North Smithfield approved for $1 million federal grant for Halliwell redevelopment

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – The recently passed federal appropriations budget includes $1 million for redevelopment of the 32-acre property that once held Halliwell Elementary School, news supporters say they hope will confirm the location as the home for a new multigenerational center in town.

Funding for the project was a part of a $20,075,769 allocation for Rhode Island’s First Congressional District initiated by former Congressman David Cicilline and Sen. Jack Reed, and pushed forward this month by Cicilline’s successor, Congressman Gabe Amo.

Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski said he learned of the positive news during a call from Amo this week.

“We are thrilled,” Zwolenski said of the grant. “We’re very appreciative of all involved for their support of North Smithfield’s needs.”

The news comes amid debate in town over where to place a planned multigenerational center. The center will be built thanks to help from another $4 million federal grant secured in 2023 – initially set to be used to expand the small building by Pacheco Park known as Scouter’s Hall, to make more room for senior activities, including classes, meals, and more.

The more spacious Halliwell property, however, has also been under consideration as a place for both seniors and other amenities, with members of the volunteer Halliwell Review Committee laying out plans over the past several years for reuse of that town-owned lot.

Both projects are still in the planning phase, and each have their own camps of supporters.

Zwolenski noted that the latest federal grant targets outdoor passive recreation at Halliwell.

“If the Town Council decides the $4 million community center money will be established for Halliwell, this will be an improvement on that,” said Zwolenski. “This would be great to help out with the community garden.”

HRC Chairman Jeffrey Porter expressed similar hopes. 

“I am hoping that this further solidifies that the Halliwell property is truly the right place for the town’s multi-generational center,” said Porter in an email following news of the grant. “The HRC looks forward to working with the various federal entities to get this project underway soon.”

The town applied for the federal funds last February during the month-long employment of grant writer Lisa Andoscia, president and CEO of Rosewood Consulting. Zwolenski hired Andoscia for 30 days last year at a cost of $5,000 following consultation with some members of the Town Council, a decision that later came under scrutiny by board members, including Council President Kimberly Alves, who has said she was never comfortable with the temporary hiring plan despite the discussion. The Town Charter allows for approval of up to $5,000 in spending without express council authority, and the administrator has said that the decision was made at the time in order to meet several grant deadlines.

Supporters, including Zwolenski, and Councilor John Beauregard, who first engaged Andoscia after hearing of her success in other communities, had hoped to retain the grant writer on a more permanent basis.

But as the question of her initial hire and the process of hiring a more permanent grant writer became the focus of debate, Andoscia indicated she no longer wished to work in North Smithfield.

For their part, Alves and other councilors have said that the town needs to follow a formal process for such hirings and advertise the positions, with the full board also kept abreast of any decisions regarding grant applications. The council recently hired G & G Municipal Consulting and Grant Writing to perform the service at a cost of $3,000 a month.

But after hearing news of Andoscia’s success during her brief stint North Smithfield, Beauregard said he feels the town may have missed an opportunity.

“I have to wonder how many potential millions of dollars the town lost out on in the past year by not hiring Lisa when we had the chance, if this is what she produced in just one month,” Beauregard said.

While differing views on how to best utilize town assets seem unlikely to find resolution in the near future, for now at least, those working on the Halliwell project expressed excitement and gratitude for the additional boost.

“What a great achievement for the town, and myself and the committee are grateful for the continued support by our federal officials,” said Porter. “A big thank you to the folks that were responsible for pushing for this additional funding.”

“This is great for the town,” said Beauregard. “With this money we will be able to begin to make the Halliwell property into a beautiful outdoor recreation area with walking trails and other outdoor attractions.”

Zwolenski noted that the $1 million does not require matching funds from the town.

Other projects approved as part of the federal appropriation include $3,000,000 for supportive housing expansion, $5,000,000 for the Newport Cliff Walk and $2,240,000 for pump station upgrades for the town of Warren.

“The over $20 million in direct federal funding for these projects will make a real difference in the lives of countless Rhode Islanders,” Amo said in a release on the grants. “Across our great district, these federal investments will expand affordable housing options, improve public safety, revitalize our public spaces, and support the next generation of learners.”

Amo’s full statement on the allocations can be found here.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Major kudos to Councilman Beauregard for finding this grant writer and Administrator Zwolenski for hiring her. It seems like we had a real expert ready to go to work for us. It’s a shame politics got in the way.

    • It’s more of a shame that people want to bypass certain procedures. If only those people followed the procedures in place, who knows what we could’ve gotten. It’s a shame that we missed out on her services due to the inept of the administrator and friends.

  2. Don’t worry Mary, the internet TA of NS and his two lady Lieutenants will nix this project. He will claim that town isn’t smart enough to run a facility nor has the fiscal resources to do so. If it’s not what he would spend his own money on, it’s not worth the investment. And anyone who thinks it’s a good idea isn’t “fiscally responsible” and as smart as he is.

    Paulette and Kim will do everything to stifle, delay and confuse on this. Remember, DPW head says he already has plans to use some of the $4M to fix his Pacheco park entrance issue. Don’t forget who his better half is. Any plans at Halliwell are dead on arrival.

  3. Our sincere thanks to David Cicilline, Jack Reed and Gabe Amo for this appropriation. We now have secured approximately 5,000,000 for the multi-generational center. While it is less than the total of building, operational cost and monies needed going forward, we should begin establishing corporate, congressional and foundational relationships. Let’s do this and leave a legacy to future generations of North Smithfield residents.

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