Woonsocket officials to consider water extension along Route 146 in North Smithfield


NORTH SMITHFIELD – Officials in Woonsocket are set to discuss a proposal that could see water lines extended to homes and businesses along Route 146 following a request from their counterparts in North Smithfield, who note the project could bring more business to the area.

Although in its preliminary stages, proponents say the project could eventually bring life and development to several currently vacant or blighted properties, including the land holding North Smithfield’s famous “Milk Can,” a former ice cream store now sitting in disrepair.

Woonsocket City Council President Daniel Gendron brought the issue before his board this week, scheduling a workshop to discuss the issue on Monday, Oct. 24.

“I was contacted by the council president, Mr. Beauregard, who has requested to possibly see if the city would be able to provide water for the new 146 highway that’s being installed,” Gendron said. “I told him I would ask for a meeting with the City Council.”

The news comes as the Rhode Island Department of Transportation continues work on long-overdue repairs to the highway, a main route connecting northern Rhode Island and Massachusetts to the southern portion of the state. North Smithfield Town Council President John Beauregard said it was former Town Administrator Gary Ezovski who pointed out the urgency of discussing the option prior to the highway’s completion.

“This was something we had discussed before, but It kind of fell by the wayside,” Beauregard told NRI NOW this week. “If we don’t do it before the roads are done, they’re not going to allow us to dig up a brand new highway. It became more urgent to have these conversations and get it done.”

Preliminary engineering for the project foresees a 12-inch water main extended from Dowling Village to Sayles Hill Road, before looping back to the North Smithfield development. Businesses along both sides of the highway – which include Pytko Construction, North Smithfield Auto Body, Lakeside Pools and many more, would potentially benefit.

The Milk Can once operated as a food stop in neighboring Lincoln before it was moved to its current location in 1987, and efforts to revitalize the structure have been stymied due to water contamination on the property.

Beauregard noted that there may be federal funding available to complete the extension work, but to apply for it, the town first needs a commitment from the city to provide the water.

“This is step one,” he said. “We can’t move on to step two until we have a water source.”

Beauregard said that a meter at Dowling Village would potentially provide water to an expanded Slatersville Water system.

“They would bring it to the meter and North Smithfield would take it from there,” he said of Woonsocket’s role.

Ezovski said it was people from out of town who read the news about the start of 146 construction project that put the issue back on his radar. An environmental engineer by trade, the former administrator noted he still participates in the Rhode Island Business Coalition.

“I really wasn’t looking for anything to do, but I said I’d work with them to start asking questions,” Ezovski said. “I have had some part in getting a discussion going and trying to keep it moving. The question with that area is: what can we do to make it stronger – make it a place where jobs can grow?”

Ezovski noted that the impetus of state roadway construction comes also at a time when federal funding has been made available to target infrastructure improvements such as water line extensions.

“It’s the right time and the right place,” he said.

Beauregard said he’s hopeful the talks with Woonsocket officials could lead to further collaboration and a possible solution to other water issues – including inadequate pipes in Union Village, as well as more expansion along 146.

“The people I spoke to are looking at it regionally,” Beauregard said, pointing to potential growth for the stretch of 146. “It could be more employment for people from Woonsocket. They’re looking at the big picture.”

“I would like it to see it go all the way down to the Lincoln line because there’s a lot of properties there that could really benefit from having water,” he added.

Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski, who has also been part of the initial talks, noted that the proposal would have to be brought before both RIDOT and the North Smithfield Town Council, and that project is dependent on federal funding.

“It’s going to be quite costly,” Zwolenski said. “The rate payers couldn’t afford this.”

Still, if consensus can be reached, and collaboration between leaders from the two communities moves forward, he notes, it could be an attractive prospect.

“It would provide the possibility for more business opportunities and expansion for existing businesses,” Zwolenski said.

Beauregard has been invited to the Woonsocket City Council workshop, expected to be held at City Hall on Monday starting at 7 p.m.

“I plan on attending,” he said.

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  1. “but RIDOT has confirmed that there is still time to work a waterline element into the project and continues to encourage a cooperative effort to make it happen.”

    Gary, what is the exact date that RIDOT confirmed this? What was the progress since that date? What does a cooperative effort mean? There are a lot of nuances here…any of which could derail this effort. Please be specific.

    • Art of course RIDOT says there is still time. RIDOT and the union wants to milk this project for as many years as they can. Most residents of NS might be dead by the time they finish this project. Also remember the old union adage don’t kill the job. Also what is the cost benefit of adding water to this area. I think the cost out way the benefit. Another idea with no analysis.

    • Art, it was last Thursday afternoon and on several conference calls before that.
      The usual chorus of naysayers commenting here can keep hoping that those our cooperative effort will fail. That’s fine. I for one will keep trying to make it happen and I know other forward looking people will too.

      • Gary do you work for the town or have any authority to be on conference calls and negotiating on behalf of the town. How does any North Smithfield taxpayer get invited to these conference calls. Is Donald Trump still President running the country. This town’s government is out of control. Still don’t see a financial cost benefit impact study but I guess it sounds like a good idea is all we need.

        • It’s called advocacy. It’s when people work together toward making something happen that they think is good for their community. Ultimately elected officials decide what gets done.

  2. We are in the process of reconstructing 146 and eliminating the traffic light and you now just woke and want to put water pipes on a road that is already in the construction phase. 146 needs to be a highway with exit ramps and no business right on the highway that impede the traffic flow. Also I would not want to see the road torn up right after it has been paved. This is typical poor planning by inexperienced politicians aka Gendron and Beauregard.

    • I agree, this should have been done many years ago, but the town could never find the money. Although through the years we have spent many more dollars on unneeded projects and poor fiscal planning. I would also suggest the John Beauregard is not whom you would want to lead the charge.

    • NRINOW’s summary of actions to date is very well done. I am hoping some additional information will cure some concerns. First and foremost, yes there have been conversations over the years about how to service this area. Decades of experience from participation in town infrastructure related panels, plus my four years as the TA along with several months of conversations on the concept offered here, causes me to believe that no other proposal has been anywhere close to that which has been discussed to this point. The concept we have offered would serve the properties on 146 while also improving the flow dynamics in the Park Square end of the current Woonsocket water supply system. Council President Beauregard, Administrator Zwolenski, Woonsocket officials and the RIDOT 146 project team have all been extremely cooperative in the preliminary discussions of this initiative. That cooperation has been greatly appreciated. We don’t have time to waste, but RIDOT has confirmed that there is still time to work a waterline element into the project and continues to encourage a cooperative effort to make it happen.
      As to the idea that someone is just waking up, that is not the case. As the TA at the time I participated in the kick off meeting for this project held at Anchor Subaru about two years ago. I concluded my thanks to the state and federal leaders in attendance by encouraging that our next step had to be construction of a waterline. The element that most recently really brought this to life is the possibility that federal funds might be available to fund the project. That doesn’t mean expansion of the transportation funds that are being used to build the new roadway because they cannot be used for “local” infrastructure. As many are aware the federal government has recently issued substantial funding for infrastructure projects.
      Our 146 corridor was shaped largely by 1940 and 1950 design criteria. Efforts to modernize it have not been attractive. With appropriate infrastructure, the area can be improved by redevelopment to current zoning and design criteria which of course would include traffic management. Allowing it to just continue as is should not be our path forward.

      • Again Gary another long discussion with zero results just like the road repairs in North Smithfield. You talk about solutions but you never execute any plan so this is just typical politics. All talk no action.

  3. This issue has been tossed around for years with no resolution. It would be a wise move to get water there to help clean up the blight that this entrance way to North Smithfield has become.

  4. Hopefully the next council in Woonsocket can work something out because Gendron and crew will be gone very soon. A lot of people upset over the money they wasted to get Baldelli out for few months.

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