Vote to pave Legion Avenue parking lot in Greenfield defeated again

  • The Legion Avenue parking lot between Green Fields Market and Patriot Care in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/19/2022 4:37:51 PM
Modified: 5/19/2022 4:36:06 PM

GREENFIELD — City Council defeated a reconsidered motion to appropriate $60,000 for the milling and overlay paving of the Legion Avenue parking lot, citing doubts as to the binding nature of an agreement signed by former Mayor William Martin and arguing taxpayer money should not be spent on private property.

The motion to reconsider — which was filed earlier this month by Precinct 4 Councilor John Bottomley — follows last month’s City Council budget hearing, during which a motion to appropriate the money failed, having received only seven votes in favor. Nine votes, or a majority, would have been required to pass.

“There was a piece of information, a document, that came to light at the last minute. … It seemed like it was relevant for all of the councilors to have this information,” Bottomley said at the City Council meeting Wednesday evening at the John Zon Community Center.

Bottomley explained that the document was a letter from former Mayor William Martin to Robert Cohn stating it was his intention to seek funding for work on the Legion Avenue parking lot.

“I’m not sure I’m for reconsidering this, because I’m not sure I consider this a binding document,” Bottomley noted. “It states the mayor intends to pay for a lot things … but to secure funding would come through the council, which would be appropriated by us. … I’m not sure he could make that promise.”

Bottomley said while the discovery of the letter initially motivated his decision to file a motion to reconsider, he no longer felt as though reconsideration was necessary.

The majority of other councilors, however, were interested in reconsidering the vote in light of the new information.

“I understand that … it is a lease and the agreement transfers with the lease; that’s a legal consideration,” said At-Large Councilor Christine Forgey, who is a former mayor. “However, I still have concerns … we are spending taxpayer money on property that does not belong to the city.”

Forgey suggested the city look into grants, such as the Community Development Block Grant Program, to fund such a project.

Chief of Staff Dani Letourneau explained that the city “spends a lot of time” making sure not to engage in “handshake deals.”

“This is one of the ‘clean-up’ jobs I’ve been working on,” she said. “I was open and transparent last time when I said I don’t have (the letter) — and it turned out we did have it in the mayor’s office. ... Because we have performed some of the work in the written agreement, we are probably liable to finishing it as a written agreement.”

Letourneau said she understands it’s not a small thing to talk about spending taxpayer money on private property.

“We actually do that all the time,” she said. “I came before this council and talked about a lease for our veterans service agency. We spend a lot of our own money in that rented space.”

She added that the GCET (Greenfield Community Energy and Technology) and Community and Economic Development offices are also rented.

“This isn’t an unusual situation to be investing money,” Letourneau said. “I personally will promise to you that we’re not going to do these things without having things in writing, reviewed by lawyers. This is one of those things where we’ve used this parking lot for 45 years … and we want to return it to the owner in the condition we found it.”

At-Large Councilor Michael Terounzo, who ultimately maintained his “yes” vote from last month, said while he could understand some apprehension without a written document, he felt the letter backed up “why we should follow through.”

City Council President Sheila Gilmour, however, still felt the letter didn’t constitute a contract.

“It feels like a handshake,” she said. “I know that the current mayor didn’t do this, and I hope that she won’t, but Mayor Martin had no right to make this decision without consulting council.”

Ultimately, the motion to appropriate $60,000 for the milling and overlay paving of the Legion Avenue parking lot was defeated by a vote of 10 to 1, with an abstention from Precinct 1 Councilor Ed Jarvis, who is resigning effective May 31. Vice President Dan Guin, who chaired the meeting, did not vote.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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