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WMECO closes Greenfield building

Keeps 6 employees in Montague City

Recorder/Paul Franz
Western Massachusetts Electric Co. has closed its Greenfield service center but six employees will be working out of the company's substation in Montague City.

Recorder/Paul Franz Western Massachusetts Electric Co. has closed its Greenfield service center but six employees will be working out of the company's substation in Montague City. Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — Western Massachusetts Electric Co. has closed its service center in Greenfield, but six of its more than 20 employees who worked out of that center will stay in Franklin County.

Four linemen, an electrician and a troubleshooter will work out of WMECO’s substation in Montague City.

“We’re bringing a presence back to Power Town,” said William Freeman, assistant business agent for the Local 455 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who is also a lineman for the company and will be one of the six working out of Montague City.

Turners Falls, of which Montague City is a part, was once known as “Power Town” because it was an industrial village on the bank of the Connecticut River. The canal generated power for all of its mills.

Originally, WMECO had planned to transfer all of the more than 20 employees who were working out of the service center on Shelburne and Colrain roads to its service center in Hadley.

“We’ll be working here on a much smaller scale, but I support keeping some of us here,” said Freeman. “We fought hard for our customers and it appears the company listened.”

Mike Durand, a spokesman for WMECO, said after a closer look, the company found space for five employees in its substation.

“Our crews work all over our service territory,” said Durand. “We’ll send the closest crew to a job.”

He said that means a crew in Franklin County could be working outside of the county at the same time a crew from Hadley is working within the county.

“This move is a good fit,” said Durand. “It will give us more geographic diversity and ease the minds of our Franklin County customers.”

WMECO said late last year that it decided to consolidate and would move its entire presence out of Franklin County, but some of its Greenfield employees and some of the county’s towns protested that decision, saying they wanted a local presence.

Durand said the Greenfield property will be sold when a buyer is found.

The rest of the former Greenfield employees are now working out of Hadley, where their trucks are parked overnight.

Priscilla Ress, a spokeswoman for the company, said in an earlier interview that a Northeast Utilities facilities review was done and found that the Greenfield facility was under-utilized and that’s why the parent company decided to consolidate.

The Greenfield center served Ashfield, Bernardston, Buckland, Colrain, Conway, Deerfield, Erving, Gill, Greenfield, Leyden, Montague, Northfield and Shelburne Falls. The employees who stay in Franklin County will continue to do so, with the help of employees located in Hadley.

Ress said the company will monitor response times to make sure there is not a negative impact on its Franklin County customers.

“Public safety is always our first concern,” she said. “We won’t allow it to suffer. It’s our priority.”

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