On deck: Council vote on Lunt
GREENFIELD — Some town councilors would like more information about how much it will cost the town to clean up the former Lunt Silversmiths factory before voting to approve a $75,000 down payment on the Federal Street property.
The mayor announced last week that he has a purchase and sale agreement with Lunt, but needs the $75,000 before the town can move ahead.
Mayor William Martin told councilors last week that the town should keep control of the property — after two years of leasing it for $65,000 a year. The mayor wants the town to buy it for $1.5 million.
Martin said the town would finish cleaning up the property, paying for the cleanup with grants and could put out a request for proposals to developers by as early as next spring.
The mayor has said he would like to see the baseball fields behind the factory stay where they are, and possibly expand them, and would like to see the Federal Street end of the property used for commercial purposes.
Precinct 9 Councilor Norman Hirschfeld said there are “lots of details about the financing that should have been included in the information we got last week.”
Hirschfeld said there are a number of new councilors who haven’t gone through such a process and who don’t know the history of the site and the town’s relationship with Lunt well enough to take a vote next week.
“I think they’ll need to get a better handle on it to vote,” said Hirschfeld. “This is a lot to deal with in a very short time.”
Martin and Greenfield’s Economic Development Director Robert Pyers presented the council last week with information about the purchase-and-sale agreement that the mayor has signed with Lunt and the Bankruptcy Court handling the case, but several of the councilors voiced concerns about not having enough information about the financing piece.
“We don’t have a real financial picture,” said Hirschfeld. “There’s also pollution we have to deal with and what the ramifications of that are.”
Hirschfeld said he believes the council will “do the best it can” on Wednesday night.
The council will meet at 7 p.m. in the studio at Greenfield Community Television, 393 Main St.
Precinct 4 Councilor Steven Ronhave said he feels he needs more information.
“I appreciate what the mayor wants to accomplish and I support him if the goal is to put the property back on the tax rolls,” said Ronhave. “I think the problem is with remediation of the property. We have to think about the long term.”
Ronhave said the Lunt property is a “sensitive, key piece” of property and he hopes the town can actually get the grants to finish cleaning it up.
He, like other councilors, is also concerned about how a $1.5 million loan will affect next year’s budget, as well as taxpayers.
Vice President and At-large Councilor Mark Wisnewski said he isn’t against the mayor’s proposal to buy the property, but he feels the council doesn’t have time to gather sufficient information before the vote.
“We’re supposed to have 30 days to make our decision on an issue like this one,” said Wisnewski, who said the council will have had just over a week when it meets on Wednesday. “We’ll first need a two-thirds vote to move the vote ahead on Wednesday and bypass the 30-day thing.”
“I’m not really happy with this procedure,” he said.
Wisnewski said he is worried about cleanup that is dependent on getting grants, and he isn’t sure they are guaranteed.
Precinct 1 Councilor Marian Kelner said she believes the proposal is a good one that addresses remediation and cleanup.
Kelner said she understood, after listening to Martin and Pyers, the town will have access to enough grants to finish cleaning up the property.
“We want to get this property back on the tax rolls so the town doesn’t carry the burden,” said Kelner. “The mayor is also focusing on creating jobs and increasing the tax base and that’s a good thing.”
Kelner said if the town doesn’t step in, a key property could sit vacant or end up in the wrong hands.
“It’s best if the town controls it at this time,” said Kelner.
Precinct 7 Councilor Karen “Rudy” Renaud said she is leaning toward voting for the town to buy the property.
“It would give the town more control over what will go there,” Renaud said. “It’s a great location, but it is currently zoned industrial and we don’t want that.”
Renaud said she also likes that the mayor has promised to keep the baseball fields there.
Precinct 2 Councilor Keith Zaltzberg said he is very excited about the redevelopment of the property, which is located in an important area because of its proximity to downtown, the highway and the baseball fields, and is excited about the mayor’s vision, but has some concerns about financing and potential environmental liability.
“They said the state will help us with (cleanup), but I just want to make sure we aren’t left holding the bag,” said Zaltzberg. “We have to make sure this is done right.”
Zaltzberg said talking about what might happen on the Lunt property is coming at an opportune time, as the town’s Planning Board will start its review and revision of Greenfield’s Master Plan after the first of the year.
“We do want to get the property back on the tax roll,” he said.
Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis, Precinct 6 Councilor Hillary Hoffman and at-large councilors Dalton Athey and Mark Maloni could not be reached Tuesday or Wednesday for comment.