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Bilal Ansari, president of Higher Ground and a member of the Affordable Housing Committee.
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Selectman Thomas Sheldon, an adviser to Higher Ground, speaks with state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi.
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Affordable Housing Committee Chairwoman Catherine Yamamoto passes out drinks.
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Higher Ground advisory board member Carol DeMayo.
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Council on Aging Director Brian O'Grady, left, and the Rev. Peter Elvin of St. John's Episcopal.
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Selectmen Chairwoman Jane Allen, left, with Cariddi.
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Spruces Residents Hear Hope From Selectmen Chair

By Stephen DravisWilliamstown Correspondent
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Members of the Spruces park community and Higher Ground gathered for luncheon hosted by the non-profit at Congregational Church.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Current and former residents of the Spruces Mobile Home Park serenaded the chairman of the Selectmen on Sunday on the occasion of her birthday.
 
But it was Jane Allen who brought the present for everyone in the room: the gift of information.
 
Allen and many of the Spruces family were at First Congregational Church on Sunday for a luncheon hosted by the local non-profit Higher Ground.
 
She rose to give the upward of 50 "Sprucians" an update on the administration of the $6 million federal Hazard Mitigation Grant the town received to relocate the flood-prone park and help relocate the residents.
 
"It's good news," Allen said. "Don't worry about the tears.
 
"[Monday] night at the Selectmen's meeting, we're going to be hiring a relocation advisory agent. That is the person who is going to be working with all of you, as far as the relocation — all of the complicated details that you have been asking questions about."
 
The relocation agent is the person who will be responsible for dispensing the residents' share of the grant money.
 
It is a private matter between residents and FEMA just how much each of the residents will be eligible for under terms of the grant. The households who remain in the park have been in limbo wondering just how much federal money they will have to work with as they wait to figure out where they will move with the park's closure.
 
On Sunday afternoon, some of those anxieties were put aside briefly as the residents had a chance to dine on lasagna, salad and carrot cake with many of their current and former neighbors from the retirement community.
 
The luncheon was attended by many of the volunteers who helped create Higher Ground in the wake of 2011's Tropical Storm Irene including elected officials Allen, Selectman Thomas Sheldon and Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams.
 
In addition to hearing the news about Monday's Board of Selectmen meeting, the residents also received an invitation to a Sunday, Jan. 26, benefit concert for Higher Ground.
 
That afternoon at the Williams Inn, Judith Reichert and Stephen Dankner will perform the music of Johnny Mercer in a program titled "Come Rain or Come Shine."

Tags: Higher Ground,   Spruces,   

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