Lighting up Avenue A
New poles top list of proposals for Community Development money
TURNERS FALLS — Let there be light, and less litter. And a park, and housing help.
These were the proposals raised at a public hearing regarding the town’s annual application for federal Community Development money.
Town Planner Walter Ramsey proposed the town apply for money to replace the 30 streetlights on Avenue A with new poles and new LED bulbs. The existing posts have salt-damaged bases and a third of the lights are in disrepair, he said.
Ramsey said this was a recommendation of the recently completed Turners Falls Livability Plan, undertaken by the planning department, an architectural consulting firm and a committee of residents, town officials and business owners.
Ramsey said the new lights would be cheaper to use, cheaper to maintain, look better and create an increased perception of safety downtown.
Avenue A is home to the majority of the village’s small businesses.
A second, smaller recommendation issuing from the Livability Plan was the creation of a “pocket park” at the intersection of Avenue A and Third Street, in front of 102-108 Avenue A. Madison on the Avenue occupies the corner storefront, 102. The neighboring storefronts are vacant and have been for some time.
Selectman Michael Nelson asked if it would be possible to rip out the trees in the planters lining the avenue and replace them with smaller or larger trees.
Nelson said he hears frequent complaints that the trees block signs and windows.
When covered in leaves, the trees almost completely obscure some businesses from the street.
Ramsey said the livability plan advisory committee had discussed the trees and ultimately recommended hiring a professional arborist to prune them. The pocket park would open up the view to 102-108 Avenue A, Ramsey said.
The plan is for a 1,800-square-foot plaza bumped out from the sidewalk with a garden, a curated public art installation, elevation of the existing planter walls to seat height, bike parking and space for public performances.
The light project should cost $200,000 to $300,000, the park $50,000 to $100,000, Ramsey said.
Montague Business Association Administrative Coordinator Holly Givens thanked Ramsey for bumping the lighting project to the top of the list.
“That’s one of the things that our members have told me the most that they would like that came out of the Livability Plan,” Givens said.
The park proposal had raised some concerns over litter and snow removal, Givens said.
Ramsey said it would be town property and therefore the town’s responsibility. Nelson asked that trash receptacles be added to the light pole proposal, saying he noticed there are few while cleaning up after the Franklin County Pumpkinfest last weekend.
Ramsey said the self-compacting trash can currently located in Peskeomskut Park would probably also be moved to the new park.
M.J. Adams, director of the Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, requested that the town consider including housing redevelopment in the downtown area in the grant request. Housing redevelopment is a traditional element of the grant. Adams said the housing authority has a waiting list of 50 for the program, which funds projects such as lead paint removal or renovations to address housing code violations for low- to moderate-income households.
The Housing Authority manages block grants for the town, as it does for several others.
The state Department of Housing and Community Development awards the grants to address blight or to benefit low- to moderate-income residents.
The proposal meets the poverty criteria because it is a benefit to the whole town, said Bruce Hunter, a housing authority assistant director, and Montague is 57.7 percent low to moderate income.
Applications from a single community are capped at $1.35 million over two years, Adams said. Last year, the town won $426,406 for housing rehabilitation, a planning study for a new senior center, Meals on Wheels, a literacy and childcare program and two slum and blight studies.
The studies target the area from the former Strathmore Paper Mill and Indek power plant to the former Railroad Slavage, a strip predominantly composed of decaying former factories on the island between the Connecticut River and Power Canal.
The second study focuses on the area of the East Main Street and Bridge Street intersection in Millers Falls, including the three mostly empty and town-owned buildings on East Main Street.
The slum and blight designation would facilitate the use of Community Development funds in these areas, and Adams said there was some discussion of limiting this year’s application to conserve money for potential projects in this area under the two-year cap.
East Main Street is the Millers Falls downtown, and the three large buildings at the corner with Bridge Street have been in a state of disuse and deterioration since before the town took them for non-payment of taxes. The properties have been a frequent topic of litigation between the town and former owners. Monday’s meeting closed with an executive session for the announced purpose of discussing potential litigation with respect to those properties.
Adams said the Housing Authority has arranged a hearing Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. in the Millers Falls Library to discuss future work in the village.
You can reach Chris Curtis at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257