NORTH SMITHFIELD – A company out of Reading, Mass. with a long resume of municipal projects has been hired to provide assessment and consulting services for a former school property that may have a future as a type of community center in North Smithfield.
Weston & Sampson Engineers, Inc. was one of three bidders to respond to the town’s request for proposals on the project, slated to include surveying, and assessing current conditions and potential uses of the former Halliwell Elementary School.
For an estimated cost of $83,569, Weston & Sampson will provide a line survey, along with an overview of conditions at the former school, from the presence of asbestos and location of wetlands, to the state of electric and plumbing.
The school, which sits on a wooded 32 acre lot, has several buildings in varying states of deterioration, some of which will likely be demolished.
Town Administrator Gary Ezovski noted that the other two bids submitted were, “both by impressive firms,” but that Weston was recommended, in part because they have a, “higher number of resources.”
“Weston & Sampson, with their proposal offers a very attractive circumstance to have a full sweep of engineering and technical resources,” said Ezovski.
Additionally, the bid submitted showed focus on the fact that the town wants to keep the property, according to Ezovski.
The company is expected to come up with list options for potential uses for the sprawling lot from professional perspective, under the supervision of Planner Tom Kravitz.
“Frankly, I’m excited to have this process begin,” Ezovski said.
The firm, which has some 200 offices and 700 employees, said it will manage the project through their headquarters in Foxborough, Mass. A letter signed by Weston Vice President Blake Martin notes that 85 percent of their clients are municipal governments.
In a bid submitted on Thursday, Nov. 12, the company notes that the team has experience with recreation and open space planning, environmental services, construction management and landscape architecture, and was recently selected to help develop Rhode Island’s State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.
“The redevelopment of this property represents an exciting opportunity for the town and its residents,” the bid notes. “Through its workshop, the town has identified a range of possibilities that generally encompass municipally-owned and community-based uses, such as a recreational park, senior center, multi-purpose community facility, etc.”
Rhode Island-based planner Caroline Wells will coordinate the firm’s efforts, with planner and former Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management environmental policy official Jim Riordan to serve as technical lead.
“Both have substantial experience as planners in Rhode Island,” Ezovski noted.
The estimate includes more than $8,500 for market analysis to evaluate potential private and public uses. A $15,000 report will include a feasibility analysis, site plan and “ground level 3D visioning perspectives.”
The contract also includes participation by the firm in at least two public hearings, an element town officials have said will be central to the process of deciding exactly what to do with the former school. The Planning Board submitted a memo this week on the issue offering to host the hearings.
Town Council President Paul Vadenais said the Planning Board will be utilized as part of the long-term process.
“I look at it as, we need to do something immediately at Halliwell,” Vadenais said. “How do we secure the site so it doesn’t deteriorate further? That’s the immediate thing.”
The town currently has $600,000 set aside for the initial work.
“There needs to be public input,” said Ezovski. “But the start of this process – the most important step – is to get this consultant engaged.”
The council unanimously approved hiring the firm.