Greenfield City Council approves $460K heating system replacement for shuttered school

  • After months of tabling the matter, the City Council approved spending $460,000 to replace the shuttered Green River School’s heating system during its Wednesday meeting. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 1/16/2020 10:21:00 PM

GREENFIELD — After months of tabling the matter, the City Council approved spending $460,000 to replace the shuttered Green River School’s heating system during its Wednesday meeting.

The vote was 11 in favor, with At-Large City Councilor Penny Ricketts being the sole dissenting vote. City Council President Ashli Stempel did not vote.

Former Mayor William Martin put forward a financial order to replace the heating system last summer, which was followed by a public hearing on the issue on July 17. However, the matter has long been tabled due to a stalemate between the City Council and School Committee regarding which should come first: funding the heating system replacement or deciding what the building will house.

“It’s been back and forth, off and on the table, throughout 2019, and I think it’s the will of the council to hear it and move forward,” said newly elected President Stempel.

According to his financial order, Martin stated steam distribution pipes were removed during asbestos remediation at the school, rendering the system inoperable.

“Per Mayor Martin, the city will pursue replacing the heating system with a gas hot water heating system, which is the most cost-effective option,” the financial order stated at the time.

Greenfield Superintendent Jordana Harper and newly elected School Committee Chair Amy Proietti requested the council approve Martin’s financial order.

Harper said the building, which has been unoccupied for about two years and is the site of a proposed alternative high school program, is not only an important asset for the Greenfield School Department, but the city as a whole.

“Any program we put into this building will require we adhere to municipal law,” she said, “which includes that municipal buildings are heated in order to occupy them with any program the School Committee approves.”

She asked the council to “take very seriously the (Massachusetts School Building Authority) state funding that was poured into this beautiful building” to renovate the roof and windows, and remove the asbestos.

“This building is perfectly ready to be occupied as soon as it has a heating system,” Harper noted.

She added that the timeline following the financial order’s approval consists of putting the project out to bid, awarding it to a contractor, scheduling the work and finishing the heating system’s replacement before the 2020 to 2021 school year begins.

“I think we’re on a short-order here between now and next school year,” Harper said. “I think it’s going to be close.”

Proietti reminded the council that the use of the Green River School is dictated by the School Committee.

“The program that the School Department chooses to put into that building is beyond the purview of the council,” she said. “We get to decide, as the School Committee, what goes in there. You need only to know that a program exists.”

The City Council entertained no further discussion of the plans for the school.

Reach Melina Bourdeau at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.

A previous version of this story published an incorrect vote count of the City Council.

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