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The Board of Selectmen approve releasing the RFQ for the police station at Monday's meeting.

Lanesborough Selectmen Reverse Course, Vote For Police Station Study

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen reversed course on a feasibility study for the police station after a citizens petition was filed in favor of it.
The board had voted against a feasibility and needs assessment for the future of the police station, opting instead to hire a contractor to finish the partially completed renovation project currently on hold.
The move upset the police officers' union and supporters rallied behind a citizens' petition calling for a study to look at building a new station on land for sale in front of Laston Park, renovating one of the buildings at Vacation Village, or renovating (and potentially building an addition) to the current station.
"We're still throwing $25,000 away," said Henry "Hank" Sayers, who had switched his vote to be in favor of the request for qualifications to do the study.
Sayers voted against the study feeling the money would be better spent on moving forward with a repair. He voted to instead put the funds toward a contractor to finish the job, feeling that would be much more cost effective. 
However, the petition put the question on the warrant for all three options. Sayers became somewhat of a deal-maker on Monday, fearing that the petition could take on a life of its own without the Selectmen's input.
He asked Police Chief Timothy Sorrell and Union President Ben Garner if they'd back the board's decision at town meeting and be able to move forward with the request for qualifications Town Manager Kelli Robbins and the board crafted.
That draft did not look at the vacant Vacation Village property. The RFQ asks only to focus on one building on the property but the town would have to buy all five there, with the condition and cost to repair the rest of the structures being unknown.
One idea has been to use the village property for a senior center and rent out office space but that plan is beyond the scope of the assessment. Sayers feels it would be misleading to present an option for the police station there without knowing exactly how much the rest of the property will cost to raze or renovate.
"We need a price to repair that full property," Sayers said, and added that he doesn't want to be a landlord and rent out space there but it could be used for town offices instead.
Garner and Sorrell said they'd like to have all three options on the table and the citizens' petition called for all three.
Realtor Barbara Hassan said the study focused on the feasibility of what town officials have been calling the "green building" on the property and if that proves to be the best option, the rest are just "bonus buildings." She doesn't think repairs to the rest would be too costly. Chairman John Goerlach added that the town's $25,000 price for the study won't change so it might as well be included to get more information. 
Sayers then agreed to keeping that property in the scope of the study but said his support is contingent on getting a cost for the rest of the buildings as well.
The parcel in front of Laston Park remains a possibility. The Recreation Committee has been attempting to raise money for years to buy the 2.7-acre parcel and add it to the park and it was once eyed to be the home of the Berkshire Carousel. It is where the sign for the former drive-in is location and is owned by Dennis Condron. 
Sorrell, who sits on the Recreational Committee, said the Police Department would only need a small portion of that lot so that would create additional parking should the town opt to build a brand-new station there. 
The last option is to not only continue with the current renovation plans but also potentially add on to the existing station. Goerlach said he envisions a project that keeps the work Selectman Robert Ericson had begun, continues it, and then adding a garage, chief's office, and additional locker room and shower space. Sayers had previously asked if students at McCann Technical School would be available to help build the garage portion.
The question of how to pay for it all will be for the future. The study will look at what the Police Department needs to function and which of the three options are possible with ballpark cost estimates. From there, the board will want to take the options to a future town meeting. Robbins said the results of the study could be known by the fall.
For Garner, one of the more intriguing options is the building of a new station. Years ago plans had been drawn up for it to cost about $700,000 to build on town land on Prospect Street. Robbins said the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a grant and loan program for public safety buildings available with a 2.35 percent interest rate over 40 years. She said if the town paid half of the cost with $700,000 up front and borrowed the rest, it would have a limited impact on the tax rate.
However, that previous estimate was years ago and in a conceptual state. The price has likely increased since then. By how much, though, is still a bit unknown. That's what the study is hoping to provide.
"We don't know what the Police Department needs. That is part of the feasibility study," Robbins said.
The board is also considering selling the Prospect Street land as a way to raise revenue for the project.
Likely any grant or low-interest loans from the federal government would need a feasibility study completed in order to get funding. Sorrell added that the current building's project has uncovered more issues and he'd prefer the study to determine the extent of repairs needed there in order for the department to stay there.
Nonetheless, what was poised to be a battle on the town meeting floor as been averted and the town is again set to release an RFQ.

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Lanesborough's King Elmer Treated for Broken Limbs

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

The break can be seen in the center, where a hole in the trunk allowed a family of raccoons to take up residence last year. 
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — King Elmer lost part of his crown this week.
Once the tallest elm in Massachusetts, the more than 250-year-old tree is now missing at least 10 foot section from his topmost branches from a combination of a weak trunk and winds from Tropical Storm Isaias that blew through the region Tuesday.
"It is 107 feet and I think that was part of the highest section," said James Neureuther, chairman of the Lanesborough Tree and Forest Committee. "It's probably a little shorter than it was now. It'd be hard to know but we may have lost 10 feet."
That, he noted, was like losing a whole tree.
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