Public safety infrastructure a key focus for North County towns in 2024

The Grandin Reservoir, located behind and up the mountain from the Thomas Aquinas College campus, provides water to the campus and Northfield village.

The Grandin Reservoir, located behind and up the mountain from the Thomas Aquinas College campus, provides water to the campus and Northfield village. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Bernardston officials plan to move their Fire Station into Raymond’s Repair at 167 Northfield Road.

Bernardston officials plan to move their Fire Station into Raymond’s Repair at 167 Northfield Road. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By LIESEL NYGARD

For the Recorder

Published: 01-07-2024 2:24 PM

Modified: 01-07-2024 3:21 PM


Editor’s note: The Greenfield Recorder is publishing stories about what Franklin County residents can likely expect to see happening in their communities in 2024.

As 2024 gets underway, multiple towns in northern Franklin County are set on bolstering their public safety infrastructure.

Bernardston

The town’s Fire Department will be working to move into Raymond’s Repair at 167 Northfield Road. The 24.15-acre property would provide more space for vehicles and equipment in comparison to the current station on Church Street.

“The existing Fire Station on Church Street is entering its fourth decade of service,” Bernardston Town Coordinator Karen Kelly wrote in an email. “It is evident that modern firefighting strategies, equipment and apparatus needs have exceeded the space available.”

The town has accepted the proposal of sale, which is $1.6 million through payments of $130,000 over 10 years. A $300,000 down payment will pay for repairs.

Bernardston is also looking to improve its technological capabilities by using a $50,000 grant awarded through the Community Compact Cabinet’s Information Technology Grant Program.

Kelly said the plan is to “implement a robust server and network infrastructure for the town of Bernardston” to enhance the “town’s technological capabilities by transitioning from the current Roundcube service to a hosted on-premise Exchange server.”

Additionally, she said, the plan will help “establish a dedicated domain for streamlined management of the town’s technology and facilitate the use of the server as a central file repository.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Charlemont planners approve special permit for Hinata Mountainside Resort
$338K fraud drains town coffers in Orange
Greenfield residents allege sound and odor issues from candle, cannabis businesses
Fire at Rainbow Motel in Whately leaves 17 without a home
Hotfire Bar and Grill to open Memorial Day weekend in Shelburne Falls
Mohawk Trail’s Chay Mojallali sets school record in high jump as Franklin County contingent racks up titles at Western Mass. Division 2 Track & Field Championships (PHOTOS)

With this solution, the town will be using a server called SonicWall Firewalls, which will “establish secure site-to-site VPN connections between buildings, and access points for WiFi coverage in each building.”

Meanwhile, the Planning Board is working with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) on the town’s Open Space Recreation Plan (OSRP), which will be completed this year, according to Kelly.

“The OSRP will help the town with planning its direction in regard to conversation, recreation, land use and development,” she said.

The board is also working on a new zoning bylaw for the River Corridor Overlay District, which could help with future development in areas that are prone to flooding.

“The purpose of the bylaw is to protect life, property and drinking water,” Kelly said.

Additionally, the Planning Board is seeking a grant through the Community One Stop for Growth program for a Housing Production Plan. Kelly said the plan would help guide the town toward affordable and senior housing projects in the future.

Northfield

The town will continue to work toward a public safety complex. Although an article to fund the complex failed to pass during last spring’s Special Town Meeting, Town Administrator Andrea Llamas said that “it’s still a priority for everyone” to figure out what direction the project might take, and what the new goal might be.

Llamas said the town will also be focusing more on its wastewater collection system and plant needs, following an asset management project that was completed last year. Northfield still hasn’t transitioned from the East Northfield Water Co. to the Grandin Water District, which Llamas said is a work in progress.

Another focus for 2024 is outreach and communication between Northfield’s boards and departments.

“Making more of an outreach strategy to give residents updates and how to get department updates is another big goal this year,” Llamas explained.

The town is also putting together a new book that will hold all town reports, department types, goals, strategies and budget materials.

Leyden

Selectboard Chair Glenn Caffery said Leyden has “been cranking through policies and procedures” and has “done a lot of work, but there’s still more to do.”

The town is finalizing its application for the Green Communities program, which Caffery said opens Leyden up to funding for “a lot of sorely needed energy-efficiency projects.”

Another goal for Leyden is participating in the Complete Streets Funding Program. A vote has already been taken to send a letter of intent to participate in the program so Leyden can develop policies around how to fund road repairs and how to optimize accessibility and multi-use.

“Leyden is a beautiful town to walk and to cycle, and there’s also a lot of equestrians,” Caffery said. “It’s already a great place for residents.”

Additionally, Caffery explained that, considering Leyden is a hilltown with narrow roads that can experience dense fog and is home to many senior citizens, officials are motivated to look into strategies that can make these roads safer. The project is ongoing, but Caffery said some ideas for ensuring safer road conditions include the discussion of sightlines, maintaining vegetation and maintaining the lines that are painted on the roads.

Open space planning is also on the town’s to-do list with a goal of creating more accessible trails.

“Open space planning will improve quality-of-life issues for residents, for visitors and for new families that are coming into town,” Caffery said. “We’ve been really kind of drawn into the immediate needs of less fun things and so it’s going to be really great and satisfying to do some of these bigger projects that a lot of people are interested in.”

Warwick

One of the bigger issues in Warwick heading into 2024 is the continued operation of the town’s new independent school district, which opened in August 2023.

“We worked really hard to open up our elementary school and it has its own School Committee and we are enjoying the autonomy of implementing an educational program that is unique to our students,” said Alan Genovese, a member of the Selectboard and chair of the School Committee.

Genovese mentioned that the Six Town Regionalization Planning Board will begin work in 2024 on a regional agreement that would combine the Gill-Montague and Pioneer Valley regional school districts. Each member community will need to vote at its Town Meeting on whether to approve the agreement and join the new district. Should the six towns vote to regionalize, middle school students would attend classes at Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield and high schoolers would go to Turners Falls High School, while elementary students would stay at their community schools.

“We would want to be sure that our elementary school remain intact in any agreement,” he said. “We worked too hard to become an independent school district.”

In addition, Warwick has revamped its Highway Department, hired a new highway superintendent and will be working to put better systems in place to improve operations. One matter they’ll focus on in 2024 will be clearing fallen trees from roadsides, coordinated by the Conservation Commission and Forestry Committee.

“We have a very active Highway Commission that will work with the superintendent and the new crew that he will be supervising,” Genovese said.

Other matters that Genovese said will be key in 2024 are the Capital Planning Committee putting together a list of necessary municipal equipment purchases as well as completing the new Fire Station.

“This is a matter of multi-tasking and handling aspects of every one of them,” he said of the different projects. “They’re all really important to the operation of the town.”