Thoughts on Wilson’s closing and a proposed Community Preservation Act

  • CHRIS COLLINS

Published: 11/29/2019 7:41:01 AM

It looks like Black Friday is going to be just a little darker than usual this year.

It was announced earlier this week that Wilson’s Department Store will be closing for good following a final liquidation sale which is set to begin today. The news no doubt came as a shock to a lot of people, but it probably shouldn’t have, given the trends in retail these days.

More and more people are shopping online, and that’s had a major impact on a lot of brick-and-mortar stores. Except that Wilson’s is no ordinary store — it is very much the anchor of a downtown shopping district which has seen better days, but has always managed to survive.

There’s a good chance something else will eventually go into that space, but it’s not going to have anywhere near the impact this heritage business has had on this community and it’s residents for the last 137 years.

Whether you shopped there regularly or not, it’s a sad day for Greenfield and a big loss for those who still love that store and this community.

A CPA for Greenfield?

Just about the last thing anyone wants to talk about is a scenario that increases the burden on Greenfield property taxpayers.

But that’s exactly what the Greenfield City Council plans to do next month when it debates the merits of taking part in the Community Preservation Act.

For those who may not be familiar, the Community Preservation Act is a state program that allows communities to levy a property tax surcharge of between 1 and 3 percent, the money from which goes into a fund to pay for open space preservation, preservation of historic resources, development of affordable housing, and the acquisition and development of outdoor recreational facilities.

Note the word “surcharge,” which is different from a tax increase, although I’m certain a lot of people will try to position it as one, which has certainly been the case in other towns which have debated the program’s merits.

Joining the CPA requires a vote of the community’s legislative body, in Greenfield’s case, the City Council, and an affirmative ballot vote by residents at a November election, the next one of which will be held in the fall of 2020.

The one pushing the hardest to adopt the CPA is Greenfield City Council President Karen Renaud, who wants the council to take a vote on the proposal before she leaves office in January. It didn’t look like that was going to happen, after a majority of the council voted at the most recent meeting to table any action until the new council is seated in 2020.

The motion to table was made by At-Large Councilor Isaac Mass, who argued that it was inappropriate for a “lame duck” council to vote to hold a special election almost a year ahead of schedule. The council agreed initially, but then voted to reconsider the motion later in the night, and eventually agreed to table to the December meeting, where a final vote to advance is expected.

I know there are people who aren’t going to be thrilled at this idea, but it may not be a bad idea for Greenfield to consider. A lot of communities that have adopted the CPA have managed to use that money to complete projects that otherwise might never have been funded because of increasingly tight operating budgets.

It’s still going to be a tough sell for a community with a tax rate hovering at around $23 per $1,000 of valuation. But step one is getting it past the council, which will likely make a decision next month.

Conway cable pact

Conway residents who have any thoughts on that town’s cable service have a chance to express them next week.

The town will be hosting a public hearing Thursday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. at the Conway Grammar School as part of the community’s efforts to sign a new 10-year cable contract with Comcast.

The event is the one opportunity in the process for residents to go one the record as to what changes they would like to see in their cable service. If you have any thoughts on the matter, please show up and express them.

Chris Collins is a Greenfield native who has been covering local politics on various platforms for close to a quarter of a century. He can be reached at sourcechris.collins@gmail.com.




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