Mayor dreams of town hall at ballfields

Published 8:27 pm Tuesday, February 5, 2019

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

Smithfield Mayor Carter Williams presented a future vision of the Joseph W. Luter Jr. Sports Complex that includes an indoor sports facility and in the long run, possibly moving Smithfield Town Hall next door. 

The concept was presented in response to a request from the Isle of Wight Historical Society to allow them to preserve the Wombwell house onsite. The property — owned by the town — is along Route 258 and is next to sport complex. 

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“We have a scope of work that includes … an indoor/outdoor sports complex that goes exactly where that house is,” said Williams, referencing the Wombwell house. He spoke following the Historical Society’s request, which was made by its Vice President Albert Burckard and President Carolyn Keen at the Jan. 29 Town Council Public Buildings and Welfare Committee meeting.  {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Williams described the future indoor/outdoor facility as a “huge” building that can be used to play “soccer, football, baseball, volleyball” and other sports throughout the year, despite the weather. Williams added that in the wintertime, local events come to a dead halt, and that the potential facility would be the reason to relocate the Wombwell house instead of preserving it where it was built. 

Williams suggested relocating the house to a site on Waterworks Road, which runs along the town-owned property.

In terms of financing the indoor/outdoor facility, the mayor said that he and town officials were in the process of applying for one grant and were exploring others.  

“The town’s not going to be able to stay where they are (in) their building on Institute Street and scattered about town like we are right now,” he said, on the topic of relocating Town Hall to the Luter property. “The town hasn’t got but one way to go and that’s out that way for building in the future,” he said, adding that the concept of moving Town Hall to the Luter site is a long range, 25-year plan. 

The roughly $4 million sports complex is currently limited in use due to the lack of a turn lane for the property along Route 258, as required by VDOT. Utility improvements are currently underway to be followed by construction of the turn lane. 

Williams said in an interview on Feb. 1 that the Town Hall idea is his own and doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinion of any Town Council members or staff. He added that he will bring it up to the council during its March retreat, during which budgetary decisions pertaining the town’s future priorities and goals will be made.  

Last month, Town Manager Brian Thrower requested authorization of funds by Town Council to begin renovation of 310 Institute St. Because of the building’s physical state, Thrower also expressed a long-range interest in constructing a new town hall somewhere else several weeks ago, but didn’t specify where at the time.   

Town employees are now spread between the offices at Institute Street as well as South Church Street. 

In an interview on Feb. 1, Burckard said that he wasn’t opposed to Williams’ idea moving Town Hall to the Luter property, but not for the sake of the Wombwell house being relocated or demolished.