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Garage site back on Buckland meeting warrant

BUCKLAND — Buying town garage land in Charlemont is back on the table at this year’s annual town meeting, along with requests to OK borrowing for school building improvements at Mohawk Trail Regional School and at the Buckland Shelburne Elementary School.

The annual town meeting will be held May 7 at 7 p.m. in the Mohawk auditorium.

In March, a special town meeting article, to buy land and transform a former bus building into a highway garage, failed by two votes to get the two-thirds majority needed. The land cost was $675,000 and the town had sought permission to spend up to $1 million for renovations and additional highway buildings on the site. After that narrow defeat, three articles were returned to the annual town meeting warrant through a citizens’ petition, which was signed by at least 32 voters.

Finance Committee Chairman Dena Willmore said all the money needed to buy the land has already been put into the town’s stabilization fund over the last six years since the Conway Street town garage was closed, in 2008. However, even though the money is in stabilization, a two-thirds majority vote is required for approval.

“I started the petition because I think this is the most cost-effective way to get a garage,” Willmore said. She said she’d also heard there were many townspeople in favor of buying the garage site who did not attend the special town meeting.

The articles are identical to those defeated by a 32-19 vote in March: The first article seeks special “Home Rule Amendment” legislation to let the town acquire property outside its borders “for general municipal purposes ... which may include a highway garage.” The site proposed is the 12.23-acre parcel that was formerly an old drive-in theatre, and an adjoining 5.8 acre back lot, with access off North River Road, both in Charlemont.

The second article asks to authorize selectmen to buy the property. A third article asks voters to appropriate money to make improvements on the property, which would include bringing an old garage on the premises up to code. The existing town garage on Conway Street was closed in 2008 by the building inspector, who determined the crumbling concrete building was unsafe to keep vehicles in. The town has looked at several potential sites within town before looking at the Charlemont property, near the town border. Now the old garage has gotten so compromised that it is locked, so that no one goes in it, Willmore said.

A copy of the draft warrant is available in Town Hall, but selectmen and the Finance Committee are expected to finalize the warrant later this week.

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