Letter: Going backwards on North Smithfield police station project does not benefit taxpayers

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Editor’s note: The below open letter to the North Smithfield Town Council addresses the initiative to have a previous architect for the project weigh in on plans for police station construction or renovation.

In reviewing the agenda for the scheduled May 23, 2023 Joint Meeting of the North Smithfield Town Council/Municipal Building Review Task Force, I discovered the following:

  III. NEW BUSINESS 

A. Discussion by Council, Vote, or Other Action regarding a presentation by Architect, Eric Army (appearing at no cost) to review the 2016 Police Station renovation proposal and 2016 architectural plans prepared by Mr. Army and discussion with Mr. Army regarding establishing an up-to-date analytical 2023/2024 project cost to complete a Police Station renovation based upon the 2016 Police Station architectural renovation plans. 

B. Discussion by Council, Vote, or Other Action on retaining the services of the Architect, Eric Army (who is prequalified on state MPA) to review the 2016 Police Station renovation proposal and 2016 architectural plans that Mr. Army prepared for the purpose of establishing the up-to-date analytical 2023/2024 project cost to complete a Police Station renovation based upon the 2016 Police State architectural renovation plans.  

I believe the referenced architect, Mr. Eric Army, was dismissed by the North Smithfield Town Council in 2016 or somewhere thereabouts. The following statement is recorded in the Public Buildings Improvement Committee meeting minutes from October 24, 2016: “John (Flaherty) wants to know why no one talked about the usefulness of Bushee earlier but PM Dan (Joubert) states that Eric (Army of Studio Meja) did not want to hear it and no feasibility study was performed”.

Subsequent to that meeting, the then Chairperson of the PBIC Roseanne Nadeau is on record for stating the following, as copied from the Valley Breeze article published November 16, 2016:

“Now, officials must revisit the plan looking for cuts, and Nadeau said they will likely reduce the scope of the work at the former Bushee School – a Smithfield Road building that currently serves as a combined Town Annex and police station. Original plans called for creation of a Public Safety Complex, with fully revamped holding cells and a gym area, and a new meeting space for the town’s Community Emergency Response Team classes, behind which would sit the town’s Emergency Management Agency.

While PBIC members are still ironing out which elements of that plan – which included some 52 items between two town properties – might change, what’s clear according to Nadeau, is that it makes sense to scale them back. “PBIC has had specialists going through that building,” Nadeau said of Bushee. “The building does have a lot of asbestos, and abatements came in very high. The bones of the building just aren’t up to standards.”

Nadeau said that the facade of the building is beginning to crumble, and the low ceilings would make it difficult to install a new HVAC system. “There’s really a lot of things we already had to concede because of the building itself,” said the PBIC chairwoman. “We as a board don’t agree with throwing a lot of money at it. The town really should be looking at giving the police department a new building.

Per the referenced agenda and above detailed facts, please explain how going backwards in 2023 supports the residents and taxpayers of North Smithfield. It was determined over six years ago that “the architect’s performance (was) being called into question” by the PBIC – also copied from the referenced meeting minutes – and since that architect has been away from this project for now over six years, how can they possibly add, up-to-date analytical 2023/2024 project cost”? Has Mr. Army or his firm spent any time on the current assessment and project costs, and if yes, have they somehow been promised remuneration if rehired? How exactly does a no-bid contract for a once-discharged architect to return to the scene of the debacle after over six years of exile support the taxpayers of North Smithfield in 2023?

North Smithfield currently has an architect of record, Tecton Architects, designers of more than 150 public safety projects, and as well the efforts of the MBRTF, now six-plus years into working on this project.  Why would the North Smithfield Town Council consider diminishing – or more exactly, dismissing – the work of an exceptionally qualified architectural firm and those MBRTF volunteers, who are intimately acquainted with and knowledgeable of the project and facility, to, again, go backwards?  I firmly believe leaders are elected to make decisions, not waffle over what has been determined long ago to be a waste of taxpayer funds – that is, any consideration of renovating a decaying Bushee facility. 

The North Smithfield Town Council needs to get behind a budget-minded new police station construction project and dismiss any notion of going backwards.  We elected you to lead, not follow.  Please stop following those who would look at any progress or improvements as a waste of money. You need to help us do better – not guide us towards jumping off a cliff.

Regards,

Tony Guertin

North Smithfield

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Tony can we really afford a new police station at$18M to $20M. My math says no but I am sure you think the town can afford a new station and have a quote from someone to back it up.

  2. Mr. Guertin loves quoting the former PBIC members and especially Mrs. Nadeau but never seems to fill in the context around those quotes. Everything was on the table for discussion when we were fired by the Town Council. That meant exploring new options as well. In the end, we were fired and told it was because our cost estimates were 1 million over the bond amount. So I’m not sure why anyone pushing for a new building would be quoting the PBIC as now suddenly on point nearly 8 years later.

    Funny how some stories look good and make sense until you know all the facts. The real truth is that the actions of THAT Town Council will cost the taxpayers tens of millions in delays and cost increases for whatever project is approved ten years later. Time was their enemy and they rolled the dice and lost for all of us.

    • Right on point Art Bassett. In addition, this letter attempts to portray the renovation plans as flawed, which was not the case. There was nothing wrong with the renovation plans; the issue was an insufficient budget. back in 2016, if incoming Town Council President Beauregard had allowed the PBIC to discuss the issue further with the Town Council, we wouldn’t be looking at tens of millions today. Shame on the other council members for ignoring the PBIC’s request and supporting John’s position. This whole escapade has been nothing more that attempt to overturn the results of a valid election held in 2014 when voters approved the renovation of the current police station.

  3. Have to say great points. Lots of thought and research in the post.
    Back then, these buildings were built with narrow doorways, narrow halls, lower ceilings, smaller windows, smaller rooms, poorer ventilation. And not so safe insulation. That was then, it was good for then…..needs and technology have all changed dramatically.
    You DO need a newer building, larger, for more staff comfort, safety and training; and considering all the new and various technology needed, the room and ventilation needed for it to not overheat. Seeing my own police station and the room full of screens to monitor our entire city, did I gain a full understanding and appreciation of what it takes to have eyes and ears everywhere for citizen safety.

    THE only remaining issues, are the size, the final cost and design, the subsequent upkeep of it, and getting it to fruition. Time to fish or cut bait. Hopefully a grant comes through to assist.

    • You must not remember when the police station was in the basement of the old town hall. The current location is the Taj Mahal compared to that. Bad location though.

      • Need to reread my post….the design chosen is too elaborate for this small town. Too high in cost. These architects are waaaay too expensive. Needs a trim down in size and cost. IMHO.

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