Update: Former Carr Hardware property chosen for new fire station

  • Greenfield’s Public Safety Building Committee has asked the mayor to begin negotiations to buy the former Carr Hardware property on Main and Wells streets. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/21/2020 4:17:06 PM

GREENFIELD — The city’s 20-member Public Safety Building Committee has asked the mayor to begin negotiations to purchase the former Carr Hardware property on Main and Wells streets so that a new fire station can be built there.

The committee met Monday to discuss four properties: Main and Wells streets; the former open-air market on Main Street; the First Congregational Church property on Silver Street; and the former The Barn Grocery Store property on River Street.

Committee Chair Robert “Butch” Hawkins said the former Carr Hardware building at Main and Wells streets received the highest points after a review of all four properties by the owner’s project manager. The building, which would be razed, is owned by William Walker in Tennessee. Buildings were graded in consideration of traffic, access and how residential neighborhoods would be impacted.

Hawkins said once Mayor Roxann Wedegartner has negotiated with Walker — and if the committee decides to move ahead because it fits within the budget for the project — it would go to City Council for a vote to spend whatever she negotiates.

If negotiations are unsuccessful, Hawkins said the Public Safety Building Committee will return to the other properties for consideration. The church on Silver Street received the second highest points, but there were complaints by neighbors about how it would impact their neighborhood.

Another property on Riddell Street that was discussed as a possibility a year ago is no longer being considered. Hawkins said it might be considered as a backup plan, but there are too many issues with the property that would have to be mitigated before the project could move forward. There are buildings, currently being used by the Department of Public Works for storage, that would have to be razed, plus culvert and sewer issues, and there are possible contamination problems that would need to be resolved.

“There had originally been a $2.4 million or $2.5 million state earmark to help with all of that, but COVID-19 has taken that away,” Hawkins explained. “The state is in a tough spot financially, so we won’t be seeing anything like that for the property. It would just be expensive and take too much to get the site permitted and ready for construction.”

Hawkins said a letter will be sent to Walker to ask about purchasing his property. If negotiations are successful, the committee will then resume its work on the project.

The Public Safety Building Committee considered spaces that would have the least impact on the budget, Hawkins said. The committee is working with $10 million the City Council voted into this year’s capital budget.

More than a year ago, City Council voted to fund a new fire station, not a public safety complex, President Ashli Stempel-Rae said. A new public safety complex, the second phase of the project, will house fire, police, ambulance and dispatch services, but the city can’t afford such a building right now. She said if the city is able to purchase the former Carr Hardware property, it will be a win-win for the city – it’s a perfect location for a fire station and eventually a public safety complex.

“I want people to know that the first phase of the project is to build a fire station, not a public safety complex,” she said. “I want the community to understand the project and that we are working to be transparent throughout the process.” 

Stempel-Rae said the committee was tasked with selecting a site to build a new $10 million fire station – a safety complex would cost much more. She said when the city can afford to build a safety complex, it is possible the city will then decide to move everyone to the fire station after expanding the building.

Currently, fire and police are housed in two buildings: the fire station in a building built in the 1930s on Main Street; and police and dispatch in a former medical building built in 1985 on High Street. Both buildings have been partially renovated over the years, but neither meets the demands of the departments or the codes for emergency services buildings, according to their chiefs.

A decision on a new fire station location needed to be made if the new library — which will displace the fire station — is going to move ahead as planned. Those involved with the library project have said it needs to break ground by late April 2021 to receive funding from the state, though planners could request an extension.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.


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