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Erving to weigh Usher Plant future, school security, residency

ERVING — Spending to mothball the Usher Plant, security upgrades to the elementary school and a new residency requirement for future town hires in four key positions will be the proposals facing residents at a special town meeting on June 24.

The first spending question asks for authority to transfer $67,236 from previously appropriated funds to mothball the Usher Paper Mill boiler room building on Arch Street, the sole remaining building of the defunct mill complex, and to plan for the town property’s redevelopment.

The Usher Mill Reuse Committee’s request includes $25,000 to patch the roof and $25,000 to hire a planning consultant to assist the committee and the Board of Selectmen in overseeing redevelopment of the site.

Also included are $12,000 to commission an evaluation of environmental permitting from a Franklin Regional Council of Governments planner, two surveillance cameras to monitor the site and prevent garbage dumping and vandalism, portable work lights to illuminate the interior for prospective developers and an LCD projector and screen.

Jeanie Schermesser, who co-chairs the reuse committee, said the environmental evaluation is a necessary first step to understanding what can and cannot be done with the river-adjacent property.

The committee envisions the property as a downtown hub, a destination with river access for canoes and kayaks, possibly with restaurant, historical, residential components, Schermesser said, but it is too early in the process to predict what will happen or when.

Money for the roof is intended to stop leaks and prevent further damage to the interior, rather than to make permanent repairs. Schermesser said with all the possibilities for roofs, including solar installations or roof gardens, the committee does not want to tie any future developer’s hands.

The project has not yet been bid out, Schermesser said, and the $25,000 is an estimate intended to prevent the need to return to town meeting for money.

Hiring of a planning consultant is meant to get the project started on the right foot, oversee and coordinate the application processes, coordinate information and generally keep a handle on all aspects of the project, Schermesser said.

An LCD projector and screen is included in the request because the town does not have one and it could be used by the reuse committee, other town boards and the elementary school for presentations, she said.

Opinions of the property’s potential are mixed. A survey conducted at last month’s town meeting asked residents whether they felt the boiler building should be saved drew 11 in favor of keeping the building and 18 against.

Town Administrator Thomas Sharp said the money is to come from existing money earlier set aside for the Usher property in two separate town meeting votes.

School security

The second spending article asks residents for authority to appropriate $50,000 to upgrade security at the Erving Elementary School.

School Union 28 Superintendent Joan Wickman said the State Police offered to do a security audit of each of the schools following the Newtown, Conn., shooting, and the sum requested represents a one-time cost for upgrades to address the considerations found by the audit.

The final article on the agenda is a proposed bylaw establishing a residency requirement “for certain essential personnel in order for them to be readily available to fulfil their duties in an emergency.”

Affected would be the positions of police chief, fire chief, highway superintendent and town administrator.

The requirement would apply to future employees in these positions but includes a clause exempting the current employees.

The law would give future appointees to these positions six months to move to town or forfeit the job, with the possibility of an extension from the Board of Selectmen.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 24 in the Town Hall, 12 East Main St.

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

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