Infrastructure improvements key for North County in 2021

  • Warwick is continuing work to establish an independent elementary school, after the Warwick Community School, pictured, was closed as part of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District in June 2020. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • The Bernardston Selectboard and Fire Chief Peter Shedd are working to finalize a plan for the Fire Station addition and renovation on Church Street. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

  • The Leyden Town Offices in the former Pearl Rhodes Elementary School at 7 Brattleboro Road will soon house the Police Department as well. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Warwick Road in Northfield, which connects the towns of Northfield and Warwick. The two towns were recently awarded a joint $2 million grant to reconstruct nearly 2 miles of roadway on the primary route between them. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

  • A group of Warwick residents regularly convenes in the town center with signs to raise awareness about climate change. Selectboard Chair Lawrence “Doc” Pruyne said Warwick will, in the coming year, “do its part to fight the battle of our times: climate change.” Staff File Photo/Mary Byrne

Staff Writer
Published: 1/8/2021 5:20:19 PM
Modified: 1/8/2021 5:20:05 PM

Editor’s note: This week, the Greenfield Recorder is running a series of articles on what residents can likely expect in 2021. This installment focuses on the towns of Bernardston, Leyden, Northfield and Warwick.

From broadband network construction, to roadway repairs and town office moves, Selectboard members and fellow town officials in Bernardston, Leyden, Northfield and Warwick are all looking toward a brighter, albeit busy, year in 2021.

“We all look forward to when town government can function. It’s been difficult making numerous adjustments and following day-to-day changes in how we operate as a town,” commented Leyden Selectboard Chair Jeffrey Neipp. “The fiscal damage of lost revenue will eventually be felt on our communities and we must be prepared for additional revenue shortfalls in education, Chapter 90 funds and state aid. These will be challenges well into 2021 and beyond.”

Leyden

In 2021, Neipp said Leyden will consolidate more services and departments at the former elementary school at 7 Brattleboro Road, which has been home to Leyden’s Town Offices for roughly a year. The Police Department will move from its current location, the old Highway Garage, into the Town Offices. This plan would take one of the former classrooms and partition it into smaller office space for better working conditions, “and to better serve the community.”

“The old Highway Garage where the Police Department operates will be returned to the Highway Department for storage and their office,” Neipp added.

Additionally, Leyden’s broadband buildout should be completed in early 2021. Leyden will focus on establishing a board made up of residents and a manager that will oversee the Enterprise Fund that will maintain the broadband network. Neipp said this will be a separate board from town government, but will report to the Selectboard and file a annual financial report prior to Town Meeting.

Northfield

“Residents should keep an eye out for greater infrastructure improvements in their community involving roads, wastewater improvements and continuing the discussion on a public safety complex to bring all of our first responders from all our departments together,” Selectboard Chair Alex Meisner said of what to expect in Northfield in 2021.

Town Administrator Andrea Llamas has been meeting with department heads to discuss the needs for a shared public safety complex for police, fire and EMS services. She said there was recent interest in a location that did not ultimately fit the needs of the potential complex.

Northfield will also serve as the lead town for the Northfield Road/Warwick Road reconstruction project. Northfield and Warwick were recently awarded a joint $2 million grant to reconstruct nearly 2 miles of roadway on the primary route between the two towns.

Warwick

Selectboard member Todd Dexter said, like Northfield, some “prudent issues” Warwick will continue to work on involve infrastructure — like roads, bridges and a long-term capital improvements plan for large expenditures — as well as improving Highway, Fire and Police department vehicles and equipment.

“The town of Warwick needs to begin better planning and budget projections for the coming years, with dwindling Cherry Sheet reimbursements and the almost non-existent PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program for state-owned properties,” he said. “Warwick will continue to seek grant funding wherever possible for these important projects.”

Selectboard Chair Lawrence “Doc” Pruyne added that Warwick will, in the coming year, “do its part to fight the battle of our times: climate change.”

“We’ll use Green Communities grants to further reduce our fuel consumption,” Pruyne said. “Our many volunteers will continue to lead hikes to historical spots, track animals in our lush forests, and hunt wild game and mushrooms for food and medicine. Warwick is blessed with great natural beauty, clean water and air, and the town and our residents will continue to nurture our brooks, open lands, rare ecosystems and deep woods.”

Notably, Warwick is also continuing to try to establish an independent elementary school for 2022, after the Warwick Community School was closed as part of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District in June 2020. According to Pruyne, the new elementary school will be a center for environmental studies and inter-generational learning. Older residents will help teach the town’s school-age children, in a place-based curriculum, how Warwick is a microcosm of the world, Pruyne said.

Bernardston

Selectboard Chair Stanley Garland said town officials hope Bernardston “can see some new things, and get back to normal, somewhat” in 2021.

He noted there are some items the town will continue to keep tabs on. For one, he said, Bernardston needs to look ahead to Annual Town Meeting and approving the annual school budget. He said the town will need to continue monitoring the lasting COVID-19 pandemic to see if it is safe to hold a caucus. Last year, Annual Town Meetings were delayed, in some cases by months, as towns planned for health safety precautions amid the pandemic.

Garland also noted the Selectboard and Fire Chief Peter Shedd are working to finalize a plan for the Fire Station addition and renovation on Church Street.

Town Coordinator Louis Bordeaux has been collecting resident feedback, saying whether they approve or disapprove of the recently shared Fire Station design plan. As of Dec. 30, 18 residents who sent in feedback were in favor of the design, and four were not.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com.



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