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Committee takes aim at town buildings
Submitted by: Jeffrey Musser
Committee takes aim at town buildings
News staff photo by ERYN DION Hubbardston committee seeks public input to help prioritize projects and determine the extent of repair or replacement to be undertaken at a handful of municipal properties across town.
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News staff photo by ERYN DION
Hubbardston committee seeks public input to help prioritize projects and determine the extent of repair or replacement to be undertaken at a handful of municipal properties across town.
News Staff Writer
HUBBARDSTON – The town’s buildings are in a terrible state of disrepair according to the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee, which recently hosted an open forum giving department heads a chance to show the public firsthand the various issues town employees have to contend with on a daily basis.
“Needless to say, every building in this town has been neglected,” stated Jeffrey Williams, the Board of Selectmen’s representative on the committee. “Which is why we’re faced with what we’re facing right now.”
The committee was tasked by selectmen to review several past studies on the town buildings. The committee will also asked to create a comprehensive report detailing which buildings should be priorities as well as provide potential scenarios for repairing or replacing each structure.
Mr. Williams said the committee is now seeking public input in the form of surveys, which will be used to re-evaluate and adjust the priority list. He said the state of the town’s buildings was a hot issue in the community and some people may prefer to save money and take no action to stop their rapid decay.
“We can’t do nothing anymore,” he said. “That’s why we’re in this position.”
Five buildings — the Senior Center, Police Station, Fire Station, Library, and Town Offices — were identified as needing attention by the committee. Residents attending the public forum earlier this month were shown a PowerPoint presentation outlining problems.
The Police Station was named the committee’s first priority and according to Police Chief Dennis Perron, the facilities are both inadequate and present a huge liability to the town.
“The booking area is insecure as well as a hazard to both officers and detainees,” Chief Perron stated in the presentation.
The station currently has no way of separating juveniles and adults, as well as male and female detainees which according to Chief Perron is a violation of Massachusetts General Law.
Cracked ceiling tiles are also a common sight in the station and many have fallen.
“This is commonplace in the police department and officers have nearly been hit by tiles,” said Chief Perron.
The building also suffers from an insufficient electrical system, failing windows and doors which allow snow in during the winter months, bare and exposed electrical wires, and asbestos flooring which has begun to chip and wear away.
The committee’s second priority, the Fire Station, does not fare much better than its counterpart. Fire Chief Richard Hayes explained that the station’s garage bay is barely large enough for today’s modern firefighting equipment and the bumpers of the fire engines rest only inches away from the garage wall. The cramped space leaves little room for equipment and personnel to move freely. Because of the station’s size, the department has to lease out extra space to house ambulances and several offices at a cost of $16,000 a year. The station also has a severe problem with its water, which has rusted out and stained its sinks and toilet bowls.
“The water in the station is high in iron and cannot be used to wash apparatuses and is undrinkable,” said Chief Hayes.
The overcrowded Town Office buildings were targeted next by the committee. Partial and temporary walls within the building mean a complete lack of privacy and officials have complained there is no space to have conversations on confidential matters. The building, like others in the complex, is not handicapped-accessible and is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Slade Building does not have a single handicapped-accessible bathroom. Poor insulation and drafty windows mean employees have to use space heaters to keep warm in the winter, overloading the building’s already inadequate electrical system.
The Senior Center was named as the next priority by the committee. Council on Aging Director Claudia Provencal explained that the single room is nowhere near large enough to house seniors during events and that the center also suffered a lack of privacy.
“The current Senior Center facility is not sufficient neither in size nor in amenities with the growing influx of seniors needing services and taking part in activities,” she said.
Both the entrance and bathroom are not ADA compliant and Ms. Provencal said the building’s ramp and stairs are a serious tripping hazard for seniors. She described the cramped kitchen as a “logistical nightmare” and during larger events guests must eat in shifts due to lack of space.
“All these limitations and deficiencies point to the need for a new senior center to properly serve the town’s growing number of older residents,” said Ms. Provencal.
The town is currently working through a land-swap deal with the state in the hopes of securing space for a new senior center.
Rounding out the committee’s priority list is the public library. Built in 1874, library officials have struggled to adapt the aging building into a modern library while suffering through both a lack of space and electrical services. The building’s first floor houses town offices and the third floor holds the Historical Society’s collection, leaving patrons with only two rooms and one floor for both books and programs. The roof has outlived its useful life, with leaks and cracks featured prominently throughout the structure. A hand-crank lift provides the only means of access for handicapped patrons and the gate presents a dangerous obstacle for wheelchairs. The fire escapes are inaccessible and there are only battery operated smoke detectors inside the building. Officials would like to be able to reclaim all three floors of the library to expand and update their facility to modern standards.
According to Mr. Williams, the committee is not operating under a timeline and no final decisions have been made. Looking ahead, they will review the surveys and formulate a plan based on options available to the town, which will then be presented to the Board of Selectmen.