Jehovah’s Witnesses to build new hall

Recorder/Paul Franz
This land at the site of the former Saddle Shop off Shelburne Road in Greenfield is the planned site of the new Kingdom Hall for the Greenfield and Shelburne Falls congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Recorder/Paul Franz This land at the site of the former Saddle Shop off Shelburne Road in Greenfield is the planned site of the new Kingdom Hall for the Greenfield and Shelburne Falls congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses.

GREENFIELD — Preparations for a new Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses has begun, after being on hold for four years.

In 2009, the Greenfield and Shelburne Falls congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses announced joint plans for a new place of worship, but said they still needed to get their funding in order before beginning.

The hall will be built on the site of the old Saddle Shop, which burned down in 2008. Its foundation still stands, and will be added onto and used to support the new structure.

The congregations bought the rear 2.5 acres of the property, the entrance to which will be located off Shelburne Road, so members won’t have to pull out onto busy Route 2.

Permits for the project have been in order for about four years, and thanks to the state’s permit extension act, they’re still valid, according to Eric Twarog, Greenfield director of planning and development.

When it’s done, the 4,058-square-foot hall will have a capacity of more than 130 people, said Rob Nicoll, spokesman for the Massachusetts Jehovah’s Witnesses Region Two Building Committee.

He said this will provide room for the congregations to grow. The Greenfield group has approximately 115 members, he said, while Shelburne Falls has about 60.

It will be a modest, single-story structure, with an attached carport and covered walkway.

Site preparation has already begun, and construction is tentatively set to begin Sept. 19. It will take about four weeks. While the two congregations will continue to meet separately in the shared building, they’ll build it together, along with members of other halls.

“We have 1,200 volunteers signed up for the project,” said Nicoll, though they won’t all be there at once. “Many of them have worked on numerous Kingdom Halls.”

Members from congregations around the region will descend on the site, roll up their sleeves and pitch in to keep the cost down. There’s also the added benefit of building community by putting up a community building.

“We have skilled tradesmen (in the denomination), licensed plumbers and electricians, skilled carpenters, roofers, concrete workers, bricklayers, all the different trades,” said Nicoll. “We also have a lot of volunteers who are willing to be trained, or have been trained over the years” during other Kingdom Hall projects.

While construction crews are working up an appetite, the kitchen crew will be whipping up meals.

Nicoll said there was a time when a hall would be put up in a matter of days, not including foundation and site work.

“Crews would come in Friday night, and the hall would be finished, carpeted, and full of chairs by Sunday night,” he said. “Now, we spread it over four weekends. Over the years, we realized that, while it was efficient (to build in a weekend), we need to take a little more time to ensure the best quality.”

Nicoll, a member of the Northampton congregation, has been a part of several Kingdom Hall building projects.

“For years, I worked on the drywall crew,” he said. “We would work like crazy to get it done, then go home, and the painters would come in right behind us, as soon as the mud dried.”

While volunteer labor keeps construction costs low, a catalog of pre-drawn hall plans curtails design costs. Congregations select a design based on the property available, space needs and budget.

There are plans to keep operational costs low, too.

“This weekend, we will begin work on a geothermal (heating and cooling) system,” said Nicoll.

Heat-exchange coils will be buried in a dozen 4-foot-deep trenches, that will later be paved over for parking. Nicoll said this won’t take the place of traditional heating and cooling systems, but supplement them.

“We’ve never done a geothermal system before,” said Nicoll.

He said the building will also have solar electric panels when it’s done, though he didn’t have specifics at hand when interviewed.

The project has been so long in the making because the congregations hoped to sell their current meeting places to fund it.

Their hall on Bernardston Road in Greenfield was sold in April to the Greenfield Russian Evangelical Baptist Church. The Shelburne Falls hall, at 412 Mohawk Trail, is still on the market, currently listed for $198,900 on several real estate agency websites.

David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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