Town Administrator Jonathan Butler and Selectman Arthur 'Skip' Harrington presented the warrant to the Finance Committee on Thursday.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Finance Committee will recommend that the town purchase and redevelop a former car wash into a train station for the Berkshire Scenic Railway project.
However, the committee was split on its approval, with the recommendation passing in a 6-5 vote. The article will go before voters at an upcoming special town meeting.
Article 3 authorizes the town to purchase the former car wash on Hoosac Street and transform it into the Adams Station. The station will serve as the boarding area for the Berkshire Scenic Railway line running to North Adams.
The town will pay only $165,000, of the $552,000 project. The balance, 70 percent, will be reimbursed through state grants. The total price includes the purchase, $195,000, and redevelopment.
"I think this is a good project, and I think it is multifaceted," Town Administrator Johnathan Butler said. "I think it's exactly the kind of project the community has to commit to and invest in if we want to get more businesses in our community and more homeowners and actually attack the tax rate from the right way which is growth."
Some committee members feared that investing in the property this early could be detrimental to Adams. Although the railway project engineering is under way, the tracks remain incomplete.
Butler said he believes the railway will be built, and that the restoration of the station is beneficial to Adams with or without the train. The redevelopment will create a useable public area either way, he said.
"The project is very real, and the state has already put a massive investment of about $600,000 in engineering funds to put the project together," Butler said. "This project, whether or not the train happens, is a great complementary park space and it eliminates a blight from a component of our downtown."
The committee also questioned what kind of marketing studies have been done for this project.
Butler explained that the Berkshire Scenic Railway operated in Lenox and Stockbridge for eight years and brought 15,000 to 25,000 visitors to those downtowns.
"Whether we match those numbers specifically or not, either way it is exactly what our businesses on Park Street and Summer Street have been asking for," Butler said.
Committee member Paul Demastrie agreed with Butler and said the town of Adams owes this investment to the businesses and it is worth the venture.
"In the last several months there have been several restaurants and businesses that have opened and have made a commitment to the town of Adams," Demastrie said. "There is not a 100 percent chance that they will make it either, but the town has to show investors that we have their backs, and that we will do whatever we can to bring people in."
The committee also approved an article calling for $970,000 to renovate the library. Butler said the renovation will have a minimal impact on taxes.
Also on the warrant is a newly craft solar bylaw but because it carries no financial impact, the committee did not take a stand on it.