The Selectmen hope to schedule a special town meeting in December to vote on taking ownership of the Spruces Mobile Home Park.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Selectmen on Monday decided to reserve the elementary school for Dec. 10 in hopes of scheduling a special town meeting to consider the acquisition of the Spruces Mobile Home Park property.
Town Manager Peter Fohlin asked the board to consider setting the tentative date in hopes that the town's progress will spur action by lawyers finalizing agreement between the town and park owner Morgan Management.
"I think we need to force the issue around the Spruces with FEMA and MEMA and Morgan Management and the town of Williamstown and the residents," Fohlin said. "This has been dragging on for two years now. ... It's been going on for too long, and we need to move."
The town and Rochester, N.Y.-based, Morgan Management partnered on a grant application for federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
The "two years" Fohlin referred to is the time elapsed since Tropical Storm Irene, which decimated the park and precipitated the HMGP grant application.
"We need to bring this whole issue to a head," Fohlin said.
The town is facing a March 2016 deadline for the return of the park land to a natural state under the terms of the grant. Under the commonwealth's manufactured housing law, mobile home park residents are entitled to 24 months' notice of a park's closure.
"We can't let these interminable discussions interfere with our need to hold a special town meeting," Fohlin said. "We have an immutable deadline of March 28 of 2016 that is nearly two years away now. We cannot evict people from the Spruces in less than two years. So we're just flat out running out of time. It's time to stop discussing. It's time to stop negotiating. It's time to fish or cut bait.
"And the people of the Spruces want answers. They've been through six of the seven stages of grief. Now they want to bury."
Fohlin had recommended the Selectmen consider aiming either for Dec. 3 or Dec. 10 for the special town meeting. After discussing the options, the board decided that the second date will allow more time to construct a warrant and allow for public discussion in advance of the meeting.
The Selectmen members hope to have a warrant for their consideration at their Nov. 12 meeting. If it is not finalized by that date, the board would have its Nov. 25 meeting to set a warrant more than 14 days before Dec. 10.
In other business Monday, the Selectmen made two appointments to town boards.
Dylan Stafford was appointed to the town's Affordable Housing Committee.
The board appointed Dylan Stafford to the town's Affordable Housing Committee.
Stafford, a senior majoring in political science at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, moved to Williamstown his freshman year in high school with his father. He told the Selectmen it took his family a year and a half to find a suitable home in town.
"I thought about how hard it was to find a place and how much harder it must be for someone who's a single parent or disabled or on a fixed income," Stafford said.
"I'd like to make a difference. And I'd like to learn. I'm here to learn."
Stafford said he attended a recent meeting of the committee and has consulted separately a few times with Chairwoman Catherine Yamamoto and committee member Bilal Ansari.
"They're very informative and getting me up to date ... and I'm watching old WilliNet videos," Stafford said, referring to the town's public access television station, which unfortunately was not able to telecast Monday night's meeting.
"Yours is a voice most welcome on the committee," Chairwoman Jane Allen said. "Thank you for your willingness to serve."
The Selectmen also accepted with its thanks the resignation of Prudential Committee Chairman John Notsley from the town's Public Safety Building Study Committee. Notsley told the board that he will be out of town for the winter and unable to serve. The board appointed Prudential Committee member Ed Briggs to take Notsley's place on the study committee.