NORTH SMITHFIELD – Two grants for long-hoped-for projects in town will receive funding through federal grants thanks allocations submitted and passed via congressional earmarks by U.S. Sen. Jack Reed.
Reed secured more than $28 million for preservation and water-related projects across the state as part of the omnibus package, including $1,175,000 to extend town water lines to the area of St. Paul Street and Mendon Road, and $140,000 for improvements to Mowry Tower in North Smithfield.
The St. Paul Street water line project was budgeted through the Department of the Interior & Environment, with the $1.1 million to be awarded through the Environmental Protection Agency. The funding will be used to extend the water main to the area, likely providing some residents the chance to tie in to the town system.
Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski said the project is in the initial planning phases, and details of the extension have not yet been determined. Step one, he noted, will be an engineering study and determination of additional revenue sources.
Still, the grant marks positive news in terms of moving the project forward.
“I want to compliment Water and Sewer Coordinator Maura Beck,” Zwolenski said. “She’s the one who coordinated it and put it all together.”
“This project has been a town priority for many years and I’m proud to deliver federal funds to advance it,” said Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee who secured the earmark in the fiscal year 2022 Consolidated Appropriations law, which was signed by President Joe Biden on March 15. “This 8-inch water main extension will help bring clean water to people in the St. Paul-Mendon Road area and give people who aren’t currently connected the option to tap into the new water line. In addition to bringing clean water, it will also help improve fire suppression. So it’s a win-win for the community.”
The funding for Mowry Tower was included in congressionally directed spending for commerce, justice and science as a public safety communications equipment upgrade.
The steel tower, built in 1956 sits on a 586-foot hill believed to be the highest point in town, and was once used as critical tool for locating fires in the region. Mowry Fire Tower still holds antennas relied on by everyone from the town’s Department of Public Works to the local bus company, but the accompanying building has fallen into disrepair. The 65-foot-high tower is in the National Historic Lookout Register, and is one of just three such forest fire towers still standing in northern Rhode Island.
Last April, members of the North Smithfield Town Council allocated $68,382 for repairs, added to a previous budget of $2,500, with hopes that other sources of funding could be found.
Zwolenski initiated conversations with the U.S. senator last year, and said this week he is grateful for the outcome. believes enough to fully fund.
“It should be enough to fully rehabilitate the Mowry Fire watch tower,” he said. “Without Senator Reed’s efforts this would not be possible.”
Zwolenski also thanked others involved in the process, including Assistant Planner Bobbi Moneghan, North Smithfield Emergency Management Agency Director Col. Peter Branconnier, Department of Public Works Director Raymond Pendergast and Planner Mark Carrulo
“My job in the U.S. Senate is to support state and local priorities,” said Reed. “This federal funding will help repair the tower structure, remove obsolete antennae, and replace communications equipment to improve public safety communications capabilities.”
The projects are among more than 87 projects in Rhode Island set to receive $226.25 million in federal funds this year thanks to earmarks.
A complete list of congressional appropriations can be found here.