Frequenters of Conimicut should have reason to rejoice, as a long-awaited plan to improve areas of the village center were approved by the Warwick City Council during their Monday night meeting.
The $133,000 project is being paid for through a $69,000 award provided to the Conimicut Village Association by the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation’s Main Street Improvement grant program, which will be matched by city Community Development Block Grant funding. The grant was originally awarded in 2017, but complications over what it could be used to improve (specifically related to crosswalk renovation requirements) pushed its implementation back longer than anticipated.
But now the scope of the project has become clear. The updates will include pedestrian and roadway improvements to embolden fading crosswalks and replace degrading sidewalk panels, give a facelift to Donovan Park at the center of the village and will also enable the city to remove some aging and rotted trees and replace them with smaller, street-friendly trees. Work on the project must be completed prior to the end of the calendar year for the grant to be utilized.
The full scope of work for the project was initially intended to be larger but, due to the funding available and pricing received for the work, had to be scaled back. Three bidders were originally selected to do the work, but the funding complications led the city to award the bid to just one company, Skurka Construction, of West Warwick.
Regardless of the lessened scale, Conimicut Village Association president Virginia Barham is enthusiastic the work will finally be getting underway.
“We’re excited. We’ve had that money since Kevin Sullivan when we got the grant and it’s been one road block after another,” she said during a recent interview. “I’m comfortable that the priorities that the Conimicut Village Association had are all taken care of. I, and the Conimicut Village Association, really appreciate the persistence that Bill [Facente] has displayed in not giving up on this project despite the many road blocks we encountered along the way.”
Barham is hopeful that a refurbished Conimicut Village could be beneficial to small businesses that exist or are looking to set up shop. She teased an event coming up in October sponsored by the Conimicut Village Association that would help give small businesses a boost and hook up prospective business owners with area landlords.
“We’re really trying very hard to bring business back into Conimicut,” she said. “Anything we can do to liven up the village, especially the center part of the village, will be a plus.”
On Monday night, after a short round of questioning by Ward 5 Councilman and finance committee chairman Ed Ladouceur towards William Facente, who oversees the dispersal of Community Block Grant Funds, the fact that the project would address safety issues in the village at no extra cost to the taxpayers was all Ladouceur needed to hear.
“We need to get this done anyway, but now we can get this done with a $69,000 grant? I’m done,” he said.