NORTH SMITHFIELD — Despite the recession and the continuing gloomy economic climate, North Smithfield was able to move forward with several economic and social initiatives during 2011, a year Town Administrator Paulette D. Hamilton called "great" in terms of how the town was able to meet the needs of residents.
"This has been a great year for improving the way we interact and respond to town residents’ needs," Hamilton said recently in her annual state-of-the-town address to the Northern Rhode Island Advisory Group, a small business affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce.
The annual state of the town address is given by the town administrator and is a summary of the status of the community.
In her address, Hamilton talked about the past year's improvements to town government and gave a detailed account of how each town department made changes to accommodate residents’ needs.
Included this year was an update on all boards and commissions and their mission to help residents become more familiar with volunteer opportunities.
"Once again, the team of municipal professionals that serve our community have not only provided stability, but have sought to make things better for all who live and work in North Smithfield. I'm proud to be part of the process," Hamilton said.
In her address, she referenced the success of the town's new municipal court, which was implemented just before the start of this year. So far, it's doing everything town officials had hoped it would, she said, including reaping new revenue and accelerating the legal process for disposition of local violations.
In the first six mionths of operation, more than $17,000 in revenue was generated by the court, with a net revenue amount for the town standing at nearly $10,000.
Town officials anticipate that the court will generate a gross income of about $75,000 for the town. Annually, the court is expected to cost $23,000 to operate with an anticipated net income of $52,000 per year.
It was Hamilton who made the pitch to establish a town municipal court in November of 2009, an idea that was eventually embraced and approved by the Town Council.
According to town officials, the local court allows for more efficient local enforcement of minor police violations such as trespassing and disorderly conduct, as well as traffic violations and zoning infractions. And, in addition to potentially reaping upwards of $75,000 a year in new revenues for the town, the court is accelerating the legal process for disposition of local violations and helping to cut town costs, such as those resulting when town officials, including police, travel to courts outside the town to represent the community.
In her address, Hamilton also noted the increase in recycling this year that gave North Smithfield state recognition and more than doubled the state rebate. This year, the town's municipal recycling rate was over 30 percent, which enabled North Smithfield to receive a $2 per ton rebate.
Last year, the town received $11,983 from the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) as part of the statewide Recycling Revenue Share Program. In fact, North Smithfield was third on a list of cities and towns that recycle the most trash, recycling 32 percent of its waste.
Hamilton also noted the creation of the town's first-ever Redevelopment Agency, which will promote and plan future growth in the Branch Village. The creation of such a Redevelopment Agency was the recommendation of the Branch Village Revitalization Task Force, which laid the groundwork by developing a town-approved revitalization vision for the Branch Village District. That group’s vision includes 1 million square feet of development with estimated fiscal and development impacts.
Hamilton's address also noted the designation of the Slatersville Historic District; the creation this year of the North Smithfield Food Pantry with the help of local churches; the addition of a North Smithfield Farmers Market to help local businesses; the success of the Great Pumpkin Festival, which drew more than 6,000 visitors to the town; and the recent Legislative initiative to include Slatersville as part of the newest National Historic Park.