.Renovations once again eyed for North Amherst Library

  • North Amherst Library FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Friday, April 12, 2019

AMHERST — Advocates for improving the North Amherst Library are renewing their efforts to make the 1893 building handicapped accessible, with public bathrooms installed in it, by summer 2020.

Using a process under which residents can bring requests to the Joint Capital Planning Committee, which reviews large spending requests and creates a capital improvement program, both Hilda Greenbaum of Montague Road and Molly Turner of Old Town Road crafted separate proposals to fast-track renovation of the building designed by Roswell Field Putnam.

Greenbaum’s idea is to spend up to $800,000 for both a renovation and expansion based on plans created by Kuhn Riddle Architects of Amherst, which handled a $50,000 study approved by Town Meeting in November 2017.

She envisions moving forward with an addition that would add a community room, alongside the other improvements. As part of this project, the adjacent former service station, which the town acquired in 2016 and which remains boarded up, would be demolished.

Greenbaum argues that the timing is critical as neighbors and library patrons are preparing to raise some funds privately.

These matching funds, however, are dependent on the new toilets and a handicapped-accessible lift being available for public use by July 1, 2020.

Turner’s proposal, at $750,000, is similar to Greenbaum’s. In a memo to the committee, Turner, a former president of the Jones Library trustees board, wrote, “It is unconscionable and perhaps unlawful that the town has allowed this facility to neglect the needs of the library for toilets and handicap access.”

Despite their appeals, both were informed that the branch library work will not be funded this year.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said the project has been placed on the capital plan for fiscal year 2022 , though he observes it could be done earlier depending on private fundraising and donations.

“If there were a grant or donor, it’s obviously something we’d welcome,” Bockelman said.

Part of the complication for any work on the library, Bockelman added, is how it relates to improvements to nearby intersections.

The town is interested in bringing Montague and Sunderland roads to a T-intersection in front of the Riverside Park Shopping Plaza. This would mean additional green space on the west side of the library, where Sunderland Road currently passes by.

Despite efforts to seek MassWorks grants from the state, the town has been denied in its applications.

Bockelman said options are also being studied for how to modify where North Pleasant, Pine and Meadow streets converge, just a few hundred feet south of the library.

The money for the library is one of several possible projects for the Joint Capital Planning Committee to consider from residents as, like in 2018, they can join town and school departments in submitting requests.

Three of the requests from residents relate to improved road and sidewalk infrastructure.

Toni Cunningham of Owen Drive and William Kaizen of Goldenrod Circle requested $50,000 to complete a survey of East Pleasant Street between Olympia Drive and Pine Street so that a sidewalk can be installed along the road.

Nicola Usher of Harris Street requested an unspecified amount to begin a project that would add a sidewalk on the south side of Pine Street near North Amherst Village Center.

Improving an existing sidewalk on South East Street from Valley View Drive to the South Amherst common is an idea from Janet McGowan of South East Street. McGowan is also looking at radar signs and speed cushions on South East Street near the railroad underpass. Neither project has a price tag yet.

Cunningham, along with Maria Kopicki of Country Corners Road, is requesting $40,000 to fund a study of possible expansion of Crocker Farm School, which would be rolled into the ongoing work toward replacing Wildwood and Fort River schools. The current plans have a new building that may not be large enough to accommodate all students.

Finally, a $300,000 request came from James Capistran of Cherry Lane to upgrade the clubhouse at Cherry Hill Golf Course. His application notes that the town-owned course may gain customers with Hickory Ridge Golf Course being converted into a solar farm.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.