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Amherst to hold listening sessions for building projects

  • Amherst Town Hall FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 12, 2019

AMHERST — Residents will have four opportunities to provide the Town Council oral feedback on four major building projects, totaling well over $100 million, that Amherst officials anticipate embarking on in the coming years.

The listening sessions will take place on Dec. 3 at 3:30 p.m. in the Large Activity Room at the Bangs Community Center and at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria at Crocker Farm Elementary School, and on Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. at the cafeteria at Fort River Elementary School, and at 6 p.m. at the cafeteria at Wildwood Elementary School.

The goal of these meetings is to provide the Town Council with insights and opinions in advance of building a new elementary school, expanding and renovating the Jones Library, building a new Department of Public Works headquarters and constructing a new fire station for South Amherst.

All the sessions come in advance of Dec. 11, which is the date when the town will learn if it is selected by the Massachusetts School Building Authority to enter the process to construct a new elementary school to replace both Fort River and Wildwood, or substantially renovate one of the schools.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said any decision related to the possibility of relocating the DPW headquarters to South East Street land owned by Amherst College will come after those sessions. Earlier, the town met with affected neighbors, which elicited some concern from residents worried about the open land being used in such an intense manner.

The new fire station, which would replace the aging building in downtown Amherst, would likely go at the current DPW site on South Pleasant Street.

The fourth project, the renovation and expansion of the Jones Library, depends on a Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners grant, which could come as soon as July, based on where Amherst is on the waiting list.

Members of the Amherst School Committee and the trustees for the Jones Library have assisted in development of the information that will be presented at the sessions and will join the Town Council at them.

Even with the building projects, the town will continue to have capital needs for day-to-day operations of the town, such as paving roads and replacing or adding sidewalks, maintaining existing buildings and replacing vehicles.

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