Montague meeting to decide on skate park
MONTAGUE — The annual town meeting is around the corner, with town representatives asked to approve the town budget, a school district assessment up more than the recent trend, substantial sewer system repairs and a skate park.
Volunteers have constructed a string of temporary skate parks, all of which have fallen prey to weather and the complications of using borrowed land, since the idea was first brought to the Board of Selectmen in 1997 by a group of young skateboarders. There is at present no park in Montague or elsewhere in Franklin County.
In 2009, a town meeting abandoned Williams Way on the western edge of Unity Park to create a permanent home for the park. Volunteers involved in the latest effort plan to build a permanent concrete skate park on that land.
The request is for up to $400,000, money to be spent if the town wins a state Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant reimbursing 68 percent of the cost. Proponents believe the cost estimate is conservative, and hope to have independently raised close to $30,000 by town meeting.
Below street level, the town is looking to embark on a phased replacement of the eight aging sewer pump stations around town. The request is for authority to borrow $3 million from the state’s revolving sewer loan fund at a 2 percent interest rate to replace the stations at First Street in Turners Falls and Poplar Street in Montague City. Both were constructed in 1962 and have exceeded their projected 30-year lifespan by more than two decades, according to the engineering firm contracted by the town. The low-interest loan applies only to construction, and the engineering portion of the $3 million would be born by the town at standard rates.
An early town estimate of the impact to the average sewer user’s annual bill put the increase in the region of $80.
In other sewer spending, the department requests $75,000 to inspect and clean the Canal Street sewer line, with sand removal, and the $175,000 to coat deteriorating sewer lines on Industrial Boulevard, Millers Falls Road, Crescent Street in Millers Falls and others in need of lining. The area of Industrial Boulevard and Millers Falls Road saw a spectacular and expensive failure of old asbestos-concrete sewer lines last year.
In the schools, the Gill-Montague Regional School District’s assessment is up 4.11 percent or $327,901 from the $7,965,557 approved last year to $8,293,458. Planned staff cuts reduced the sum requested from early figures.
The Gill-Montague District also requests $38,000 for security upgrades to school buildings. In a nonmonetary item, the district also requests the creation of a three-member volunteer committee to explore the possibility of bringing the town of Erving into the district, members to be appointed by the meeting moderator. Erving sends its middle and high school students to the Gill-Montague schools under a tuition agreement, operating an elementary school within Union 28, a superintendency union with its neighbors to the southeast.
The Franklin County Technical School assessment, which fluctuates based on the number of Montague students attending the school, is down $49,058 to $682,601. The Finance Committee has requested a town payment into the Tech School stabilization fund of $49,058, the difference between the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 assessments.
In a final school-related article, the town requests $15,000 for the upkeep of the former Montague Center School. Greenfield developer Mark Zaccheo had planned to buy and convert the property into apartments, a discussion begun in 2011.
Zaccheo said this week the project is still in the works, with the completion of the Conway Street School conversion in Greenfield.
“Next couple of weeks we’re going to get into the school, by June we’ll know whether it’s a viable project and we’ll either acquire it and start it or we won’t be able to,” he said, adding the outlook is positive based on the quick rental of the Conway Street apartments.
The general town budget totals $8,136,058. According to the town administrator’s calculations, this is a 3.53 percent increase over the current year’s, with the original figure voted at the 2013 annual town meeting increased by mid-year town employee pay raises at a special town meeting.
Only the elected town meeting members may vote. Residents registered to vote in Montague traditionally may address the meeting, and nonresidents or nonvoters may be allowed to talk by a vote.
The back-to-back special and annual town meetings are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. May 3 in the Turners Falls High School theater.
Nonmember residents may participate to degrees established at the beginning of the meeting, traditionally with registered voters allowed to speak and others allowed by special vote.
Also among the 36 items on the special and annual meeting warrants:
∎ $2,122,370 for the operation of the Water Pollution Control Facility, 91 percent from sewer user fees and the balance from taxes.
∎ $81,679 for the town share of drainage and slope stabilization along a stretch of Millers Falls Road, the majority paid for by a grant.
∎ $86,738 for the operation of the Colle Building in Turners Falls, money drawn from the rental of the property.
∎ $45,512 for the Turners Falls Airport budget, with 80 percent taken from user fees and the remaining $9,347 from taxes.
∎ $15,000 for police equipment.
∎ $75,000 to the Department of Public Works discretionary account for vehicle and equipment purchases and repairs.
∎ $43,325 for the third year of a five-year lease for a DPW dump truck.
∎ Approve additions to the Montague Economic Development and Industrial Corp.’s economic development plan, on file with the town clerk.
∎ Accept the deed to a half-acre of land on Dry Hill Road in Montague Center in lieu of taxes.
You can reach Chris Curtis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 257