NORTH SMITHFIELD — The Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust will no longer insure the building that houses the North Smithfield Police Department if the city does not act quickly to complete a list of needed repairs, according to a letter sent this month to city administrator Paul Zwolenski.
The letter, which comes as councilors mull potential plans to build a new police headquarters, notes that a recent survey of the building at 575 Smithfield Road, “brings the structure’s insurability into question. “.
“Essentially, the trust has concerns about whether they want to insure this building,” Zwolenski said at a Wednesday, Jan. 19, joint meeting between city council and the municipal building review task force that works on the project.
To maintain coverage, within 30 days the city must consult with a structural engineer to determine if the building is structurally sound and suitable for its current use; secure the area ahead to prevent anyone from being injured by falling debris; and attach or remove the tower.
Within 90 days, the city must develop a plan to renovate or replace the existing building, notes the communication from the trust’s director of property and casualty underwriting, Brad Weaver.
The letter lists specific concerns, including the roof, windows, masonry, walkways and more, all of which must be addressed in any plan to renovate the structure.
While the list of construction flaws came as no surprise to those familiar with the property, the delays add urgency to a project that has been stalled for years. The city had originally hoped to fix the police headquarters with part of the $12 million bond passed by voters in 2014, but MBRTF members said the funding was never enough to meet the needs.
And in September, a consultant hired to review the project said constructing an all-new building would cost just $800,000 more than renovating the existing structure. Tecton Architects presented a report stating that a complete renovation of the building that once housed Bushee School to create a modern police station would cost $17.5 million, while new construction would cost $18.3 million.
Members of the task force recommended the demolition of the old school and the construction of the new police headquarters at the same Smithfield Road location.
Advisors have since asked that they consider ways to reduce the price, and the options presented this week imagined reduced costs between $ 15 and $ 16 million, with a decrease in square footage and the removal of court facilities municipal.
Requests for officials to take a second look at alternate locations brought back some familiar responses, along with some new ones.
“Our hot spot is this part of town. That’s where a lot of our calls are,” said chef Tim Lafferty, noting that Woonsocket has no supermarkets. “You have a population of 50,000 who shop daily in North Smithfield.”
Plus, Lafferty added, with the old building set to stay open until the new one is ready, “When you move to the new building, it just makes so much more sense.”
Tecton manager Jeff McElravy pointed to other concerns, including the need for multiple exits and the fact that as an essential facility, a police station must remain open even during weather events and should not not be built in a flood zone like the old Halliwell Primary School. property.
Lafferty pointed out that North Smithfield Police have historically been relegated to repurposed buildings that are not well suited to their work.
“We never had a police station,” he says. “The building is inconvenient. We can’t even use half of our building because of asbestos.
“I see this as an investment – not for Chef Tim Lafferty and the men and women who are working right now. This is for the men and women who work in law enforcement in the future and every chief after me,” Lafferty said. “It’s a pity, the cost.”
“By the time it’s ready, maybe things will get better,” added the chef. “It’s a cost, I understand. But sometimes you have to have the courage to say that’s what we have to do.
Councilor Paul Vadenais, who also sits on the task force, said the project could have minimal impact on the tax rate, as several municipal bonds will expire over the next few years. And once it’s finished, “You’re looking at a 50-year-old building. You are building for the future,” Vadenais said.
No matter how they move forward, advisors will need to act quickly. A clock on the project was ticking even before the 90-day notice: in order to have work underway in the next few years, the General Assembly will have to approve a bond issue to be put to voters next November.
For his part, Zwolenski said he hoped the council would act quickly.
“This committee has been very thorough in its approach to giving guidance to this city,” Zwolenski said of the MBRTF. “I hope that will be taken into account and that the council will make a decision on what we are going to do with this station.”