State lawmakers remain ‘deeply concerned’ about Farren situation

  • The Farren Care Center on Montague City Road in Montague. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/28/2022 4:59:17 PM
Modified: 4/28/2022 4:57:50 PM

MONTAGUE — State Rep. Natalie Blais and state Sen. Jo Comerford released a statement Thursday expressing disappointment over Trinity Health of New England’s handling of Farren Care Center-related communication.

Earlier this month, the Farren’s parent company relayed to Montague confirmation of its plans to demolish the former long-term care facility on Montague City Road, which had previously been deemed unfit for preservation in a condition assessment that Trinity Health has declined to provide to the town. Town Administrator Steve Ellis told the Selectboard at its Monday meeting that Trinity Health failed to address key inquiries of town interest that he had reiterated to the company in February.

Answers sought by town officials that were not addressed in Trinity Health’s response, relayed on April 19, include a demolition timeline; notice of a filed demolition permit indicating a start date; confirmation that the company would hand the property over to the town along with the title; and confirmation on whether Montague would also receive the cleared land in the form of a grassy field.

“As partners on behalf of the town of Montague as well as Farren Care Center’s residents and workforce, we have been dogged in our engagement with state partners and with Trinity Health Care throughout the closure of Farren and the transition of the property,” the legislators’ joint statement begins.

The statement, released by Comerford’s office, was brief, yet poignant in its condemnation of Trinity Health’s refusal to disclose the building assessment.

“We remain deeply concerned that Trinity refuses to release its own property and building due diligence,” the statement reads. “This information has been requested by the town and the state delegation, and should be sent to the town for its review as part of this transition.”

The statement also called for the company to contribute more funding to benefit Montague’s redevelopment study.

“While we acknowledge Trinity’s commitment of $100,000 to the town for its own redevelopment study,” the statement reads, “we believe that figure could be increased significantly.”

The last letter Blais, D-Sunderland, and Comerford, D-Northampton, sent Trinity Health, dated Feb. 16, was written “in agreement and with support for” Montague’s request for answers sent a day earlier. In this letter, the legislators said “Trinity ceased working collaboratively and is currently withholding the building assessment study it undertook independently — leaving the town without visibility into the findings and without the economic redevelopment planning resources it needs and deserves to weather Trinity’s departure.”

Eric Dana, regional operations director for Trinity Health, emailed a statement to Ellis in January declining to release the condition assessment. However, the company gave a brief overview of highlights in its message, including the scope of work and critical findings. The list includes improvement costs for severely eroded mortar joints and water infiltration damage estimated at $1.5 million, exterior window replacement estimated at $500,000, roof replacement estimated at $2 million, flooring replacement expected to cost $3 million, mechanical upgrades estimated at $4 million, electrical work estimated at $3.9 million and plumbing upgrades expected to cost $1.7 million.

Ellis and the Selectboard agreed Monday to reiterate to Trinity Health the town’s requests for information that were left unanswered, despite pessimism surrounding the company’s responsiveness.

Interest in redevelopment

Bob Stevens of Brattleboro, Vermont, touted by Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Gina Govoni as a “very well-respected developer” at Monday’s meeting, said in a phone interview Thursday that it is unlikely that his company Stevens & Associates would pursue development of the site, despite Govoni and Ellis being aware of his previous interest.

Stevens said while his company had been “exploring the potential to see if anything could be put together there,” he would only be “excited if we found ways to partner with an affordable housing organization.” At this time, he said, it seems as if Montague’s priorities lie outside pursuing redevelopment with the amount of effort necessary to do so.

Simultaneously, Stevens said potential redevelopers would be unwilling to invest in redevelopment opportunities without greater surety in such circumstances.

“We have no magic bullet,” he said.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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