NORTH SMITHFIELD – After more than four years of holding meetings at the middle school, the North Smithfield Town Council returned to its former chambers this week, with a new, $28,000 media system ready to greet them at 83 Greene St.

The chambers, located in what was once the auditorium of the former Kendall Dean school, were renovated as part of a larger $3.5 million effort to refurbish the building.

Employees who previously worked at the Town Annex and Memorial Town Hall moved into the building earlier this year, and the chamber room served as a polling location this month for early voting.

And installation of the latest audio and video equipment in the room was among the final touches needed to complete the massive rehabilitation project.

Those who attended meetings in the building prior to the renovation will find the new space has little in common with the deteriorated room where councilors once conducted town business.

Town boards held their meetings in the space for years, ignoring old, drafty windows, crumbling paint and a heating system that would emit a loud banging noise each time it started. Built in the 1936, the two-story neo-Georgian style structure, once used to educate the town’s youngest students, still had many of its original features, and had seen little in way of renovation over the years.

Now, a floor to ceiling makeover has resulted in a modern-looking space for councilors, complete with new furnishings, and a professional dais. Board members who once addressed residents from the auditorium’s small stage will sit at the back wall opposite the main door.

The room has been equipped with built-in data/video cameras and monitors that will allow all meetings to be streamed live. PMA Industries of Johnston completed the technology upgrades, which feature a permanently-mounted projector in the ceiling, and a large retractable screen, where guests will be able to view the agenda and supporting documents while board members hold their discussion.

Hardware installed as part of the $28,000 job includes six loudspeakers, one amplifier, four new microphones with bases, one handheld wireless microphone and a hearing impaired system with four receivers.

CJ Johnson, who records and publishes meetings of both the town and school boards to his channel on YouTube, began testing the new equipment last week.

The board has held meetings via teleconference since March in effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, but on Monday, Nov. 16, their meeting was held in person in the new digs.

Johnson’s full video of the gathering can be found here.

Editor’s note: The above article has been updated.

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