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In The Arena

In the Arena: Fires and their costs

Anyone who has ever opened a property tax bill and wondered where all their money goes got part of the answer in abject terms this week.

“They really got that thing just in time,” Greenfield Public Safety Commission Chairman Gary Longley said as we walked toward the scene of Tuesday night’s fire at the Mill House Apartments. “That was quite a save.”

I shudder as I stood in the cold thinking what might have happened otherwise as I watched the smoke belch out of the window of that unit. I recognized a lot of the same faces from a few hours earlier at another fire scene at the Bernardston home of 12-year veteran call firefighter Brandon Ovitt, who was literally forced to the stand by and watch his self-professed “fixer-upper” of a house go up in flames.

“We just got our Christmas tree this weekend and put Christmas presents under it,” Ovitt told The Recorder. “But at least everyone is safe.”

Now, it is time for this community to do what it does best and help Ovitt and the other victims of that fire out by taking part in a special fundraising trivia event Monday night starting at 6 p.m. at the Four Leaf Clover Restaurant. The cost to play is $10 per person with a limit of up to eight players per team. The event was set up by Bear Country’s Amanda Jo Parker and Four Leaf owner Mark Snow, who is also donating 10 percent of Monday’s restaurant proceeds to the fire victims.

Recreational haves and wants

The big buzz around Greenfield this week has surrounded Mayor Bill Martin’s desire to slide the Mohawk Meadows Golf Course under the Town Council’s Christmas tree this year.

Martin went in front of the council’s Economic Development Committee and found, I think to his surprise, at least a tacit level of support for a “short sale” purchase of that property from current note-holder Florence Savings Bank.

“It’s wise that you are giving both the council and the community the heads-up on this,” Precinct 5 Councilor David Singer said. “But I would not like to see available cash used to buy it. I think politically that would be a hard sell.”

I’m guessing the whole thing is going to be a hard sell, but it doesn’t sound like it is anywhere near that point, based on the limited specifics Martin presented Tuesday night. If nothing else, the golf course discussion will underscore the unfortunate reality that Greenfield is fresh out of recreational space for the skateboard and dog parks that are very much on the radar these days.

“That’s not going to go away,” At-Large Councilor Mark Maloni said. “There has been strong advocacy for both of these items for close to two years … this is clearly something people want.”

Maloni suggested that the desire for both parks is so great that it may necessitate some new policy discussions on what the town views as priorities for the recreational space it does have.

“I think the question is going to become at some point, why does football and softball have more value than skating?” Maloni said. “Why does Shattuck Park have more value than a dog park? And it brings up all of these sort of NIMBY issues among people who live anywhere near a park, but the lack of recreational space is the main issue which needs to be addressed.”

Whether this particular piece of flood-prone land addresses that problem is something the council will have to figure out — and it’s an answer I don’t expect will come easily.

He’d be honored

He’s been gone for over a year, but my old friend Marty McGuane still can’t manage to stay out of the headlines.

The Greenfield Human Rights Commission on Tuesday posthumously bestowed upon my old friend the town’s first annual “Human Rights Award,” in recognition of McGuane’s lifetime of service to the community. The award will be presented each Dec. 10 to coincide with the 1948 United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of a “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Anyone who knew Marty at all knows he had a habit of telling you the same story over and over again. I can’t count how many times he reminded me that it was the ad hoc committee on human rights he established as Town Council president that laid the foundation for today’s Human Rights Commission. I also remember how proud he was each time he said it and it was clear that he regarded the formation of that commission as one of his greatest legacies.

The commission will hold a reception for the community and the McGuane family in early 2014. I plan to be there, and something tells me I and his family won’t be alone.

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.

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