Public safety projects, new school on tap for North County in 2023

  • The former site of the Falltown Grill in Bernardston, which owners Alex and Amy Fiorey hope to rebuild in 2023. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The former site of the Falltown Grill in Bernardston, which owners Alex and Amy Fiorey hope to rebuild in 2023. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The former Warwick Community School, which town officials expect to reopen next fall in time for the 2023-2024 school year. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Looking downstream to the Schell Bridge over the Connecticut River in Northfield, as seen in November. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 1/2/2023 5:32:57 PM
Modified: 1/2/2023 5:32:07 PM

North County residents can expect to see everything from a new elementary school district to the reconstruction of a beloved restaurant in 2023, as well as a series of public safety endeavors and infrastructure investments.


In 2023, Northfield officials plan to continue progress on the proposed public safety complex, the design for which was approved in September. The building is slated for Main Street just north of Dickinson Memorial Library.

“That’s probably our biggest priority, our biggest need,” said Town Administrator Andrea Llamas.

Llamas added that the Schell Bridge also remains at the top of the town’s priorities. The proposed project consists of the complete replacement of the Schell Bridge, which carries East Northfield Road over the Connecticut River and has been closed since 1985 because it deteriorated beyond being safe to use. The existing bridge will be replaced with a pedestrian and bicycle bridge. Construction has been estimated to take up to three years once work begins.

The state Department of Transportation’s plans to reconstruct the bridge were put on pause in February, however, when bids came in almost twice as high as expected. Llamas said hopefully the new year will bring some “positive news” with respect to funding for the project.

Other smaller projects, Llamas said, include determining how to spend the town’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, but also continuing to work with the Grandin Water District to “make sure they get up and running to improve water quality for a section of town.”

“We do have our grant development director,” she added, referencing Mallory Sullivan, who was hired in October. “She’s been meeting with a lot of boards, committees and departments to look at priorities that the town might have and start going after some funding to pursue some of those priorities around economic development or town improvement.”


With two new Selectboard members elected over the summer, 2023 is set to be a year where Leyden nails down its personnel policies and holds discussions on what public buildings to invest money into.

“It’s been a bit of a fire hose in Leyden lately,” said Selectboard member Glenn Caffery. “We have a lot of gaps in our policies and procedures, and as much as possible we’re doing a policy blitz. … As boring as it is, we know the costs of not having them.”

While the Selectboard nails down policies, Caffery said boards like the Public Safety Advisory Committee and Building Needs Study Committee will continue to take on the long-range work they’ve been tasked with.

The Public Safety Advisory Committee is expected to continue working on hammering out a long-term, permanent shared-policing agreement with the town of Bernardston. The agreement thus far, Caffery said, has been a “dream scenario” and town officials are focusing on building up these sorts of “reciprocal relationships” with their fire and ambulance departments.

“It’s been as good as I could have imagined and then some,” Caffery said, adding that officials want to “strategically invest” into their Fire Department so it can work with neighboring towns.

The Building Needs Study Committee, meanwhile, is in the process of examining town buildings to identify what upgrades or maintenance may be needed. Caffery said the goal is to “prioritize upkeep in a thoughtful way,” while also identifying what immediate fixes need to be made.

“From next year’s perspective, the Selectboard will have a lot of difficult decisions to make about safety,” Caffery said. “Perhaps most pressing right now is our lack of insulation and energy efficiency. Many of our town buildings have literally no insulation.”

Municipal Assistant Michele Giarusso added that grants will be in Leyden’s future, as she has several applications submitted right now and more are in the works.

“It’s a lot of grants all at once,” Giarusso said. She noted residents can expect to see the East Hill Road project be finished in 2023 and the 10-Mile Bridge project to begin shortly afterward.


As is the case in Leyden, ironing out a long-term, permanent shared-policing agreement is one of Bernardston’s priorities in 2023.

Bernardston Selectboard member Kenneth Bordewieck said the towns have worked very closely over the past 12 months to share policing services through an interim agreement.

“And it’s been going great,” he said. “We are delighted with the progress.”

The Greenfield Recorder previously reported that from July 1 to Oct. 1, the Bernardston Police Department responded to Leyden for 911 calls, vehicle violations and general calls for assistance, in addition to 80 hours of dedicated patrol time per month. Leyden also gets additional benefits from Bernardston’s larger department, including the use of a mental health clinician for emergency calls.

Bernardston also hopes to secure funding from grants and other avenues to update the veterans memorial in Cushman Park. Bordewieck and Selectboard Chair Brian Keir said the monument was last updated in the 1980s, meaning it does not bear the names of those who served in more recent conflicts.

Keir said Selectboard member Stanley Garland is a Vietnam War veteran and has conducted a great deal of research into how to lock down funding for the memorial update. Keir said the update should generate more space for the names of all from Bernardston that have served in the military and create room for any names that have to be added in the future.

Perhaps one of the biggest news stories to come out of Bernardston in 2022 was the June 29 fire that destroyed Falltown Grill three weeks after it opened at 19 South St. The spot had long been the home of the Four Leaf Clover Restaurant, which was established in May 1949. In 2023, though, Alex Fiorey, who owned Falltown Grill with his wife Amy, hopes to start construction on a new restaurant.

According to Fiorey, the fire was caused by a spontaneous combustion of kitchen towels. He explained all damages have since been squared away with the Utica First Insurance Co. The building was decimated by the blaze and was demolished in November.

Fiorey, who also owns Pioneer Valley Tire across the street, said construction on a new restaurant will likely not begin until the weather warms and the ground thaws. He and his wife hope to reopen the doors “maybe by this time next year.” They are putting the final touches on the floor plan, with Fiorey noting the new restaurant will have the same concept as the old one, with a dining room and bar.

Fiorey said he hopes to rehire all or most of the restaurant’s 22 part-time and full-time workers, though he understands many have since found employment elsewhere out of necessity.

Bordewieck said the Four Leaf Clover Restaurant was one of the biggest joys of living in Bernardston and he ate there a minimum of once a week. He said the fire “took a huge chunk of the heart of the community.”


Perhaps the most high-profile development Warwick will see in 2023 is the reopening of Warwick Community School and the formation of a new school district following the town’s recent departure from the Pioneer Valley Regional School District.

The town is set to form a new school district after the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) approved Warwick’s withdrawal from Pioneer last week. This marks the final chapter of a multi-year effort to reestablish an elementary school in town, following dissatisfaction among Warwick residents regarding the town’s membership in Pioneer.

The departure officially goes into effect on July 1, 2023. Selectboard Chair Brian Snell said if all goes as planned, Warwick Community School should reopen next fall in time for the 2023-2024 school year.

Snell highlighted ongoing storm relief work as another significant project Warwick will engage with in 2023. Following a series of storms that caused potentially millions of dollars in damage in Warwick over the past two years, the town is pursuing “dozens” of culvert upgrades.

“The culvert issues that go with (adjusting to storm conditions) are pretty complicated and take quite a bit of time,” Snell said. “The changing environment is a challenge and will be an ongoing challenge for the foreseeable future.”

On April 6, 2022, Warwick received a $662,902 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) infusion for storm damage relief.


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