NORTH SMITHFIELD – The long-awaited replacement of the cistern on Elizabeth Avenue is finally set to take place in the coming months – but the project will cost the town more than officials had initially hoped.
The cistern, needed to provide water to the area in the case of a fire, will be replaced by Adler Bros. Construction of Greenville for $144,747.
Chief David Chartier discovered a crack in the structure in 2019 after instituting a policy to annually check the 23 cisterns at locations throughout town to make sure the containers were full.
“We found that it was losing water at a pretty rapid rate,” Chartier said.
Installed as part of a development of the area by Vincent Mesolella in the mid-2000s, the Elizabeth Avenue cistern was found to have a 9-foot-long crack in the interior.
Town officials had hoped the container – which sits three feet underground between two houses on the street – could be repaired. E J Prescott Inc. was hired to look at the problem, and a report issued last April noted, “the answer is ‘no’ on long term repair.”
“More than likely the tank will crack again due to stress,” noted the report, signed by Marketing Representative Virginia Bragger.
Bragger notes that the tank appears to have been installed in native soil or sand, rather than stone or pea gravel.
“The installation instruction clearly states, ‘do not backfill tank with sand or native soil,'” she states. “Improper backfill materials will cause deflection and the tank will settle and crack.”
“I’m not sure it was installed properly,” said Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski while presenting the issue to the council this week. “That may not be the reason. I don’t know – but it failed.”
Town officials then looked into placing a new structure in the yard of a resident on nearby Saranac Street. The project was put out to bid last June, and Adler was one of two companies to submit offers.
However, “The homeowner didn’t want to deed over the property to us or give us an easement to do it,” Zwolenski said.
In August, former Town Planner Tom Kravitz asked Adler if the company could honor the estimate provided if the new cistern was instead installed on a town-owned wooded lot just 250 feet away from the existing cistern.
Manager Scott Adler responded, “yes,” at the time and the Town Council approved the bid of $141,337.
But Kravitz took a position in Warwick soon after, and it wasn’t until October that town officials again inquired about Adler’s price quote. Zwolenski noted that in the gap between the planner’s departure and the hiring of Mark Carruolo last week, no one on town staff was able to certify the plans. Staff did, however, look further into the issue and ultimately decided to remove the old cistern and have the new one installed in the same location.
“Unfortunately the manufacturer had a price increase and won’t honor the previous quote,” noted Scott Adler in an email to Finance Director Cynthia Dejesus on Monday, Oct. 18.
The cost of the 10,000 gallon fiberglass tank had increased by $3,510, Adler explained, including filling of the old tank.
“Like everything else – price increase,” Zwolenski said. “We don’t know what tomorrow may bring as far as price and supply chain and everything else we’re hearing about.”
“I would ask that we get it done in a timely manner because there’s nothing up there right now – there’s no water,” Chartier said,
“This should have been done two three years ago when the leak was discovered,” Zwolenski said.
Councilors unanimously approved the new bid. Council President John Beauregard abstained from the vote, explaining that his company does business with the contractor.