Northampton City Council approves five preservation projects, balks at state hospital fountain
NORTHAMPTON — The City Council approved five Community Preservation Act projects totaling $337,400 Thursday night, but tabled a plan to restore a memorial fountain on the former state hospital grounds after councilors appeared split on the issue.
Several councilors voiced opposition to the $75,000 request from the State Hospital Memorialization Committee to rehabilitate the cast-iron fountain once located in front of the main building on the Northampton State Hospital campus. The plan calls for the fountain to be reinstalled in a “pocket park” on Village Hill that will honor the hospital’s patients and employees.
David A. Murphy of Ward 5 said that while he normally supports historic preservation projects through the CPA, he could not do so in this case.
“This one is too much money for me in too isolated of a location in the city,” Murphy said.
He said he might support the idea if the fountain was placed in a more prominent location in the city more accessible to residents — and if the price dropped by half.
The fountain project is expected to cost $145,000, about half of which would be raised through private donations, said Sarah LaValley, land use and conservation planner for the city. Of the $75,000 requested through the CPA, about $43,000 would go toward fountain restoration.
MassDevelopment, the quasi-public agency overseeing Village Hill Northampton, has donated professional design services and has said it would donate the land for the fountain, which would be placed in the same spot at the former state hospital where it used to sit, LaValley said.
City councilors Eugene A. Tacy of Ward 7 and Paul D. Spector of Ward 2 also voiced opposition. Tacy said he would like to see more outreach and fundraising take place before the city gives so much money.
Earlier in the meeting, councilor Marianne L. LaBarge of Ward 6 questioned why an intensive fundraising campaign had not happened in the last several years, and whether contractors who are developing the site have been asked to contribute.
“These people should be asked,” LaBarge said. She later added, “People are looking at this. $75,000 is a lot of money.”
Maureen T. Carney of Ward 1, who supports the request, pointed out that the location is in the perfect place to memorialize the history of the state hospital and is one of the few ways the city is remembering the patients there.
“This might be one remnant of that piece of history,” she said.
At Large City Councilor Jesse M. Adams sided with Carney.
“I believe there really needs to be some commemoration of the hospital and what took place there,” he said.
Though the project seems expensive at first glance, the request is reasonable after a more detailed look at the budget, he said.
The request was eventually tabled at the request of Owen Freeman-Daniels of Ward 3, who wanted to give members of the Community Preservation Committee or the memorialization committee a chance to be heard.
The approved projects are $190,000 for site work for the Connecticut River Greenway off Damon Road; $60,000 for a conservation fund that enables the Conservation Commission to quickly buy land for open space; $45,000 to renovate the baseball field at Veterans’ Field; $35,000 for a fund that is used to buy and preserve city farmland; and $7,400 for invasive plant control at the Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area.