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Northampton City Council to weigh future of Florence Community Center building

— The City Council expects to take a first step toward selling the Florence Community Center building on Pine Street at its meeting Thursday.

The city took ownership of the former Florence Grammar School last year after the School Committee determined it no longer needed the structure for school purposes and voted to declare it a surplus property.

Since then, a special committee determined that it’s best to sell the three-floor, 30,000-square-foot building rather than invest $1.2 million in needed upgrades. The Florence ReUse Committee, working with the Finance Committee, voted last week to recommend to the council the building be declared surplus and sold.

Thursday’s council meeting, in the Puchalski Municipal Building’s Council Chambers, begins at 7 p.m. with public comment.

In a related matter, the council will consider a second vote placing a preservation restriction on the 84-year-old building. A future buyer will have the right to accept or reject the restriction, which would restrict changes to the exterior of the building, but would allow interior changes.

The building houses more than a dozen nonprofits and other tenants whose leases expire at the end of June. A tenants association representing those businesses has indicated it wants to stay there, and is reaching out to individuals and organizations that it might partner with.

The council will also consider these items on Thursday:

∎ A measure authorizing the Conservation Commission to accept conservation restrictions for parks and open space at Village Hill Northampton, the former Northampton State Hospital grounds.

∎ A proclamation declaring April 9 as National Service Recognition Day in the city.

∎ A fiscal 2014 budget update from Mayor David J. Narkewicz.

∎ A presentation from Help Yourself!, a Northampton organization working to plant fruit trees and gardens in public and private spaces in the city.

∎ An 8 p.m. election to fill a three-year term on the Board of Assessors. Timothy Fullam seeks re-election.

∎ The appointment of Alyx Akers of 91 North St. to the Housing Partnership.

∎ A financial order to transfer $20,000 from the police department’s salary and technical professional budget to its technology services budget.

∎ An appropriation of $8,743 in general fund money to help pay for repairs to the Water Street bridge. The bridge, damaged by a nor’easter in 2007, is expected to cost about $138,000 to fix.

∎ An appropriation of $7,000 in general fund money to help fund modifications to office space in Memorial Hall for the veterans services district.

∎ An order authorizing the Conservation Commission to issue licenses to farmers for growing crops on conservation land. The licenses can’t exceed five years.

∎ An ordinance amendment prohibiting parking at all times on the west side of Barrett Place.

∎ A second vote on an ordinance amendment that calls for the Community Preservation Committee to make initial funding recommendations to the council instead of the mayor.

∎ Second votes on a series of zoning changes that would increase height limits by 5 feet in the Central Business District, general industrial and office industrial zones; rezone three parcels on Easthampton Road to align with zoning in the Route 10 business park; and several other measures.

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