Editorial: New safety complex idea has promise

Greenfield’s Mayor William Martin has never been reluctant to formulate grand plans and then share them with the public.

At the forefront of those thoughts lately has been a desire to build a centralized safety complex.

Just last July, Pacheco Ross Architects of Albany, N.Y., provided the community with research on such a project. Five locations — the former Lunt Silversmiths factory site, the ex-Holy Trinity School property, the land that once had a Don Lorenz car dealership, the closed Friendly’s restaurant and the existing fire station — have been the most studied, with some Greenfield officials leaning toward the former Lunt Silversmiths property on Federal Street as the best choice.

Although these may have been the best sites, each came with their own issues, and progress has been slow. But now a new contender as emerged, one that might prove to be a good fit.

As reported last week, Greenfield and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. have been talking about the utility’s building and property at the corner of Shelburne and Colrain roads. And while both the mayor and WMECO are emphasizing that they’ve just started a conversation, we, too, are intrigued by the possibility.

One aspect of this property that the mayor likes is that the building that already exists there seems suited for a safety complex . Since WMECO has housed its service center depot for Franklin County there, it would appear to be the kind of site that could more readily accommodate the various vehicles used by the fire and police departments. That kind of building, too, could come with a cheaper price tag for the project of turning it into a safety complex — the architect’s study envisioned some $16.5 million as a ballpark figure.

This site is appealing, too, because it’s not a piece of property that is better suited for some other kind of use, such as retail or commercial. And because it sits near the highway and Route 2 rotary , it provides quick access to the rest of town — east on Main Street into the business district, west on the Mohawk Trail toward the hill towns, north on Interstate 91 and the bypass to the northern part of Greenfield, and north on Colrain Road toward the Meadows.

For WMECO, the town’s interest comes at the right time as it is continues to move toward shifting the Greenfield service center operations to Hadley. It might even be possible, said the mayor, for the town to lease space to WMECO should it want to keep some employees here.

As we have suggested in the past on this page, Greenfield should be thorough in moving toward building a safety complex to make sure that it is a good fit from many angles. At first glance, the WMECO site looks like it could work well.

Let’s find out more.

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