Early voting, town polling locations out for ballot on $400 million in state bonds

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BURRILLVILLE/NORTH SMITHFIELD – Rhode Island voters will soon decide if the state should borrow some $400 million to address issues ranging from clean water and transportation, to higher education and affordable housing, at a special election scheduled for Tuesday, March 2.

The ballot will include seven questions to approve or reject, bond referenda that typically appear on the General Election ballot in November, but were not passed by the General Assembly in time in 2020.

The Secretary of State has already sent mail ballot applications to all active voters in Rhode Island, and the forms can also be printed here. Completed applications must be returned to voters’ respective Board of Canvassers – at 105 Harrisville Main St. in Burrillville, or 83 Greene St. in North Smithfield – by the deadline of Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 4 p.m.

All registered voters should also receive a Voter Information Handbook from the Secretary of State in the coming days, which outlines the bond questions in detail, as well as voting procedures. The handbook can also be found online here.

The “emergency,” voting period – during which any eligible voter can cast an early in-person ballot – begins Wednesday, Feb. 10 and will continue through Monday, March 1.

In Burrillville, early voting will be held at the American Legion Hall at 103 Harrisville Main St. Voters are asked to use the Town Hall parking lot, and note that voting will take place during Town Hall’s normal business hours.

North Smithfield voters can cast an early ballot at the same location where early voting was held prior to the General Election: in the back of the building at Town Hall on Greene Street. Hours will also coincide with regular Town Hall hours.

On the actual day of the special election, only one polling location will be open in Burrillville. Residents voting that day should go to the Beckwith-Bruckshaw Lodge at 50 Lodge Road in Pascoag.

The single election day polling location in North Smithfield will remain at Town Hall on Greene Street, with voting hours in both towns to be held from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Voters can confirm their registration, address, party affiliation or polling location and view a sample ballot at the Secretary of State’s website.

Responses will dictate whether or not the state can make capital investments in seven areas with borrowed money, to be paid back with interest.

Question 1 would see $107,300,000 invested in improvements to higher education facilities, with $57,300,000 dedicated to University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center. Funding would also go toward renovation of the University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center, to the tune of $38,000,000, and toward modernization of both campuses of the Community College of Rhode Island, for $12,000,000.

Question 2 would authorize a beach, clean water and green bond – and potentially includes some investment in northern Rhode Island recreation.

The $74,000,000 bond would see $33,000,000 invested in state beaches, parks, and campgrounds – such as the recently-purchased Echo Lake Campground in Burrillville. It also includes $15,000,000 for investment in the Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, $4,000,000 for up to 80% matching grants for municipalities to acquire, develop, or rehabilitate local outdoor recreation facilities and $3,000,000 to protect forested land and working farmland, among other items. Recreational projects and infrastructure along the Woonasquatucket River would receive a $2 million boost, including its Greenway, from North Smithfield and Glocester through Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston and Providence.

Question 3 addresses housing and community opportunity, with $65,000,000 to increase the availability of affordable housing and support community revitalization.

Question 4 includes $71,700,000 for transportation infrastructure, to fund the reconstruction of Rhode Island’s deficient roads and bridges.

Question 5 puts $15,000,000 toward the Early Childhood Care and Education Capital Fund, to address deferred maintenance at facilities across the state.

Question 6 would put $7,000,000 into the Cultural Arts and the Economy Grant Program and State Preservation Grants Program. It includes $2.5 million for Trinity Repertory Company, $1.5 million for Rhode Island Philharmonic and the remaining $3 million to be allocated by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.

Question 7, the final decision on the ballot, would authorize $60,000,000 in spending on industrial facilities through the Quonset Development Corporation, including $20,000,000 for infrastructure at Port of Davisville at Quonset.

Those in Burrillville with additional questions regarding voting or voter registration can contact the Board of Canvassers at (401) 568-4300 x132 or elections@burrillville.org.  North Smithfield voters can call the town clerk’s office at (401) 767-2200 ext.321.

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