N.S. Emergency Management left in the lurch during staff transition to Greene Street


NORTH SMITHFIELD – The move was officially announced last May.

Town employees slated to work at the new Town Hall, a recently renovate former school at 83 Greene St., would begin to relocate, according to a release from former Town Administrator Gary Ezovski, and some town services would be briefly disrupted while things were put into place.

The move was expected to be a big upgrade for the North Smithfield Emergency Management Agency, which for years had occupied a small and poorly maintained space in the town Annex, in the basement of the police department.

But eight months later, NSEMA Director Peter Branconnier says that for his department, it never happened.

Branconnier said NSEMA’s space in the former Kendall Dean school currently has no furniture or office equipment. The 220 volt electrical service needed for radio equipment – used to communicated in weather emergencies, or when phones and power lines are down – hasn’t been installed, and equipment hasn’t been grounded for lightening protection. He has no dispatch console, and is missing fixtures and other items needed to complete his office, radio room, storage area and classroom.

On Thursday, Branconnier submitted a request to the town Planning Board to have completion of the office added to the town’s capital improvement budget at a cost of $20,000.

“We have TVs on the walls that don’t work,” Branconnier said. “None of the equipment that is now sitting on the floor is grounded. And the major problem is: if any electricity comes into that building through lightening, your building electrical system gets burned up.”

“The radio room is completely empty,” he said. “There is no furniture.”

Branconnier said he was also supposed to get a system to bypass the firewall blocking town computers from accessing social media, noting that he uses sites like Facebook and Twitter to communicate with residents, but it hasn’t happened.

Meanwhile, the phone, internet and radio service at NSEMA’s old headquarters are no longer working.

Branconnier said that he was asked to work on a Saturday last April to label everything in his old office that needed to be moved – and it is all still sitting there.

“I’m 78-years-old. I can’t carry furniture from one building to another,” he said.

The director said he told officials with Calson Corps., the Johnston-based contractor hired to renovate the town building, of the issues.

“I was told to mind my own business,” Branconnier said.

He said he also provided a detailed list of items in need of completion to former administrator Ezovski.

“I think they did one item,” the director said.

Planning Board Chairman Gary Palardy questioned why the work hadn’t been done by the contractor.

“It’s confusing as to why it wasn’t already there,” Palardy said. “I thought they did all of that.”

“I don’t think the question is if it’s needed,” Palardy added of the EMA request. “It’s a question of: why would it come out of this budget?”

Branconnier noted that he was not a member of the Municipal Buildings Review Task Force, the volunteer board asked to oversee the project.

“I was never part of any of that, so I have no idea what was planned,” he said. “It’s beautiful in there – with the air conditioning, and the LED lights, and the way it’s set up.”

Town Councilor Paul Vadenais, who serves as chairman of the task force, did not immediately respond to NRI NOW‘s request for comment. Questions related to potential litigation over contractor Calson Corp’s work on the structure have been in discussion since late 2019.

On Thursday, Town Planner Tom Kravitz said he will work to facilitate a  discussion between the director and the town’s Asset Management Commission.

For now, Branconnier himself is working to get the office up and running, including a classroom where he hopes to eventually run the town’s Community Emergency Response Team classes.

Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski, who just recently took over the role from Ezovski, said he’s aware Branconnier has been working to resolve a number of issues.

“I’ve been working with him on a daily basis,” Zwolenski said. “I’m happy to assist him. EMA has a pivotal position in this town, especially when it comes to vaccines.”

This week, Zwolenski noted in his weekly newsletter that the town is currently putting together a plan to be ready for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines to the public.

The administrator told NRI NOW that Branconnier will spearhead the town’s effort.

Volunteers are needed to both administer the vaccine – a job for healthcare professionals – and to work at the location to check people in, and handle efforts such as traffic control. Dates of the vaccination will be determined by the Rhode Island Department of Health.

COVID-19 vaccine can be administered by licensed providers, including both those with prescribing privileges, including physicians and qualified advanced practice registered nurses, and those with technical expertise who have received additional training, including dentists, dental hygienists with local anesthesia permit, veterinarians, pharmacists, and medical assistants, when under the direction of a prescribing clinician.

Advanced EMT-Cardiac level and Paramedics are allowed to administer vaccine at Point of Distribution clinics only.

Those interested in volunteering should contact Branconnier at nsema@cox.net  or  (401) 767-2206.

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