going to stifle this.

    • Steven you are 100% correct you and JB have zero understanding of finance. You can not just forget about how I am going to pay for something because I want the new object. The town should institute and new program of allowing taxpayers to opt out of paying taxes on new infrastructure and of course not being able to use the new infrastructure. I would bet 75% of taxpayers would opt out. A pool could not be supported in a larger population in Woonsocket how is a smaller town going to support a pool. Wait I know on the backs of the taxpayers because you believe in socialism.

      • “Dave” it is you who has no understanding of finances. As usual I agree with JB. Investing in the community is not a waste of money like you claim under just about every fake name you use. Not investing in the community will be far more costly in the long run. We need more people like JB and Claire in public office.

        • Once again you have proven that you and JB have negative financial skills. When you make an investment you receive a return. So spending on something with zero financial return is just increasing taxes with virtually no value for residents. That is what you get when state union thinking is involved. Tax residents until is hurts. And let’s not forget the let’s keep up with the jones mentality and if someone else does something it is a good decision. I would love to review the joke peoples personal financial statements just living paycheck to paycheck. The fiscally irresponsible are a joke spending others money they don’t have. And as far a town hall goes the town spent 3 times what it should have cost because we had to pay for the poor quality high cost union contractors fleecing the twin. The truth hurts TG.

      • This might be one of the most ignorant and silly ideas I’ve read; Opt out of services to lower your taxes. You want 100% consumption tax? I’m assuming you’re in your 80s and don’t care about anyone else. I wonder if the 25 year old you would say this.

        Ever notice the progress and good things in surrounding towns like Lincoln, Smithfield and burrillville etc? Its because there isn’t people like you and all your other “friends” who thrive on waking up every morning to bang away at the keys to stop the next nail from behind hammered into any progress in this town!

        I’d love to see a new police station built that you can’t call or use because you “opted out”. Maybe you can’t go into town hall because the floors were re done and you didn’t approve of that either. Sounds like with all your pennies you will save, a private island alone would be best for you.

        What a joke!

  4. There are four zip codes for this town, which one is that councilor referencing? The town built the middle school a little over 15.5, less than 16, years ago unless it was finished in January, so I would count that on the buildings within 16 years tally. We also built a community garden within that time frame, at the proposed site that this article mentions even. There’s a reason the town couldn’t build anything, wasn’t our bond repayment near the maximum amount for the last 17+ years, allowing us to not able to borrow?

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