Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Last Minute Big Ticket Items

Crocker Farm Pre-School play area will cost $270,000

The Amherst Community Preservation Act committee briefly discussed three new proposals last night that have just come in vying for the $1.273 million they have left in their piggy bank.  If all three receive CPA and then Fall Town Meeting approval,  it comes to just over $600,000.

Last Spring -- the usual cycle for CPA spending -- Town Meeting approved all 9 new projects endorsed by the CPA committee for a total of $523,346.

One of those 9 projects included $25,000 for making Crocker Farm pre-school playground ADA compliant.  But town and school officials have decided that would simply be a band aid, so this new proposal is a complete tear down and renovation from the ground up with all new commercial quality equipment.

Assistant Town Manager Dave Ziomek submitted the expected request for 30% matching funds required by the state for a $500,000+ proposal to rehabilitate the historic North Common in front of equally historic Town Hall.  That will cost the town between $150,000 and $165,000.

The proposal that came somewhat out of the blue, submitted only the day before the CPAC meeting, came via Carol Gray:  $190,000 to $240,000 for the moving of the Amherst College owned "Little Red Schoolhouse", built in 1937, and now standing in the way of a $100+ million Science Center.

Little Red Schoolhouse facing east

Back on May 19 the Amherst Historical Commission hit Amherst College with a half-hearted "one year demolition delay," but suggested if the College really can't see any workable alternative after trying really hard, then they could probably tear it down sooner.

 South East Street Alternative High School was mentioned as possible home for Little Red

Ms. Gray suggested the solid brick building could be moved to town owned property.

 Greenway Dorm construction

Amherst College is currently busy with construction on the new Greenway Dorms, which are not expected to open until the Fall of 2016.Construction on the new Science Building would start pretty much the next day.

 Amherst Community Preservation Act Committee meeting last night

The Community Preservation Act Committee will devote their next two meetings (8/25 and 9/8) to hear presentations, discuss, and then vote on the three proposals.

A majority of Amherst Town Meeting must also vote in favor for the money to be released.


Anonymous said...

You characterize Ms. Gray's proposal with tremendous restraint.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, just wanted to get this out there first.

There's still time for being unrestrained.

Anonymous said...

Gray's proposal would be a lot more interesting to consider if the Town Manager had come through with the building audit that has been requested of him for some time now from the Select Board. How many buildings does the town already own? What condition are they in? How are they being used? What are the associated maintenance costs? Are the number and types of town owned buildings over or under serving our needs as a community? Hard to take seriously a proposal to spend up to a quarter million dollars on another town owned building without that kind of context within which to consider its potential value--especially in relation to other existing needs that could be funded through CPAC.

Larry Kelley said...

And it's not like there's a lot you can do with the building since everything inside is designed for wee folk.

Anonymous said...

I know when businesses are not ADA compliant they get shut down or fined. Their employees get sent home with no pay, 1000s of people don't get their services, etc. I guess I am asking, do they need to be in compliance or are they exempted at the school. If they are exempted, it may be something we should continue to take advantage of. This would leave quite a bit of money to help the real needy in town or it could be returned to the original earner of the money prior to taxation. The ADA rules are quite strict and unreasonable. Simply look at the cost outlined above.

This law has shut down two business building purchases for us locally - thus slowing the economy. We are still not in compliance, but we are exempted in our current location. If we move, we not have new laws, even though otherwise, all new spaces would have been better and more accessible. So because of the law, we have less ADA access, but it is legal.

We have always been happy to come by and display our wares in a handicapped person's home and we have. This did not seem like good access to the town. They were hyper focused on those that cannot walk (a somewhat rare handicap), but seemed to care less about other more common handicaps, like a lack of mental ability to process the effects of bad laws and their enforcers. These folks are allowed to walk around suffering with no one caring or educating them, no laws address their pain or effect on the rest of us.

Dr. Ed said...

"We have always been happy to come by and display our wares in a handicapped person's home and we have. This did not seem like good access to the town"

"Curbside service"- not even home but merely the curb outside your building -- is acceptable and ADA compliant in many cases. The term "reasonable" is in all of this -- unless you are building or doing substantial renovations, at which point you must be compliance), the two questions are how much compliance would cost relative to everything else (burden), and what are you doing to enable the disabled to have access?

I find it troubling that this is being misunderstood in the very same town where a large university (with alleged values of "social justice") is using ADA for toilet paper, where far greater effort is expended in avoiding compliance than in merely doing so, where even human decency does not exist.

Case in point: I was leaving the library at closing time one night during intersession, going out though the entryway they had to build to protect people from falling bricks when another student, who was blind, slipped & fell on the wet floor. IO did what any decent person would do -- I stopped and offered her assistance, much to the chagrin of the door nazi who just proceeded to berate both of us. Larry, I've never hit another human being in my life, but...

Anonymous said...

I'm a little lost on the elementary school--regional school situation. Wondering if the town should spend a quarter of a million of dollars on Crocker Farm playgounds when:

Amherst currently has 3 elementary schools that are under-enrolled, is planning to build a new elementary school (Wildwood), and may close or not close Fort River School. Crocker Farm may or may not become a preK-2nd grade school. The Superintendent wants to regionalize with the under-enrolled Leverett, Pelham and Shutesbury elementary schools and combine them with Amherst elementary schools and the middle and high school. The-under enrolled Pelham and Leverett elementary schools are claimed to be too expensive for their towns to support so they are looking to Amherst to foot the bill for their missing money, but making sure Amherst's voting power is very diluted. None of the hill towns want to close their elementary schools or send their kids to Amherst elementary schools--and seem fine about Amherst closing its elementary schools Meanwhile the middle school may or may not be closed and the students moved to the high school, and a vocational program may or may not go into the middle school. Maybe there are probably more options that I've missed.

Time for a set plan before spending big money?


Anonymous said...

@ JM 11:53 Not sure where you got your info but Crocker Farm is absolutely NOT under enrolled. It is bursting at the seams! Furthermore, the Pre K play area is required to meet compliance for the population it serves. Children ages 3-5, with and without disabilities, some of whom have physical access needs.

Anonymous said...

I think the point is to spend the least amount to make the playground comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, then do more renovation once the district decides what schools will stay open for what students. Otherwise it could be a buying $100,000 portable classrooms for Marks Meadow, a school which then closed.

Larry Kelley said...

Marks Meadow portable classrooms were $200,000.