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Amherst Media faces eviction in June

  • The Eversource building at 246 College St. has housed Amherst Media operations since 1991. STAFF FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Monday, May 16, 2022

AMHERST — Amherst Media will be forced to relinquish its long-term headquarters at 246 College St. by the end of June, potentially leaving the nonprofit that operates the town’s public access station without a home.

With a little over two months to go before being evicted from the Eversource-owned site where it has been located since 1991, Amherst Media’s board of directors is seeking assistance from town officials to identify a location, possibly a vacant municipally owned building, where it can be situated for two years, or until its planned construction of a new headquarters on Main Street is complete.

Whether getting a temporary location from the town is possible, though, is uncertain.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman told the Town Council on April 27 that a recent examination of town buildings by town staff revealed numerous problems with most of the locations that may be difficult, costly and possibly impossible to resolve.

With eviction looming since Eversource notified Amherst Media of the likelihood in August 2010, Amherst Media’s board has sought new space from the town, including using part of the Bangs Community Center, which has limited vacant space, and has had conversations with the school district, revealing that the schools would not be suitable.

Artie McCollum, president of the board, said the idea is to use a town building for 24 months, with the fundraising and grants allowing construction to happen. He said Amherst Media has paid off loans to purchase the land and are nearing identifying a general contractor.

The town would be responsible for connecting fiber and ethernet and telephones to any relocated site.

Bockelman said four sites have been examined. One is the former North Amherst School, where the lower level, once home to the Amherst Survival Center, is now permanent town records storage, while the upper level is for Head Start and early childhood learning program.

‘So that building is fully occupied,” Bockelman said.

The South Amherst School, most recently used as the Summit Academy before it moved to a portion of the high school in fall 2018, is another option. In the more than four years the building has been vacant, though, the heating system has become inoperable, and a certificate of occupancy expired.

The final two options are buildings that appear to be in dilapidated condition. One is the clubhouse at the former Hickory Ridge Golf Course where gas and water service was terminated and is deemed unsafe for occupancy, even though it once had been hosting banquets. “Hickory Ridge is a scary building right now,” Bockelman said.

The former Hitchcock Center for the Environment building at Larch Hill Conservation Area is also in poor condition and is limited to conservation purposes, and may not be occupied without incredible investment, Bockelman said. That building is already planned for demolition.

What role the council will play is uncertain.

At Large Councilor Ellisha Walker, too, said councilors might help since Amherst Media’s role is to provide public access and transparency of government operations, though At Large Councilor Andy Steinberg said the nonprofit has been diminished by boards and committees able to record meetings through Zoom and similar platforms, and the public cord-cutters moving to streaming services.