Bill allows Smithfield to charge Bryant U. for safety services

A bill passed by the General Assembly allows the town of Smithfield to charge Bryant University for public safety services.

State Sen. Stephen Archambault, a Democrat from Smithfield, said he pushed the bill after failed attempts by the town to reach an agreement with the university on paying a "fair amount" in lieu of taxes.

"Why he hasn't sat down and reach a global resolution, I don't know. I'm extremely disappointed with President (Ron) Machtley," Archambault said.

The legislation allows Smithfield, which has about 21,000 residents, to charge Bryant for police, fire and rescue services by the town. Archambault says they are worth $250,000 to $350,000 a year.

Several tax-exempt schools in the state, including Brown University, have reached such agreements with their host cities and towns.

"This heavy-handed legislation comes after several months of good-faith discussions with the town of Smithfield and is not in the best interests of any of the parties involved," according to a statement by the university.

However, Archambault disagreed.

"He's taken good faith that's been offered by the town and he's resisted it at all costs, hiring a very expensive lobbyist and trying to defeat every attempt to reach a meeting of the minds," he said.

Residents told NBC 10 they would like some help.

"It's tough as it is for everybody to pay for police and fire to keep our town safe, so if everybody chipped in a little bit, even the private schools, then I think they should," said Laura Duby of Smithfield.

"I think they ought to pay some taxes. They ought to help us out," said John Sermak of Smithfield.

The school said it contributes more than $800,000 annually in direct and in-kind donations.

But Archambault said it's not enough.

"We're looking to offset costs that taxpayers incur so we don't have to go back to the people of Smithfield and say, 'We have to raise your taxes.' We don't want to raise your taxes," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.