In 2011, the town of North Smithfield – and others – was sued in RI Superior Court by a West Warwick woman for injuries suffered at approximately 8 p.m. on Oct. 29 2008, while she was leaving a soccer game at the Dr Paul F. Joyce Athletic Complex. The plaintiff was parked on Providence Pike and walking to her car when struck by a vehicle traveling north. The lawsuit stated in part that there were, “far fewer,” parking spaces than necessary. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then – people still park on Providence Pike to attend athletic contests, and that danger still exists today.
Parking at NSMS and/or NSHS and walking to the stadium is not the answer to the continuing problem of insufficient parking areas at VMS. The pathways from NSMS and NSHS parking areas are poorly lit and, in my opinion, not easily traversed at any time of day for anyone with physical challenges – and especially at night. And, “dropping people off,” physically challenged or not, in a demonstrably deficient parking area is not a solution – I believe that practice is in no way supportive of public safety or those who require significant physical assistance and care.
The University of Rhode Island is in the process of constructing a new parking lot at the corner of Plains Road and W Alumni Avenue in Kingston – just west of Meade Stadium and the Ryan Center. This large parking area includes solar canopies throughout, covering the majority of the parking lot. It’s quite impressive, and in my estimation is an excellent utilization of available space to enable generation of solar power. Apparently, URI has been able to get past any concerns around the longevity of the solar installation. Perhaps the facility’s management team at URI could offer guidance and help to support North Smithfield in this endeavor?
For all these reasons, the NS School Committee and town leadership should exhaust all efforts to partner with a developer in this matter, before considering spending in the area of $100,000 – after reimbursement of state taxpayer funds – or for that matter any taxpayer dollars on what is undoubtedly a necessary improvement. A chosen developer – as determined by the School Committee, and potentially without the requirement of a costly bid process – could conceivably present a plan to the Zoning Board at no expense to the town, and any challenges around zoning would then be publicly vetted. One solar developer has already offered to do so. Could there be more? Maintaining the status quo, especially in regards to the aforementioned lawsuit, plainly perpetuates negligence, as referenced in the lawsuit, and exposes the town to further litigation, and potential personal injury to fans of athletic events in NS. Why would we not want to increase public safety, improve a clearly deficient site and save taxpayer dollars at the same time?
North Smithfield RI
P.S. – I would be happy to volunteer my time in any effort to research URI’s process around their parking lot/solar canopies installation project.