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Around Amherst: Capital improvement ideas due Feb. 15



Staff Writer
Thursday, January 18, 2018

AMHERST — When residents calling themselves the Friends of the North Amherst Library brought a project for renovating the 1893 building directly to Town Meeting last fall, they argued there was no other way to get a handicapped accessible bathroom and other improvements onto the town’s radar.

To provide an opportunity for residents who have ideas for various capital projects, Town Manager Paul Bockelman and town staff, at the request of the Select Board, recently created a form residents can use to offer suggestions for how Amherst spends money on improving its buildings, roads and other infrastructure.

“This will be an opportunity for residents to submit capital requests,” Bockelman said.

In the past, such capital requests were made by municipal departments to the Joint Capital Planning Committee for evaluation, a process based on the current town charter, which states that “the town manager, with the advice of a Joint Capital Planning Committee comprised of representatives from the Select Board, Finance Committee, School Committee and Library trustees, shall develop a capital improvement program.”

The new forms, available to the public, can be accessed at amherstma.gov/budget and at Town Hall, and should be submitted no later than Feb. 15.

Already, Bockelman said, he has heard from residents interested in promoting ideas such as a performance space in downtown and a restroom facility.

A capital improvement is defined as a tangible asset or project with an estimated useful life of 10 years or more, and a cost of $10,000 or more.

Resolutions supported

Three resolutions before the Massachusetts Municipal Association annual meeting and trade show, aimed at providing continued fiscal stability for cities and towns, are being endorsed by the Select Board.

The resolutions will be taken up at the conference, scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Boston.

The first calls for a “strong and enduring” partnership between communities and the state to support municipal and school services.

The second opposes the November ballot question seeking to reduce the sales and use tax rate from 6.25 to 5 percent.

The final resolution supports local, state and federal efforts to combat climate change and deal with its impacts.

New planner

The Planning Department is back to full strength with the recent hiring of an associate planner.

Maureen Pollock began her tenure in the department this month after previously being employed as an assistant planner and conservation agent in Greenfield.

Pollock takes the position vacated by long-time senior planner and former Planning Director Jonathan Tucker, who retired last summer.

Planning Director Christine Brestrup told the Planning Board that Pollock brings experience from municipal work and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, as well as earning a master’s degree in planning at the University of Massachusetts.

“She’s very accomplished,” Brestrup said

Pollock joins senior planners Nathaniel Malloy and Brandon Toponce, administrative assistant Steven McCarthy and permit administrator Jennifer Gannett in the department.

Winter parking

So far, the winter parking rules seem to be functioning as intended, Bockelman said.

Bockelman said a snow emergency has been triggered during two storms prior to this week. With most people still accustomed to not being allowed to park on streets during the overnight hours, there have been just 11 tows during the emergencies.

“I think the system is working,” Bockelman said.

Beginning Monday, the town will do outreach to college students, especially those off campus, as they return for the spring semester.

Empty storefronts

Two downtown spaces are seeking tenants following recent closings.

Fratelli’s Ristorante, an Italian restaurant located at 30 Boltwood Walk, closed in late November after being in business for a little more than a year. The restaurant’s opening was initially delayed by the moratorium imposed by Berkshire Gas, which forced its owners to install propane tanks.

Moon Goddess, located at 44 Main St., was in business for a year, closing at the end of December.

The bohemian boutique specialized in fair-trade, imported clothing, tapestries and spiritual items, with hand-made products and merchandise that its owners described as being “right off (the) Grateful Dead lot.”

Meetings

MONDAY: Select Board, 6:30 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.

TUESDAY: Library trustees, 9:05 a.m., Goodwin Room, Jones Library.

THURSDAY: Water Supply Protection Committee, 8 a.m., Conference Room, Department of Public Works; Zoning Board of Appeals, 5 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall; Finance Committee, 7 p.m., First Floor Meeting Room, Town Hall.

SATURDAY: Four Towns Meeting, 9 a.m., middle school library.