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Mount Greylock School Building Committee co-Chairwoman Paula Consolini, center, conducts Wednesday's meeting.

Mount Greylock Building Committee Nixes Overflow Parking Proposal

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — An evenly divided Mount Greylock Regional School Building Committee last week decided not to spend time and money looking at the creation of overflow parking on the north side of the new middle-high school.
At issue was a patch of land currently occupied by trailers related to the $64 million building project. As construction winds down, construction manager Turner Construction plans to remove the trailers and return the land to its natural state.
Over the years, there have been occasional discussions about whether that land -- currently covered by gravel -- could be kept as an alternative parking area for special events, especially since the newly constructed main lot at the school has less parking capacity than its previous lot.
While roughly the same area as the previous lot, the newly constructed lot has better-defined parking and median strips with plantings and does not have the potential for parked cars to be crammed into, for example, the driving lanes, as the old lot did.
The first real test of the new parking lot happened to coincide with Wednesday's meeting of the School Building Committee, which was forced to meet off-site at Williamstown Elementary School because of anticipated high demand for parking.
As anticipated, the lot was overtaxed after the school scheduled a cross country meet (with four visiting schools), a boys soccer game and a volleyball match in roughly the same time window.
SBC member Richard Cohen of Lanesborough noted that on his drive to Wednesday's meeting, he saw families parking and getting out of their cars on the side of Route 7.
Cohen had raised the issue of an auxiliary parking lot as recently as the committee's September meeting when he pointed out that because of the school's location, safe on-street parking is not an option. According to the Sept. 13 minutes approved on Wednesday night, Cohen at that time said, "The discussion does not have to take place tonight, but [I] would like to have this discussion before it's too late."
Last Wednesday, half his colleagues agreed it was too late.
Cohen began the conversation Wednesday by suggesting the committee form a working group to get more information so it can decide whether there is enough money in the budget to cover the creation of an overflow lot.
Mount Greylock Principal Mary MacDonald, a voting member of the panel, agreed with Cohen, noting her concern about graduation, the one day each year when the school could anticipate the old lot being pushed to its capacity.
"We did need to look at options," MacDonald said. "Potentially, it wouldn't be a significant cost. It could be a cost savings [versus landscaping the area]. It's definitely something we've talked about, but we haven't said, '[architect Dan Colli], get on it.' "
Turner's Mike Ziobrowski told the committee that the contractor was in the process of removing containers and cleaning the site already. And it was getting ready to grade the area. He also backed up MacDonald's assertion about cost, saying, "There are some materials there we could take advantage of."
Cohen ultimately moved to spend up to $7,500 on design work by Colli's firm in order to assess the lot's feasibility.
But the longer the discussion continued (one committee member clocked it at 45 minutes), the more concerned some committee members grew about adding another element at this late date.
Ziobrowski told the panel that the contractor plans to pave a fire lane that rings the back of the school starting Oct. 20, and that work is dependent on the grading of the area under discussion for a possible parking lot.
Owner's project manager Trip Elmore told the committee that permitting for the new lot could take months, not to mention the public bidding process.
"What are the potential ripple effects of spending time on this now?" asked Carolyn Greene, who asserted that the committee had considered and rejected the auxiliary lot idea in the past. "There have been ripple effects to everything we've added. … We need to stop. This is a great idea, but we're not doing it now.
"At some point in time, we have to stop building this project," Hugh Daley said. "Part of that is financial, but part of that is [construction] people have to leave at some point. I hear the need for more parking. … But I'm not hearing from [the construction team] that there's a very cost-effective way, within our timeline, to squeeze this last thing in."
After co-Chairwoman Paula Consolini clarified that a vote against Cohen's motion was a vote to go forward with landscaping the area at issue, the committee voted 4-4-1, and the motion died.
Greene abstained from the vote. Cohen, MacDonald, Consolini and Jocelyn Delgado of The Management Solution, the district's business management firm, voted for the expenditure. Daley, Thomas Bartels, Al Terranova and Stephen Wentworth voted against it.
In other business on Wednesday, Turner's Mike Giso told the committee that the renovated auditorium, the last public space unfinished at the school, should be "substantially completed" by Oct. 24, at which point the firm plans to begin inspections with the hope that the auditorium will be available on Nov. 16 when Massachusetts School Building Authority officials will be in town for a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
The next meeting of the School Building Committee is scheduled for Nov. 8 at 5:30 at the middle-high school.

Tags: MGRHS school project,   parking,   

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Williamstown Volunteer of the Year Speaks for the Voiceless

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff

Andi Bryant was presented the annual Community Service Award. 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Inclusion was a big topic at Thursday's annual town meeting — and not just because of arguments about the inclusivity of the Progress Pride flag.
The winner of this year's Scarborough-Salomon-Flynt Community Service Award had some thoughts about how exclusive the town has been and is.
"I want to talk about the financially downtrodden, the poor folk, the deprived, the indigent, the impoverished, the lower class," Andi Bryant said at the outset of the meeting. "I owe it to my mother to say something — a woman who taught me it was possible to make a meal out of almost nothing.
"I owe it to my dad to say something, a man who loved this town more than anyone I ever knew. A man who knew everyone, but almost no one knew what it was like for him. As he himself said, 'He didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.' "
Bryant was recognized by the Scarborough-Salomon-Flynt Committee as the organizer and manager of Remedy Hall, a new non-profit dedicated to providing daily necessities — everything from wheelchairs to plates to toothpaste — for those in need.
She started the non-profit in space at First Congregational Church where people can come and receive items, no questions asked, and learn about other services that are available in the community.
She told the town meeting members that people in difficult financial situations do, in fact, exist in Williamstown, despite the perceptions of many in and out of the town.
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