State grant of $1 million will bolster North Smithfield police station repairs

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – In recent months, contractors have completed major health and safety-related repairs at the former school that serves as headquarters for the North Smithfield Police Department and now, more improvements will likely be underway soon thanks to a $1 million Municipal Public Safety Infrastructure Grant announced this week.

The town was one of nine municipalities in Rhode Island awarded funding through a matching grant program announced by Gov. Dan McKee, aimed at helping to finance significant public safety facility infrastructure projects. The state program is reportedly funded through $11 million in State Fiscal Recovery Funds received through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

“We’re thrilled that the governor announced the Municipal Public Safety Infrastructure Grant, and we’re the recipients of $1 million,” said Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski of the news.

Zwolenski said he asked the town Planning Department to apply for the $1 million award.

“We had applied for a $5 million grant to help build a police station, but when the bond failed, we had nothing,” Zwolenski told NRI NOW.

The administrator asked the department if there was any funding available to instead improve existing facilities and staff submitted the request for the award, initially hoping to fund roof replacement and repairs to the façade for the 95-year-old building at 575 Smithfield Road.

Those projects have since been completed by Dubon Masonry Construction out of East Greenwich under supervision of Tecton Architects, leaving the new funding available for alternative projects. The grant requires a match, but Zwolenski noted that the town has already spent around $875,000 on repairs to the building, and recently received a separate $129,000 award from the Rhode Island Office of Energy, which he hopes to utilize for improvements to lighting and the HVAC system. The additional funding means the town can qualify for the latest state award without spending taxpayer money.

“If we spend a million, we get a million,” Zwolenski said.

A state evaluation committee reportedly reviewed the proposals and made the nine awards based on project readiness, including the availability of local funds to satisfy the matching requirement and anticipated start and completion dates.

Zwolenski noted that decisions on how to use the funds will be made by the Town Council, sitting as the Municipal Building Review Task Force. Initial talks with police Chief Tim Lafferty, he said, have highlighted the need for a dispatch center, new lockers and a sally port.

“I would defer to the chief,” he said of upcoming repairs. “You can do a lot with a million dollars and we’re looking forward to using it wisely.”

The latest grant brings the two year total obtained under the current administration for various town projects to $8 million.

And while some in town had hoped that an $18 million bond would finance construction of a new police station, Zwolenski said he’s glad to at least address conditions at the current headquarters.

“We had to put money into the building,” Zwolenski said, noting abatement has also been performed at the property in recent months, and sidewalks repaired.

“Interlocal Trust was very concerned if they could continue coverage for us,” he added of the town’s insurer. “This stuff had to be done,”

For now, he noted, it seems any plans to upgrade to a new building are off the table.

“It appears currently there’s no appetite to get back out for a bond referendum,” Zwolenski said. “Now, there’s an opportunity to make improvements to the building at no further cost to the taxpayers.

The grant will be among millions dedicated to public safety projects across Rhode Island.

“Investing in Rhode Island’s public safety starts by addressing the infrastructure that police, fire and EMS units need to protect our state,” said McKee in announcing recipients. “I’m grateful to our partners in the Rhode Island General Assembly and the federal government for recognizing the importance of funding these local projects, so that we can support the brave men and women who keep Rhode Islanders safe.”

Other statewide projects awarded funding as part of the state program are listed below.

City of East Providence, $960,000: Renovate the East Providence Police Station, including a reallocation of existing space to better meet the needs of a modern police department.

City of Providence, $770,000: Refurbish the Providence Public Safety Complex through various improvements, including a new roof, updated interior finishes, and exterior repairs.

Town of Foster, $1,000,000: Construct a new Foster Public Safety Complex.

Town of Glocester, $3,850,000: Upgrade the Glocester Police Station to include a regional emergency operations center to serve as a regional hub for Northern Rhode Island.

Town of Middletown, $462,434: Replace the HVAC system and the dispatch consoles at the Middletown Police Station, as well as provide two new radio repeaters to create back-up regional public safety communications capability.

Town of Narragansett, $952,950: Expand and renovate the Narragansett Fire-Emergency Medical Services Station on Point Judith Road.

Town of Smithfield, $1,000,000: Construct a new North End Fire Station that will feature three apparatus bays and crew quarters.

Town of South Kingstown, $1,000,000: Construct a new Perryville Emergency Medical Services Station that will feature two bays to accommodate an ambulance and quick response vehicle and crew quarters.

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