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Buckland board seeks Route 2 site for garage

Needs voters’ OK to try for Charlemont land

BUCKLAND — After many years of looking for a new town highway garage site, selectmen have found what they wanted: A commercially zoned site on Route 2, with about 12 acres and a 10,000-square-foot building used to service buses in the past. The only hitch is that it happens to be in Charlemont.

A special town meeting is set for Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. in Town Hall, to see if voters will let the Board of Selectmen seek special legislation that would allow the town to acquire the old Mohawk drive-in property, in Charlemont, but near the town border. The warrant article says the land is to be acquired “for general municipal purposes,” which “may include a highway department garage.”

A Massachusetts’ state law, the Home Rule Amendment, requires passage of special legislation to allow one municipality to buy land in another town or city.

Another article asks for money to buy the land and to make necessary improvements on it. Town Administrator Andrea Llamas says the selectmen will recommend spending $675,000 from the Stabilization Account to buy the property.

The land is owned by former Mole Hollow Candle Co. owner Peter Curtis, and had been considered for a 2.6 megawatt solar farm in 2012. The land-purchase would include 12.23 acres with the address of 2231 Mohawk Trail, and about 5.8 acres in back, off North River Road.

According to Highway Department Superintendent Steve Daby, town officials began thinking about a new Highway Department garage back in 1986, when the garage was condemned, and the Highway Department “got kicked out” of its Conway Street garage by the building inspector. After the building was repaired, Daby said the Highway Department was allowed to move back in — on a temporary basis — until a better garage site could be found.

Town Administrator Andrea Llamas said the town’s insurance company reported concerns about the building in 2004, before it dropped the garage from the town’s insurance coverage, in 2005 because of safety issues.

In 2007, a building committee was formed and requests for proposals went out for a new garage site.

Then, in 2008, the building inspector closed the garage, and told Highway Department officials to remove all vehicles from the garage because it was structurally unsound.

Daby said the Conway Street garage was not built as a garage, but was possibly a coal storage building that the town purchased for a garage in the 1950s. “Even then, there was not enough room,” said Daby, noting that the department used Lamson & Goodnow land for its salt and sand storage.

Daby believes the Conway Street garage is at least 100 years old, because the old concrete beams are cracked and deteriorating. Daby said the Highway Department still uses one of the bays for washing vehicles, but whenever they walk through the building, to get to the bay, they see more signs of crumbling concrete, he says. “There is no drainage in the building, so whenever it rains in the spring, the building floor fills with water.”

With no garage to use, 11 town vehicles have been stored in a variety of places during each winter, while town officials explored possible garage sites along Route 112, and at the old Mayhew Steel factory. They also studied the idea of building a new garage on the existing site, but found it was not large enough for modern highway equipment.

Llamas said the idea of converting the Mayhew plant into a highway garage was dropped because it wasn’t cost effective to either renovate or to demolish the old building and build a garage there.

Daby said the former B & F Transportation Co. building, on the Charlemont land, would require very little renovation. He said the building has about 7,000 square feet of garage space.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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