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In the Arena: Greenfield broadband scrutiny just keeps rolling along


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin seems anxious to change the conversation following last week’s devastating testimony regarding the business practices of GCET, the agency which manages the town’s new municipal internet service.

Late Friday, Martin’s office issued a press release announcing that the Massachusetts Department of Revenue had “clarified” the accounting practices of broadband-only municipal light plans, which the mayor says has provided the town direction as it moves forward with GCET’s operations.

“We’ve been asking these questions for the last year, and are glad to finally receive this clarification,” Martin said. “There is no further need to continue this discussion, and we can move forward with doing what GCET was created to do — provide low-cost, high-speed internet across town.”

Town Finance Director Elizabeth Braccia — whose testimony during the Sept. 20 town council meeting was especially devastating — was also quoted in the release as saying that the DOR guidance “confirms the accounting processes I’ve been advocating.”

It was those same processes that, according to her testimony, earned Braccia quite a bit of bullying at the hands of the now-former director, and, by extension, Martin himself.

And as far as His Honor wanting to see the “discussion” end, that’s going to be up to the state auditor, whom the town council has unanimously asked to review GCET’s books in an effort to root out any other financial management irregularities which may have occurred — a probe which Martin says he very much “welcomes.”

We’ll see if he still feels that way once that audit is complete, and its results are handed over to the same council who got this investigatory ball rolling in the first place.

FIRST NATIONAL THANK

The town of Greenfield has reacquired what had once been one of its greatest redevelopment headaches.

It was announced this week that the Greenfield Redevelopment Authority has purchased the former First National Bank building from the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, which had been maintaining the property for the last 15 years.

The GRA technically owns the property, not the “city known as the town,” and what happens next is anyone’s guess. There is talk of converting the space into a new downtown cultural center or an art space, and that sounds great — but so did the half dozen or so other ideas that have been floated for the that building over the years, a movie theater, performance venue, and public service computer kiosk site among them.

Hopefully, this latest idea generates more action than talk, but either way, the town owes a pretty huge debt of gratitude to John Waite and the CDC for stepping in and helping preserve that building all those years ago.

I can remember seeing a lot of town officials spin their wheels trying to figure out what to do as that building literally began to crumble, and it likely would have seen the business end of a wrecking ball had the CDC not stepped in when it did.

Let’s just hope our current batch of officials honors that effort by developing a solid plan to re-use what is still one of the truly striking pieces of historic architecture left in Western Massachusetts.

KIP KIP HOORAY

It looks like the town of Deerfield is going to keep its ambulance service in town.

Of course, it’s not just Deerfield’s anymore. The South County EMS is technically owned by Deerfield, Whately and Sunderland, but there are still a lot of folks in Deerfield who view that service as their own — so much so, a lot of them threw a fit when it looked like SCEMS was going to set up shop in Whately at the former Western Mass. Library building, which now houses the town’s municipal offices.

One of the selling points for Whately buying that building was that it would have allowed space for other community entities to move there, SCEMS included. But the idea didn’t sit well with a lot of Deerfield people, especially when that town was paying the lion’s share of the cost of for that service.

The big problem facing Deerfield was lack of space or a building to house the service. Enter Deerfield Selectman Henry “Kip” Komosa, who spearheaded an effort to negotiate a deal for Deerfield Academy to build a new SCEMS facility on land adjacent to the current South Deerfield Fire Station.

A number of people scoffed at the notion, but the naysayers were silenced at the most recent Deerfield Selectboard meeting when the deal with DA was signed, following a lengthy executive session to hammer out the final details.

It’s a big win, not just for the town but for Komosa, who has solidified himself as a major player in Deerfield politics. He will also forever be remembered by a lot of grateful registered voters as the guy who “saved” Deerfield’s ambulance from moving down the road to another community.

Chris Collins is the Franklin County News Bureau Chief for WHAI, WPVQ and WHMP Radio. He is a former Recorder reporter.