Public input sought on $32M in capital projects in Montague

  • Construction of a 70-person occupancy meeting room in the Montague Town Hall annex, pictured, is budgeted for fiscal year 2026. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/24/2023 4:22:12 PM
Modified: 5/24/2023 4:19:42 PM

MONTAGUE — Residents have one week left to submit comments regarding the draft of Montague’s Capital Improvement Plan, which outlines an estimated $32 million in capital projects over the next five fiscal years.

Presented to the Selectboard by Assistant Town Administrator Walter Ramsey last week, the Capital Improvement Plan “provides a blueprint for planning Montague’s capital expenditures and informing the annual capital budget,” according to the draft’s introduction.

“This plan is meant to be a tool for both municipal officials and the general public so that all are aware of future needs and projects,” the introduction reads. “Ultimately, the plan encourages careful project planning and design to avoid costly mistakes and to help Montague reach desired community objectives within its fiscal capacity.”

The estimated total of about $32 million in projects includes 42 needs for town-owned facilities; 30 vehicle and equipment needs; 18 Clean Water Facility needs; 17 infrastructure needs; eight parks and public space needs; and 17 airport needs. The plans runs from fiscal years 2024 through 2029.

New school buildings

A pair of prospective new school buildings are among the outlined capital needs. One building would serve as a new elementary school, for which the town must conduct a feasibility study in line with Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) requirements.

“Hillcrest [Elementary] School and Sheffield [Elementary] School together have significant capital needs exceeding $6 million over the next six years,” the project’s rationale explains. “Hillcrest School is more than 60 years old and the newest sections of Sheffield are more than 40 years old. The current school configuration does not meet programming needs for the current and projected elementary school population.”

If accepted into the MSBA’s grant program, the town would need to appropriate approximately $200,000 in reimbursable study funds for FY25. The MSBA would be expected to reimburse the town in the range of 70% to 80% of project costs, according to the Capital Improvement Plan.

The other building would replace the 50-year-old Franklin County Technical School facility.

“The facility is too small for the enrollment interest,” the project description states. “The utility systems infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life, and renovated/upgraded replacement infrastructure will be extremely costly. The district’s member towns will be better served investing their money in a new structure that meets the 21st-century safety and educational demands placed on vocational technical education.”

Rather than using capital funding, the school stabilization fund will pay for the study. The MSBA would be expected to reimburse 70% to 75% of project costs, according to the Capital Improvement Plan.

Town Hall annex

Construction of a 70-person occupancy meeting room in the Town Hall annex is budgeted for FY26. It would cost approximately $550,000 to construct the meeting room, install Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms and meet the storage needs of Town Hall.

The idea arose as part of the town’s 2021 Downtown Rapid Recovery Plan one year after the space was vacated by the Department of Public Works in October 2020. The 2021 plan states the building is in “good condition,” particularly following the addition of a new roof in 2019. A feasibility study, funded with a $45,000 state Regional Economic Development Organization (REDO) economic recovery grant, was completed in December 2022. The town has yet to identify grant funding sources to fully support construction.

Canal District revitalization

Revitalization of the Canal District’s north end, which entails the comprehensive re-use strategy for municipally owned properties at 8 Canal St., 20 Canal St. and 11 Power St., will be a five-year process, according to the Capital Improvement Plan. The most significant aspect, a $40 million expense, would be the private development of up to 100 housing units at 11 Power St.

The former Railroad Salvage site at 11 and 15 Power St., along with a subdistrict on First Street, was zoned as a “Smart Growth Overlay District” during a May 2022 annual Town Meeting to encourage affordable housing development. Smart Growth Overlay Districts are defined by Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40R as “dense residential or mixed-use smart growth zoning districts, including … affordable housing units … in areas of concentrated development such as existing city and town centers, and in other highly suitable locations.” Such zoning changes encourage the development of residential or mixed-use buildings, of which at least 20% of the units would need to be considered “affordable.” A low-income or moderate-income household is defined by Massachusetts General Law Chapter 121B as “a household with gross income at or less than 80% of area median household income.”

The Capital Improvement Plan notes that the state is expected to invest $60 million in the district’s infrastructure over the next five years.

Feedback accepted

The opportunity for residents to provide comment on the Capital Improvement Plan ends May 31. Comments can be directed to Assistant Town Administrator Walter Ramsey at After the Capital Improvement Plan is refined, the Capital Improvement Committee must adopt the updated plan by Sept. 15. The plan will then be presented to the Finance Committee and Selectboard before being brought to Special Town Meeting in the fall.

To view the full plan, visit

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or


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