Council Approves Water Agreement With Leverett, Hears Plans For North Amherst Library Renovation

Architects rendering of a proposed addition to the North Amherst Library. Photo: amherstma.gov

Report On The Town Council Meeting of 8/3/20

The meeting was held via Zoom webcast and was broadcast on Amherst Media Channel 17.  The recording can be viewed here

Participating: Councilors Lynn Griesemer (District 2, President), Shalini Bahl-Milne (District 5), Alisa Brewer (At Large), Mandi Jo Hanneke (At Large), Andy Steinberg (At Large), Cathy Schoen (District 1), Sarah Swartz (District 1), Pat DeAngelis (District 2), Dorothy Pam (District 3), George Ryan (District 3), Evan Ross (District 4), Steve Schreiber (District 4), and Darcy DuMont (District 5)

Staff: Town Manager Paul Bockelman, Council Clerk Athena O’Keeffe, Town Clerk Shavena Martin

Most of this marathon Council meeting involved discussing the proposal of Town Clerk Shavena Martin to consolidate voting for all ten precincts in the Amherst Pelham Regional High School for the September 1 primary and November 3 general elections. This discussion and the associated votes are reported in three articles by Marla Goldberg-Jamate  (look  here , here and here).

Because of this lengthy discussion, the Council only discussed half of the items on the agenda and decided to deal with the remainder at a meeting on August 10. As it was, the meeting lasted until 11:30 PM. 

Inter-municipal Water Agreement
The Council also voted unanimously to authorized the Town Manager to enter an inter-municipal agreement with Leverett to extend the water line on East Leverett Road onto Teewaddle Road. There are three houses in Amherst and nine Leverett residences that would be served by the new 12- inch water line. The wells of the Leverett homes have been contaminated by the capped landfill upstream. Leverett residents would pay the same water rates as paid by Amherst customers. The project would be merged with planned road work in the area. Griesemer asked if this would lead to more development. , but Superintendent of Public Works, Guilford Mooring said that most of the land in that area is not developable due to the steep slope on the north side of East Leverett Road and that at most 12 new houses could be constructed. 

North Amherst Library
Chris Farley of Kuhn Riddle Architects presented preliminary plans for an addition to the North Amherst Library.  The addition would include a meeting room for 40-45 people and two restrooms. There would be a handicapped entrance to the new addition to the north of the existing library and a lift to the main part of the library, since the addition would be about 5 feet lower than the main floor of the library. Little would change in the original library. 

The new addition is designed to blend in with the architecture of the existing building.  The design was paid for by an appropriation from Town Meeting in 2017. An anonymous donor has agreed to cover the cost of the addition. The design received favorable comments from the councilors, so now it will enter the permitting process from the Planning Board, Conservation Commission, and Highway Department. There will also be community hearings to obtain public input. The current design will not interfere with plans to improve the intersection of Sunderland Road, Montague Road, Pine Street, and North Pleasant Street.

Town Sustainability Plan
Laura Drauker, Chair of the Energy and Climate Action Committee, and Stephanie Ciccarelli, Sustainability Coordinator, reported on the committee’s progress in developing the Town’s sustainability plan, using the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant it received a year ago. In the past year, the committee has identified priorities and developed a project list. Linnean Associates has been hired as consultants. The Committee is now concentrating on outreach to community members and has formed four task forces for land use, buildings, transportation, and energy.

New Utility Poles
The  Council approved unanimously a request by Eversource to install two new poles jointly owned with Verizon on Belchertown Road and on Northampton Road near Blue Hills and Orchard Street. The Belchertown Road poles are to provide improved reliability and the Northampton Road poles are needed because of the planned Department of Transportation project to improve Route 9 in that area.

Resolution In Support Of Holyoke Solider’s Home
Steve Connor, Director of Veterans’ Affairs at Central Hampshire Veteran’s Services, introduced a resolution in support of the Holyoke Soldiers Home, expressing the value of the Soldiers Home to local veterans and urging adequate support for the staff who work there.  Connor is bringing this resolution to area towns which have veteran citizens at the home. Dorothy Pam was the sponsoring Councilor. The resolution passed unanimously. 

Unfinished Business
Yet to be discussed are agenda items dealing with an update on the return of college students to town and associated regulations from the Board of Health, a continuation of the discussion on community safety, a discussion of adding a local option to the planned supportive housing project at 132 Northampton Road, an update on the Master Plan, and a second reading of the zoning bylaw 11.250 amendment on the number of Planning Board votes needed for site plan review approval. These are on the agenda for the Special Town Council meeting on August 10.  In addition, the vote to  consolidate all the polling places in the high school which initially failed but passed on reconsideration (and which was most likely not valid) and is slated for reconsideration on August 10.

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