N.S. police station project put on hold: Rising construction costs lead to minimum one year delay

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Members of the North Smithfield Police Department will have to put up with an outdated and deteriorating station for at least another year, following a recommendation this week that the project to build a new headquarters for local law enforcement be put on hold.

Municipal Buildings Review Task Force Chairman Paul Nordstrom told the Town Council on Monday, May 16 that rising construction costs make it nearly impossible to estimate a price tag for the project, recommending at least a one year delay.

“In this environment, it’s really, really difficult to get accurate cost estimations,” Nordstrom said at the council meeting. “Construction costs continue to rise. Inflation continues to rise.”

The board had hoped to put a bond question for the police station project before voters this November, a move that requires approval from state legislators. But with the General Assembly soon set to adjourn amid an unpredictable construction market, Nordstrom said waiting is the only prudent option.

“We don’t want to rush into things, which basically means, we’re not going to get anything on the bond issue in November,” he said. “There just isn’t a lot of time.”

Part of the problem, Nordstrom said, is that even if timelines were met and the project gained voter approval, it will take time for construction to actually get underway. Under the original plan, construction would not begin until the second quarter of 2023, leaving town officials with the impossible task of projecting distant costs in a volatile market.

The chairman said the bond vote could fail under the current cost estimate due to, “sticker shock,” or worse – get underway, only to see the town run out of money to complete the work.

Nordstrom noted that developers of other projects across the state, including a long-anticipated soccer stadium in Pawtucket, are grappling with the same problem.

“Maybe things will stabilize,” he said. “After awhile, people get so skittish they stop putting projects out to bid.”

Town officials could delay the project beyond a single year. If the General Assembly were to approve a bond referendum during their session starting next January, the vote in North Smithfield would require a special election.

“We have time to sit back, pause, look at things,” Nordstrom said. “The prudent thing to do is take a step back.”

The chairman did present the latest design for the station laid out by Tecton Architects. The MBRTF first presented a draft version of the project in September, which envisioned demolition of the current building on Smithfield Road, with a new station to be built at the same location at a cost of around $18 million. But councilors asked the board to look at ways to reduce the price tag, and the latest version on Monday saw a 4,000-square-foot reduction in space.

“We’re very pleased with the design,” Nordstrom said. “It’s kind of met all of the requirements. It’s smaller.”

Town Council President John Beauregard noted that the archetect created something that can be utilized later once the town is ready to move forward.

“It’s too volatile,” Beauregard said. “Tecton left us with a product that, at this point, if things don’t settle down for another year, at that point we could pick up right where we left off.”

Councilor Paul Vadenais, who also serves on the MBRTF, said the design is not likely to need much change.

“There’s no extras in there. There’s no fluff in there,” Vadenais said. “These are what your needs are and they shouldn’t change.”

“Now, we’ve got the volatility of the market that’s really wreaking havoc,” Vadenais said. “It’s such an unknown. We’re like, ‘you know what? Let’s just stop. We’re not going to get a good number.'”

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Coud not agree more with Mr. Conway, and from my conversations in town it almost a consensus. Residents needs to hold the purse strings tight with this council or they will overspend and continue to raise taxes.

  2. Only a 4000 sq ft reduction. I could have easily cut the number in half. The real reason for the delay is no one is going to vote for an $18 million dollar police station. So the current politicians are going to wait so they can come up with a plan to justify the absurd fiscal irresponsible expenditure. Police are meant to be in the community not hanging around the police station. North Smithfield is a small community that only needs a small police station. Not the mansion shown in the drawing.

    • You obviously haven’t spent much time within the interior of the current station. Have you been in the basement? It amazes me how people expect others to work in a totally inadequate, outdated building that is literally falling apart. Of course, the ones against this have most likely worked in far, far better environments, but to others they “too bad!” North Smithfield may be a small town, but look at the police logs and you will see overwhelming amounts of calls just to Dowling Village. Since that went up, the NS Police have had their hands full. This town wanted that development, they got it along with all the crime that it draws from out of town. At Walmart, I’ve seen fights with tire irons, people smoking weed in the presence of their small children, shop lifting, fights within the store, etc. And that’s just ONE store. Do you pay attention to the amount of arrests at the motels along route 146? Truly insane. The accusation that the police “hang around” the police station is utterly absurd and shows a total lack of appreciation for our police officers.

      • RC We did approve a bond to fix the current police station but that was not good enough. The officer’s wanted a shinny new police station. Also if you would like to look 2 police officers are sitting in there cars right in front of the police station today doing nothing. Also if crime is so bad a Eddie Dowling Village then why did the town council just approve some new affordable housing at that location. Also Walmart did hire security to help reduce the crime and number of calls. It is very difficult for citizens to respect officers that have ignored numerous calls and issues. Respect and appreciation must be earned and based on the state reports that respect has not been earned.

        • I guess you have no respect, so don’t ever call them if you need to. Sadly, they’ll have to deal with haters like you along with all the other citizens if called upon. Anyway, they’re too busy doing things like arresting violent drunks causing accidents at the Taco Bell intersection (see other story today). Thank goodness there are those willing to do this kind of work. That bond was woefully inadequate and should not have been put forth to the voters. Why would people like you blame the police for that and start insulting them on top of it? Childish. Police hate is all it is.

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