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Montague backs skate park funds

  • Young supporters of the Unity Park Skatepark cheer as the article approving its construction unanimously passes during the annual town meeting at Turners Falls High School on Saturday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Young supporters of the Unity Park Skatepark cheer as the article approving its construction unanimously passes during the annual town meeting at Turners Falls High School on Saturday.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Montague Chief of Police Charles E. Dodge III speaks at the annual town meeting on Saturday in support of the Unity Park Skate Park.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

    Montague Chief of Police Charles E. Dodge III speaks at the annual town meeting on Saturday in support of the Unity Park Skate Park.
    Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Young supporters of the Unity Park Skatepark cheer as the article approving its construction unanimously passes during the annual town meeting at Turners Falls High School on Saturday.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell
  • Montague Chief of Police Charles E. Dodge III speaks at the annual town meeting on Saturday in support of the Unity Park Skate Park.<br/>Recorder/Micky Bedell

TURNERS FALLS — Turners Falls residents Cecilio Sanchez, 11, and friends Jeremiah Russell and Ramon Rodriguez, both 12, said they are looking forward to having a place to skate where they won’t be yelled at, as they are now when they skate on the sidewalk or the street.

Montague town meeting voters unanimously endorsed spending to build a permanent skate park downtown, to applause and cheers from an audience of Unity Skate Park supporters. Spending is contingent on a state grant, but if the town wins that grant the concrete park could be constructed by next fall, according to Recreation Department superintendent Jon Dobosz.

Speaking for the volunteer skate park committee, Bryan Dolan said some think of the skate park as a luxury and for some it is, but kids need something to do and for some it’s serious.

“For a lot of kids I’ve met in the past six years living and working on Third Street, it’s an emergency,” Dolan said. Dolan illustrated his point with a photograph of a hypodermic needle of the type used for diabetics and heroin injections lying on the ground, a picture he said was taken the day before by a teenager in one of the abandoned buildings along the canal where he said kids play.

Dolan and others also invoked the names of the park supporters who have died in the 16 years since the idea was first brought forward, including two boys who drowned playing in the Connecticut River and a friend of theirs who died in a car accident this winter.

There was not a word of opposition to the park. Montague Police Chief and town meeting member Charles “Chip” Dodge III said he supports it 100 percent, as a parent and chief.

“We really care about the youth in this community and we need them to have something to do,” Dodge said. Dodge said it will also show young residents they are being listened to.

Sanchez spoke on behalf of the group of children, teenagers and families who turned out to support the park.

“I think we need this park just so people can be more active,” Sanchez said.

Town Meeting member Jeffrey Singleton said that as a parent who used to take his son to the former Greenfield skate park, he feels the planned Turners Falls park will be insulated from problems that plagued the Greenfield park because it is centrally located rather than isolated from the community.

The plan is to construct the park on the former Williams Way, along the edge of Unity Park facing Town Hall.

The vote authorized up to $400,000 for the park, that sum to be lowered by ongoing fundraising efforts and not to be spent unless the town wins a state grant for reimbursement of 68 percent of the project cost.

At present, Dolan said donations total $35,000, so the town will be responsible for $93,000 maximum.

“It’s still expensive, but durable, high-quality things always are, and it’s worth it,” he said.

Other business

In other business, town meeting voters approved budgets and other spending for the schools, both with debate over the necessity of security measures included in the budgets or in supplemental spending articles.

The town’s share of the Gill-Montague Regional School District budget comes to $8,293,458. Reduced to a number considered affordable by the town finance committees, the budget includes cuts to the equivalent of nine full-time positions including a math teacher, paraprofessionals and administrative support staff. Earlier cut, the high school Spanish program was restored to nearly full time. A $38,000 supplemental article will go largely to locks for classroom doors at one of the elementary buildings.

The Franklin County Technical School assessment came to $682,601. Members debated the FCTS School Committee’s decision to hire a school police officer from the Montague Police Department. Both school budgets and the Gill-Montague security question were approved by large majorities.

Voters approved $3,000,000 in borrowing, most from a state revolving fund, to pay for the replacement of two aging sewer pump stations. Sewer plant superintendent Robert Trombley said the remaining six stations will be repaired and upgraded in-house as far as possible. Voters also authorized $75,000 to clear a sand-clogged drain running under the Connecticut River and to begin inspecting other lines, and $175,000 to coat deteriorating sewer lines on Industrial Boulevard, Millers Falls Road, and Crescent Street in Millers Falls. Engineers from Town Contractor CDM Smith said these are of the asbestos cement type that collapsed last year by the Industrial Park, costing the town $1.7 million.

All but one of the 36 items on the special and annual meeting warrants passed. That article, accepting the donation of a half-acre plot on Sand Hill Road in lieu of taxes was voted down at the request of the Town Administrator, who said the situation had changed.

Among the articles approved:

∎ $2,122,370 for the operation of the Water Pollution Control Facility, 91 percent from sewer user fees and the balance from taxes.

∎ $81,679 for the town share of drainage and slope stabilization along a stretch of Millers Falls Road, the majority paid for by a grant.

∎ $86,738 for the operation of the Colle Building in Turners Falls, money drawn from the rental of the property.

∎ $45,512 for the Turners Falls Airport budget, with 80 percent taken from user fees and the remaining $9,347 from taxes.

∎ Creation of a committee to study the possibility of Erving joining the Gill-Montague Regional School District.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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