NORTH SMITHFIELD – A project to build new bathrooms and a concession stand by the North Smithfield High School athletic fields has received all of the needed approvals, and will be open in time for graduation ceremonies in June, according to Mark DePasquale of Green Energy Development.
The project, planned as a condition of approval in 2020 of Green’s 38-megawatt solar farm on Iron Mine Hill Road, has now received the needed permits from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management with final building plans to be submitted in the coming weeks.
“We have redesigned the building three times due to different issues,” DePasquale told councilors during an update on the project last week.
DePasquale said part of the delay in moving forward came as a result of an existing issue with the septic system that was already serving both the high school and middle school.
“The required testing was not being completed,” he said, noting that when a contractor hired for the project did test the system, it failed.
“From August 2020 to Sept 2021 Green worked with your consultant and the town to get the school up to par to meet the standards,” DePasquale said. “It took a year. It’s difficult when you’re not the owner of the site. There was just a lot of back and forth with DEM. We lost one year dealing with an existing condition.”
The developer noted that system testing will need to be completed quarterly going forward.
The long hoped-for athletic facilities were planned as a perk to allowing DePasquale to construct the massive solar array – now the largest functioning energy system of its kind in Rhode Island. Town Council President John Beauregard, who was not serving on the board at the time, proposed the agreement to have DePasquale build a concession stand and bathroom in place of a one-time payment to the town of $287,500.
The developer, proponents of the idea at the time argued, could build the facilities at far less cost than if the town were to take on the project.
“I’m probably over my budget by 100 percent, but that’s my problem,” DePasquale said last week.
A conceptual rendering presented at the council meeting envisions a two-story building with both men’s and women’s restrooms, a 353-square foot concession stand with an outdoor grilling area, and a press box.
“We’re planning on a nice area you can put picnic tables in,” said the developer.
DePasquale said his team needs 30 days to finalize plans, which will be submitted to the town’s building department in late February.
“We’re hoping the town will issue the building permit on February 28, which will give us a construction start to demo the building and make it safe March 1,” he said, noting that a ground breaking ceremony could be held in mid-March. “We’re expecting the concession stand to be done for a ribbon cutting on graduation.”
“It’s a lot of work to do in three months,” DePasquale added.
The ambitious deadline, he noted, will be contingent on everyone in town working together. Cooperation so far, he said, has been less than perfect, with three trips and six weeks required for his team to get into current facilities to evaluate them.
He said sports teams will still be able to use the recently replaced field while construction is underway.
“We’ll fence it off,” DePasquale said.
If all goes as planned, the work will culminate with a grand reveal to send off the Class of 2022.
“It will be great to have this facility ready at graduation,” Beauregard said.