In The Arena

In the Arena: Tensions continue to build

Are David Jensen’s days as Montague’s building inspector numbered?

It sure sounded like it at this week’s selectmen’s meeting, where Chairman Mark Fairbrother took Jensen apart over his refusal to issue a building permit to reconstruct two Hatchery Road barns destroyed by a March arson fire. At issue is the footprint for one of the structures, which remains in a right-of-way that is apparently owned by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. When Jensen informed selectmen that the issue would prevent him from issuing the building permit — even if ordered to do so — Fairbrother went on the attack.

“Well, we don’t have to appoint you at the end of June, either,” Fairbrother snapped.

“Is that a threat?” Jensen responded.

“No, just an observation,” Fairbrother retorted. “My (further) observation is from the last meeting was that you clearly did not want this to happen. Not just that ‘oh, it’s a law,’ but you were clearly opposed to it and I think now you’ve found something to hang your hat on ... do you do this with all building permits which come before you?”

It’s not entirely clear whether this incident was isolated or indicative of a more extensive rift between the two, but it will definitely bear watching as we inch closer to June 30.

Left out of the loop

If you are going to pass an ordinance in any community, it’s probably a pretty good idea to at least tacitly inform the agency charged with enforcing said regulations.

This reality is apparently lost on certain members of official Greenfield, who have, once again, drafted an ordinance mandating enforcement by a Board of Health that has received no such notification.

“I received a visit from some members of the (Biomass Waste To Energy) committee, which has been drafting the new air regulations,” Greenfield Health Director Nicole Zabko said. “They said the Board of Health needed to ‘get on board with this,’ but the board hasn’t even had a chance to review or vote on it.”

For those who may not know, that ad hoc committee was charged by the Town Council with drafting new minimum air-quality standards, ones that are expected to put the final nail in the coffin of an already largely defunct effort to establish a biomass plant in Greenfield.

The incident was something of a “Groundhog Day” moment for Zabko, who was also never told about the proposed noise ordinance currently in the council pipeline, which also requires at least partial Board of Health enforcement.

“I’m not saying I have a problem with (the ordinances),” Zabko said. “But it’s up to the board to decide how they want to handle the enforcement end of it.”

That discussion is expected to happen at this coming Wednesday’s Board of Health meeting, where Steve Adam, former Orange selectman and GOP legislative candidate and newest board member, is set to join the board. Adam’s about to get a crash course on environmental politics in Greenfield.

Good luck with that one, dude.

Parking kiosks get a test

It takes a lot to get me excited about much of anything related to public policy, but I’ll admit to being more than a little pumped up about Greenfield’s “pilot” program to do away with downtown parking meters in favor of kiosks similar to the ones in place in town-owned lots.

Greenfield Finance Director Marjorie Lane Kelly says the “experiment” kicks into gear this week when signs will be placed on the meters reminding residents to pay at the kiosks rather than inserting quarters.

“The signs are pretty visible, so hopefully people will get the message,” Kelly said. “If not, we will tape the coin slots if need be.”

The program became possible because of the ongoing reconstruction of the Chapman and Davis street lots, that have left a number of kiosks sitting around collecting dust. The really good news, according to Kelly, is that the two-hour parking limit may be increased in certain select areas of town.

“We’re looking at extending it to three or maybe four hours near the Garden (movie theater) or by the library for things like story time,” Kelly said. “Most of the spaces will be two-hour limits, though.”

Kelly says if it goes well, it’s possible that the kisoks could replace the meters, which would make it easier for snow removal — although, she admitted, not everyone is on board with the change.

“There have been some phone calls. I’m not going to lie to you,” Kelly said. “But we’re going to give it a try and see how it works.”

Consider this reporter’s fingers officially crossed.

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

Chris, do you know who on the biomass advisory committee said that the Board of Health has to "get onboard"? Do you realize that the committee is meeting with the Board of Health to have a discussion? And that there are no assumptions being made on the part of the biomass advisory committee about the role of the Board of Health? How committee members deeply understand how unproductive and inconsiderate it would be to try to have an ordinance and not talk with various agencies in the town? That the committee's work is just the beginning stage of a long process? While I appreciate the amusing and entertaining aspects of your column, when read something like this, it makes me wonder about the accuracy of anything else that you write. I guess I'll continue to read your column, be amused, with the understanding that much of what you write may not be true.

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