Amherst department heads will discuss $100M in capital projects at Monday’s council meeting

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Published: 2/11/2019 3:37:43 PM

AMHERST — Four major capital building projects the town could be undertaking in the next several years, which could total more than $100 million, will be discussed at the Town Council’s meeting Monday.

Council President Lynn Griesemer said that councilors need to get information about each of the projects, including a new elementary school to replace Wildwood and Fort River schools, an expansion and renovation of the Jones Library, a new Department of Public Works headquarters and a new fire station for South Amherst, which would be built on the current site of the DPW.

At the following meeting, scheduled for Feb. 25, the council will look at options for how to fund these projects and how these costs will impact taxpayers, Griesemer said. This would mean updating a September 2016 plan that outlined covering the costs that at that time were pegged at between $96.5 million and $107.5 million.

“It’s just the beginning of that process,” Griesemer said.

Circumstances have changed since then, though, as that plan was to be covered through voter and Town Meeting approval of Proposition 2 ½ debt-exclusion overrides, an increase in annual capital spending, drawing on the town’s stabilization account and receiving significant state financial support.

The 2017 failure of the $66.37 million twin-school plan meant that Amherst relinquished $34 million from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

The Jones Library is still on the waitlist to receive $13.87 million in funding from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, while the DPW and fire station would likely have to be covered entirely by town spending.

A second tier of projects is also beginning to be developed that could include a new Senior Center and a second municipal parking garage.

At the Council on Aging meeting last week, member Jack Wollensak said that he met with Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek recently to examine sites for a new Senior Center, which are not yet being publicly identified, and that John Catlin of Catlin + Petrovick Architects, P.C. of Keene, New Hampshire may come to Amherst to do a presentation on a new building.

While still several years out, Wollensak said preliminary money for studying a new building is on the Joint Capital Planning Committee’s plan.

“I’m optimistic things are looking up,” Wollensak said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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