Dispatcher wage increase, flooding relief, bridge funding on tap for Montague Town Meeting

  • Water surges over Montague City Road after periods of heavy rainfall shut down a section of the road between Turners Falls and Montague City in 2018. Should Special Town Meeting voters allocate the requested $135,000 on Saturday, the town plans to implement a Montague City Road Flooding Relief Project. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 10/14/2021 7:48:51 PM

MONTAGUE — A proposed wage increase for dispatchers, Montague City Road flooding relief and Fifth Street Bridge construction are among 13 topics that will be addressed at Special Town Meeting on Saturday.

The meeting will take place under a tent at Franklin County Technical School starting at 10 a.m.

“There are a number of articles that are of great substance and importance on the Town Meeting agenda,” commented Town Administrator Steve Ellis.

One topic of interest, the warrant’s second article, involves raising police dispatcher wages to a level more akin to those offered by surrounding departments by adding $29,000 to the fiscal year 2022 dispatch budget.

“We were very concerned about our dispatch operation at the wage level that we had been maintaining,” Ellis explained, framing the wage discrepancy as an urgent issue of sustainability.

At a Sept. 7 Selectboard meeting, the board discussed the town’s ongoing issue with dispatch center staffing in relation to relatively low pay rates. At the meeting, the Selectboard acknowledged Montague’s lack of competitive wages and unanimously approved an agreement raising pay for dispatchers to a rate near typical in the region.

“This is merely placing our employees at a competitive point with others in the region,” Police Lt. Chris Bonnett said at the time.

Ellis said another important topic, summarized in Article 7, regards ongoing flooding on Montague City Road, a heavily traveled route. Should voters allocate the requested $135,000, the town plans to implement a Montague City Road Flooding Relief Project.

“Montague City Road flooding has been a longstanding issue, presenting a notable public safety hazard and also submerging sewer drain structures, leaving them vulnerable to inflow and infiltration (I&I),” a copy of the Town Meeting warrant explains. “I&I can result in wastewater permit compliance issues.”

The town received a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program grant to engineer a solution to the flooding issue, and now seeks the $135,000 to support its implementation.

Another important article, Ellis said, involves appropriating money to replace the Fifth Street pedestrian bridge, which the warrant describes as “a major initiative that will restore pedestrian and bike access over the canal leading toward Greenfield by the former Southworth Paper Mill, and enhance this gateway to Montague.”

“That project is really essential for the redevelopment of the Canal District,” Ellis said.

Although the project is supported by a $2.16 million MassWorks grant, Town Meeting Article 8 seeks an additional $200,000. The warrant notes that, should additional grant funding be secured or a portion of the project proves eligible for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, the town may be able to avoid using the $200,000 allotment.

Funding and bidding for the project were discussed at an Oct. 12 joint meeting of the Selectboard, Finance Committee and Capital Improvements Committee. Following the town going out to bid in early September, the five bids received were higher than anticipated, with David G. Roach & Sons Inc.’s base bid of roughly $2.34 million being the lowest.

“Costs escalated due to required changes to the bridge location, MassDOT (Department of Transportation) and FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) requirements, and sinkholes that emerged in spring 2021 that required design of a more expensive footing for the bridge and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) ramp,” the Town Meeting warrant explains.

Other articles to come before voters on Saturday include: increasing the Finance Committee’s budget by $1,300 to fund clerical assistance; allocating $13,367.33 to pay a prior year bill of the Water Pollution Control Facility, $114,382 for a robotic sewer camera and $200,000 to increase the facility’s Capital Stabilization Fund; setting aside $12,500, to buy and install cable-related equipment for Montague Community Television (MCTV); appropriating $50,000 for substance abuse prevention programming, with a focus on families and children; and rescinding the unused $102,000 of the total $385,000 set aside at Annual Town Meeting in 2016 for abating hazardous and asbestos-containing materials within the Strathmore mill.

The full warrant, as well as background for each article, can be found at bit.ly/3iXNBfn.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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