FRTA head critical of mayor’s proposal to temp. relocate Greenfield fire dept.

  • Greenfield Fire Department RECORDER STAFF/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/10/2019 11:16:58 PM
Modified: 5/10/2019 11:16:45 PM

GREENFIELD — Mayor William Martin’s backup plan to temporarily place the fire department at the site of the garage currently housing the Franklin Regional Transportation Authority is drawing the ire of FRTA’s director — along with a warning it could cause layoffs and service cuts.

The department needs to be relocated during the potential construction of a public library and new fire station. With the new $19.5 million public library, which was approved by the City Council in March, potentially on hold until the end of the year when voters get their say at an election, Martin is looking at what this holdup could mean.

The new public library, if it does get built, will eventually require the demolition of the current fire station. A new fire station is planned anyway because the current one has been deemed inadequate and a potential hazard by fire and building officials. Hoping to begin the process of building a new fire station, most likely at Beacon and Riddell streets, the mayor has proposed in next fiscal year’s budget $550,000 for engineering of the station.

In one scenario that could lead to the city needing to move the fire department before it has a permanent place of its own to move, Martin is considering the Deerfield Street garage the FRTA currently is renting from the quasi-city agency, the Greenfield-Montague Transportation Area.

The FRTA leases the garage from the Greenfield-Montague Transportation Area on a yearly basis. The transit authority has been in pursuit of its own space but has run into funding issues over the years.

By October, the FRTA will likely be shifted from an annual lease to a monthly one, according to a proposal sent to the authority.

The plan could lead the FRTA to be without a space to park its 40 buses, house both its dispatch and portions of its administrative staff, and without a place for its mechanics to work.

Tina Cote, head of the FRTA, said if the mayor’s plans came to fruition, it would possibly lead to layoffs and a decrease in services.

“There’s been so little time in advance on this that we haven’t really grasped our head around how this will work,” Cote said.

Martin mentioned this plan in passing during a meeting of the Greenfield City Council’s Committee Chairs this week while explaining what the city had in store with the shifting plans regarding a new public library.

The mayor previously mentioned the idea at a Greenfield-Montague Transportation Area meeting. The FRTA contract with the group expired April 30.

Cote said she was “taken aback” when she first heard the idea.

“We explained to him how that would affect services because we have no alternative,” she said.

When Cote was contacted for comment, it was the first she had heard of this plan moving forward in a more public manner.

“There’s a lot of things involved in this that I don’t think he gave a lot of thought to this,” Cote said of the mayor.

Martin said since FRTA has been on an annual lease for a number of years, and have been searching for a new, permanent place to house its bus company that “they must have an option B in case the site isn’t renewed.”

“It’s our building and we may need it,” Martin said.

He said if the FRTA needed a place to house its administrative employees, “there’s office space in downtown Greenfield.” Cote works in the John Olver Transit Center, but many of the employees are at the Deerfield Street building.

“This is concerning to us because it will affect the services we have on the road,” Cote said. “Even if we find a place to relocate our buses, we’ll have to find a place for staff.”

Martin doesn’t believe the plan will even necessarily need to be executed.

If the library is approved, the city may not run into an issue where the fire station needs to be temporarily relocated until late 2020, early 2021.

This could align with the timeline, Cote explained, the FRTA has in the works for its own building.

The FRTA hopes to purchase land on Sandy Lane in Turners Falls by the end of this year, Cote said. The authority has $6 million in grant money for a facility it had estimated to cost $20 million.

By 2021, Cote said she is hoping for the FRTA to move into the new facility.

As for the Deerfield Street garage, Cote isn’t sure how the fire department could relocate there in the first place. She said the city would need to “put in a very significant investment” to get the building ready for the department.

Martin said the city would likely use a sleeping trailer for the firefighters, as is typical for a relocation project, he said.

Greenfield Fire Chief Robert Strahan declined to comment on this proposal that is in its early stages.

For now, Strahan will await to see if the council approves later this month the half-a-million dollars to make a step toward building a new fire station. Then, the fire chief and everyone else in the city will wait to see how the next chapter on the library unfolds.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264




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