Montague to increase security measures at former Strathmore mill

Amid an observed increase in unauthorized entry attempts, the Montague Selectboard has approved spending more than $10,000 to secure the former Strathmore mill complex in Turners Falls.

Amid an observed increase in unauthorized entry attempts, the Montague Selectboard has approved spending more than $10,000 to secure the former Strathmore mill complex in Turners Falls. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 08-31-2023 4:30 PM

MONTAGUE — Amid an observed increase in unauthorized entry attempts, the Selectboard has approved spending more than $10,000 to secure the former Strathmore mill complex.

The $10,174.88 expenditure will be drawn from Montague’s pre-existing Community Development Discretionary Unsafe/Unhealthy Buildings Account. It will specifically fund a contractor to bolster security measures at the blighted buildings. Efforts may include sealing windows that are accessible from rooftop areas and cutting down pine trees that are close enough to the building for a skilled climber to use them as a method of access.

“What we want to do is make sure we are doing everything we can reasonably do to prevent unauthorized access,” Town Administrator Steve Ellis explained during Monday’s Selectboard meeting. “It’s not a safe building. No one should ever go in there.”

The former Strathmore mill complex, built in 1874 as one of the first mills in Turners Falls, has been vacant since 2007 when a fire, determined to be caused by arson, destroyed Building 10 and damaged two other buildings, according to a report by the Urban Land Institute. It was then bought by the town in 2010 and has since failed as a prospect for development. The town is now faced with having to demolish the remaining structures due to their unsalvageable structural degradation.

Ellis said he has met with Department of Public Works officials, Building Inspector William Ketchen, Turners Falls Deputy Fire Chief Kyle Cogswell and police to discuss the severity of risk at the Strathmore. He noted observations from these officials indicate an uptick in attempted entries at the complex.

“Not only do people that are attempting to get in there or that might get in there put themselves at risk, but they also put those first responders that might have to assist if something happens at risk,” Selectboard Chair Rich Kuklewicz stressed.

Ellis said the DPW will do its own analysis of the structures and may install the added security measures on its own, but that Superintendent Tom Bergeron would still look to outsource some work or materials. There is currently no estimated completion date for installation, but Ellis cited a sense of urgency in having work finished as soon as possible.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.

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