Halliwell plans on hold as town evaluates buildings

Halliwell plans on hold as town evaluates buildings

NORTH SMITHFIELD – The town is pursuing an evaluation to see whether concerns about the HVAC system and other issues at the former Halliwell School property will prevent them from using the buildings in the near future.

On Monday, the Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust, which provides insurance coverage for municipal buildings, sent the results of an inspection to North Smithfield town officials. The trust was recently brought in to inspect the buildings as the town considers opening them for use by municipal and other groups.

Kenneth Fogarty, a property loss prevention specialist with the trust, offered several recommendations regarding the largest building on the property, also known as the “cafetorium.” These included:

• A complete evaluation of the HVAC system by a licensed contractor, including filter replacement, duct work cleaning and mechanical evaluation

• An evaluation of the “small animal intrusion issue” by a licensed pest control contractor

• Cleaning up waste and debris

• An indoor air quality test

• An evaluation of the electrical wiring

Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski told The Breeze he expects to move forward with the HVAC evaluation, though the timeline of that review is uncertain. Zwolenski said they have not yet checked the buildings for mold but plan to pursue the recommendations.

“If there is mold, then we’d have to take more stringent mitigation, but at this point we’re just looking for evaluation,” he said.

He said the “small animal intrusion issue” referred to squirrels getting into the building.

Last week, the Halliwell Review Committee met at Town Hall to discuss the future of the property. Among other topics, they spoke about the possibility of allowing town-based or other groups to use the property, but said that usage would have to wait until after the insurance issues are resolved.

“Step one is doing that, and then step two will be us reviewing the buildings,” Chairman Jeff Porter said.

Members also raised concerns about the use of the property by the newly established Senior Citizen Advisory Committee, which has listed Halliwell as the location of at least two of its meetings. Zwolenski confirmed to The Breeze the group has met there previously, but said the town is no longer allowing groups to meet there.

“I think it’s since been realized that we don’t open this up until we get a clean bill of health. A few years ago we wouldn’t allow kids in there, why should we allow seniors in there?” he said.

Zwolenski said he does not expect the recommendations from the trust to impact plans for a community garden approved by the Town Council last week. The garden is expected to be located outside between the cafetorium and a classroom building next door.

The Town Council also recently approved an $84,000 study by firm Weston & Sampson to evaluate the long-term use of the property under the oversight of the Halliwell Review Committee.