NORTH SMITHFIELD – A project financed as part of a 2019 tax treaty with a solar developer was completed this week, bringing long-awaited sports facility improvements to this year’s crop of student athletes and their fans.
Town Councilor John Beauregard held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new concession stand and bathrooms at the North Smithfield High School athletic fields, thanking all who made the structure possible, from proponents who spent years pushing for the project, to the developer who constructed it this year.
North Kingstown-based Green Development, Inc. built the facilities as part of a unique tax agreement tied to approval of a massive solar array, which went live on Iron Mine Hill Road last year. Green founder Mark DePasquale agreed to take on the work in place of a $286,000 one-time tax payment to the town, just one element of the PILOT agreement for the 49.3-megawatt array, now the largest in Rhode Island.
Dozens of residents joined town and school officials celebrating completion last week, with Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski noting that costs for the building far exceeded the alternative tax payment. Beauregard told NRI NOW that after delays, DePasquale’s construction expenses came closer to $600,000.
“Mark has spent a tremendous amount of money to provide these facilities for us,” said Zwolenski. “This is monumental for the town of North Smithfield.”
Beauregard wasn’t serving in government when he first brought an idea for the arrangement to the Town Council in 2018, noting that construction would likely be far less costly for a private developer than it would if completed as a municipal project. Previous efforts to build the facilities had failed, in large part due to capacity concerns with a septic system the building now shares with the high school and middle school.
“There should be a bathroom and concession stand at any field you go to,” Beauregard said at the ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, August 3, noting that after earlier attempts at permitting failed in North Smithfield, “at some point we just kind of accepted the fact that we were going to have port-a-johns.”
Two people, Beauregard said, did not accept defeat: North Smithfield Athletic Association members Anthony Guertin and William Nangle, who continued to advocate for the project.
“Tony, to this day, is still very much involved with this project,” he said.
The same septic concerns slowed DePasquale’s efforts, as extensive system testing was required by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
Still, as the building was unveiled last week, the new, ADA-compliant facility included one element that came in addition to the initial vision: a second-story press box.
Beauregard thanked the council and school committee members who unanimously supported his idea, and the two town leaders who helped to see it through: Zwolenski and former Town Administrator Gary Ezovski.
“At the time, is was risky politically, but they went for it,” Beauregard said. “If they didn’t support it, this wouldn’t have happened. We had our naysayers.”
Despite costs, DePasquale said he is also pleased with the final outcome.
“I’m very happy with the way it turned out, and I hope everyone enjoys it,” he said.