Mayor: No need for library override

  • Former City Council member Danielle Letourneau speaks in support of a new library at Greenfield High School, Thursday. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/17/2018 11:40:38 PM

GREENFIELD — Mayor William Martin is convinced a new library and a new fire station, which will likely still include a regional dispatch center, will not force the city into facing questions of a Proposition 2½ override in the short or long-run.

Based on the latest calculations with his finance team, Martin made his pitch in the final days before Wednesday’s City Council vote on a library with a $19.5 million total price tag, but a more direct $10 million cost to the taxpayer. The rest will come from a state grant and private fundraising.

“There is no better opportunity to invest in our community than now,” Martin said.

Last week, he was one of about 400 people that packed into the Greenfield High School auditorium during an evening that functioned almost entirely as an advertisement for why a new library makes sense. Martin didn’t speak at the meeting, but offered his thoughts on the finances for the library the following day.

The cost to the typical homeowner in Greenfield is projected to average out to $156 a year for the 30 years the city would be paying off the library loan and an estimated $12 million loan for a new fire station. The Mayor’s Office noted this number shouldn’t be viewed as all-or-none though, because there will be a cost to the taxpayer regardless, because if new buildings aren’t funded, the current ones will be costly to rehab and get up to code.

The cost for the fire station is based on numbers extrapolated from the failed public safety complex earlier this year, Martin said.

Martin hopes continued growth in Greenfield will help to offset some of these costs, too, on the taxpayer. He points to the Lunt Silversmiths property on Federal Street that continues to be developed and will increase the tax base of the city. There is also a new hotel coming to Greenfield, which will add to the tax base.

A regional dispatch center, if it fits into a new fire station, could offset costs with rent from the state.

While in 2025 and 2026, Greenfield is projected to be $12.6 million and $12.9 million over its debt limit, this will steadily drop off and by 2031, the city’s finance department projects Greenfield will be back below its debt limit. The high numbers in these two years should not cause the city to have to look toward a debt override, Martin said.

Some councilors aren’t so convinced with Martin’s confident calculations though.

“I have very little faith in his numbers given what he’s done in the past,” Councilor Isaac Mass said last week, prior to the public meeting.

At the Wednesday meeting, he was the lone councilor to ask significant questions to the Board of Trustees of the Greenfield Public Library, to which he got little response, in addition to a small smattering of jeers from the pro-library audience. Mass and Councilor Verne Sund were the lone councilors present at the meeting who typically lean more conservatively on fiscal questions. The two hours of public comment were mostly aimed at the councilors to educate them to vote “yes” for the library.

The mayor’s numbers are “as rosy as you can set,” Mass said last week, and even with them, “I think it is in excess of what the state would allow us to bond without a waiver.”

He cautioned the projected costs of the library and fire station don’t take into account what may happen if costs overrun, particularly if cost of materials drastically changes given an ongoing trade war with China.

Instead, Mass would like the city to invest in infrastructure like with water and sewer, which is a widely agreed upon need of Greenfield.

“While we may not need it now, we will need it down the road,” Mass said about a Proposition 2½ override. “It’s putting the cart before the horse.”

Councilors will be confronted Wednesday with whether they are confident in approving spending on a library when they know that means the fire station has to move as well, while not having firm figures on what that cost will be — or even if the Beacon and Riddell streets location that is currently being studied will be adequate in the first place to place a new fire station.

This could lead to the council pushing off the vote to January, when the initial study on the proposed fire station location is completed. This will place councilors against a clock that is generally believed to be expiring Jan. 12, when the state wants an answer about the use of its nearly $9.4 million grant

Additionally, if the council decides to push the vote to January, it will be without Precinct 2 Councilor John Lobik, who is stepping away from the council for health reasons. At the moment, it’s unclear how Lobik will vote on the library.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com or

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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