Burrillville: Looking back, looking forward

Town officials name accomplishments from 2018, look to challenges in the year ahead

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BUURRILLVILLE – As a small town in the northwest corner of Rhode Island begins another trip around the sun, it is a time for both reflection on the year that has passed in Burrillville, and anticipation and planning for what may lie ahead.
NRI NOW checked in with town leaders to ask about their greatest achievement in 2018 as well as the biggest challenge they expect to encounter in the upcoming year, and they had plenty to say.
Town Manager Michael Wood pointed to progress made by the town on an organizational level in 2018, including establishment of the town’s substance abuse and addiction assistance programs.
“Both are aggressive, proactive and interactive programs needed to combat what is the most problematic socio economic crisis in Burrillville and specifically impacting our youth,” said Wood.
Michelle Harter, left, and Monica Blanchette are two new town employees working together to address addiction and recovery in Burrillville.
Read more about the programs launched in 2018, and the two women working to make them a success, here.
Wood also pointed to the renovation of downtown Pascoag, including the establishment of new housing and mixed use commercial space.
“Simultaneously, the town is now in compliance with state and federal affordable housing requirements – done on our terms,” said Wood. “Meeting these housing requirements is a very significant achievement that will serve the town’s best interests well into the future.”
Greenridge Commons
Read more about the 15-year, $28.5 million addition to the village of Pascoag, operated by Neighborworks Blackstone River Valley here.

Police Colonel Stephen Lynch said his proudest achievement from 2018 was the continued development of his professional police force.

Three new patrolmen were sworn in to the Burrillville Police Department this year. From left are Patrolmen Ryan Turner, Patrolman Geoffrey Cicatiello and Patrolman Eric Harris.

“Seeing the growth of younger officers becoming more and more capable, thorough, and refining their professionalism. Seeing our more experienced members still bringing their energy and solid work ethic day in and day out,” said Lynch. “Seeing our sergeants emerge as solid, accountable and exemplary leaders within the department. Seeing our command staff out in front on so many impactful issues and setting great example for all members.”

Supt Michael Sollitto and School Committee Chairman Mark Brizard provided a joint response, citing implementation of a new math program at the elementary level called Eureka Math; the establishment of Project Lead the Way Gateway programs at the middle school; expansion of Career and Technical Education Programs at Burrillville High School; High Five Fridays and the 5 SPARK grants awarded to the district by the RI Foundation.

BHS’s 2017/2018 robotics championship team.

“Some of the grant funds will be used to establish after-school robotics clubs for elementary schools. Our high school and middle school robotics teams will assist with these clubs,” the school leaders noted.

“Finally, one thing that we are very excited about is that Burrillville High School was selected as a National Banner Unified Champion school by Special Olympics,” said Brizard and Sollitto in a joint statement. “We are one of only five Rhode Island schools chosen for this honor.”
In March, the district will be hosting an event at BHS to recognize the achievement, detailed here.
Unified students from left to right are Allyson Graves, Kayla Lavallee, Mackenzie Raimond, Jordan Stansfield, Sarah Wheeler, and Donald Nadeau.

Wood said the most interesting challenge he expects to encounter in 2019 will be the disposition of the Invenergy power plant.

“I believe the town has done a remarkable job as a whole to expose the problems and negatives associated with this project and to enlist assistance statewide to make our case,” Wood said. “A committed local constituency has been extremely helpful.”

“Our legal team and experts are excellent and we have done very well in the EFSB hearings thus far; to the point where I believe we have made the case – to date – not to permit the plant,” Wood added. “That being said, politics in Rhode Island are always in play. There are a number of powerful groups, some with very little stake in the game, who are supporting the project politically.”

“I believe if the facts rule and are the basis for the EFSB decision – as they should be – the Invenergy power plant will not be permitted.  Regardless, the Town Council is prepared for any turn of events and is prepared to respond as needed,” said Wood.

A sign at one home on Round Top Road expresses opposition to the proposed power plant.

Sollitto and Brizard cited ongoing improvements in the town’s public education as a focus going forward.

“Our biggest challenge for 2019 will be to continue promoting and improving our K-12 programs while keeping a student-centered approach and responding to individual student needs,” they said.

Lynch said his greatest challenge in the upcoming year will be, “keeping this community, our schools and our members safe.”

“We live in a world where lives are changed in seconds and police officers are murdered because they are police officers responding to calls for service,” said Lynch. “That reality makes for a tough but rewarding profession in light of the growth as mentioned.”

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