Hilltown Voices: Williamsburg to hold two public forums prior to special Town Meeting

  • Williamsburg Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 2/7/2020 12:09:12 PM
Modified: 2/7/2020 12:09:00 PM

As Williamsburg continues to move forward with the process of building a public safety complex in town, the steering committee managing the project will host two public informational meetings prior to a special Town meeting scheduled for later this month. At that meeting, voters will be asked to approve $180,000 to fund the design phase for the public safety complex.

Both informational meetings will be held at the Anne T. Dunphy School. The first will take place on Saturday, Feb. 8, beginning at 10 a.m. and the second will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m.

The Owners Project Manager Steering Committee, working together with the P3, Project Planning Professionals, has developed a plan and budget for the schematic design phase for the complex, which is to be located on the site of the former Helen E. James School on Main Street. The site location came after several feasibility studies determined that the James building site is the most practical and cost-effective location for the complex.

The requested $180,000 will be used to have an architect provide multiple conceptual architectural designs and site plans.

A professional analysis of the Helen E. James school building will be done to determine how much work would be required to either re-purpose the building or to demolish it.

Three, detailed construction cost estimates also will be prepared. They will include one for an entirely new public safety complex building, another that utilizes the James building, and a third that would be a combination of both.

Once the final schematic design is completed, the committee will then request funds for final construction-ready design documents, as well as the actual construction of the public safety complex.

The special Town meeting will be held on Monday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. at the Dunphy School. Voting will be done using a secret yes/no paper ballot.

Climate change readiness

GOSHEN – Town officials in Goshen and Chesterfield attended a joint workshop on Wednesday to discuss strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change on the two towns.

Facilitated by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, this community resilience building event is the first requirement to participate in the state's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program.

Participation in the MVP program allows towns to become eligible to receive up to $2 million in grant funding to be used for projects that will help protect against things like stronger storms, rising temperatures, and increased flooding.

“That is a lot to think about and a lot to wrap your head around,” Goshen Fire Chief Sue Labrie said, noting that town officials present touched on issues of infrastructure, culverts, invasive species, fire hazards, septic systems, and water quality.

“We are thinking about how we can adapt, and more importantly, how we can get the funding to help us do that," she said.

All six Hilltowns in Hampshire County are currently at different stages in the MVP process.

Plainfield has already completed the process and Worthington and Cummington just participated in their community resilience building forum last weekend.  On Thursday, Williamsburg presented their summary of findings from their community resilience building workshop in an open community forum.

Chesterfield approves broadband funding

At a special Town Meeting on Tuesday, Chesterfield voters turned out in large numbers and unanimously approved spending $500,000 to fund the cost of broadband hook-ups going from the street to individual homes.

“We started in the Chesterfield Community Center, but so many people showed up that we had to move to the church next door!” Chesterfield Municipal Light Plant Manager Justin West said.

According to Town Clerk Sandy Wickland, 129 voters, a number that is rarely seen even at Chesterfield's annual Town Meeting, showed up to vote on this final bit of funding before the town begins signing up residents for broadband service.

The $500,000 will cover cost associated with connecting the town-owned broadband network from the street to individual homes. Without funding from the town, the connection fee for each subscriber would have been roughly $600.

West said that Broadband Chesterfield will begin taking subscriptions on March 28, something that is music to the ears of most Chesterfield residents.

“People were leaving the building on Tuesday commenting on the fact that they have never seen so many happy faces leaving a town meeting,” Wickland said.

Ideas for this column on life in the Hilltowns can be sent to Fran Ryan at Fryan.gazette@gmail.com.

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