Public works spending, fate of historic building on Hadley ballot

  • The North Hadley Village Hall, located at 239 River Drive, Hadley. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/12/2019 12:49:01 PM

HADLEY — Department of Public Works projects and equipment totaling $265,000 will be subject to a Proposition 2 ½ debt-exclusion override Tuesday, during which voters will also weigh in on what they want to see happen to the North Hadley Village Hall.

Polls will be open at Hopkins Academy from noon to 8 p.m.

The five-question ballot includes four spending articles approved by annual Town Meeting in May, including $100,000 for cleaning and repairing ditches, $75,000 to buy a skid steer loader to handle drainage work, $60,000 to purchase a mini-excavator and $30,000 to get a hot box that holds hot asphalt to fill potholes. The fifth question is a non-binding article that seeks advice from residents about the future of the historic town building at 239 River Drive.

For an average single-family home valued at $324,000, all four spending articles, if approved, would add $16.46 per year to the tax bill. The ditch work would add $4.22 to the average tax bill over 10 years, the skid steer would add $5.62 per year for five years, the mini-excavator $4.38 per year for five years and the hot box $2.24 per year for five years.

The non-binding question asks: “Shall the Town of Hadley demolish the North Hadley Village Hall to provide additional greenspace for the existing ballfield?”

The question comes as town officials have been trying to sell the 1864 hall, at the direction of Town Meeting in fall 2014, but have also learned that it may be impossible if a developer is unable to use the adjacent ballfield for parking.

Select Board Chairman Christian Stanley said the hope is to get direction for residents after annual Town Meeting rejected an article that would have asked the state Legislature to remove the permanent protection from the ballfield under Article 97 of the state Constitution.

Since there now appear to be conflicting votes from residents on the future of the property, Stanley said the question will allow officials to better understand whether the priority should be on preserving the hall, originally built as a school building, or the landscape, which abuts Lake Warner.

“We’re putting this question on the ballot to see if citizens of Hadley favor tearing down the building. We’re trying to gauge how they feel,” Stanley said.

There is a consensus among town officials that Hadley can’t afford to maintain the building long term or renovate it for other municipal uses. That rehabilitation was estimated at $1.5 million in 2012, with the cost likely to have doubled to a $3 million project now.

Even with the vote coming, the town will continue to market the building to see if a private developer might be interested in it.

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


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