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Officials and members of the design and construction team gather this past August around a plaque that recognizes the building project in the new auditorium at Mount Greylock Regional School.
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The new $9.8 million Garfield House dormitory opened on South Street in time for the fall semester at Williams College.
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Meghan Gleason and Neil DeCarolis break ground in July for their new house being built through Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity.

Williamstown 2019 Year in Review: Top Story Was a Turf War

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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The new Williams Inn also opened at the bottom of Spring Street.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The turf may be artificial, but the controversy is very, very real.
 
The one local issue that divided residents in the Mount Greylock Regional School District more than any other is whether the district should install an artificial turf playing field at the middle-high school.
 
The question has caused friction at School Committee meetings and has seen voters align themselves into two distinct camps.
 
On one side, some argue that: artificial turf fields are used all over the country, the commonwealth and the county North County, at Williams College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Berkshire Community College, fields where Mount Greylock teams often hold practices and games; a turf field at the school will provide needed outdoor opportunities for physical education classes during the late fall and early spring; varsity sporting events will have less rescheduling because of unplayable fields, thereby preventing schedule "compaction," which forces Mounties teams play back-to-back dates, and reducing injury risk; students and student-athletes alike will benefit from a more consistent playing surface that will lead to fewer sprains and more serious injuries; an artificial turf field would offer fewer day-to-day maintenance costs; the school could potentially see a little revenue from field rentals; and, anyway, the scientific evidence that artificial turf materials are a health risk is unproven.
 
An artificial turf field is needed for the good of the children, they say.
 
On the other side, opponents counter that: countries in the European Union are moving away from artificial turf because of concerns about the carcinogenic materials found in the recycled tires used for infill; part of the reason the school did a renovation of its gymnasium — rather than a rebuild — was to keep a larger gym that can accommodate physical education classes; Mountie teams have been successful for decades on natural grass fields; elite soccer players have a strong, well-documented preference for grass; properly drained and maintained playing fields and the creation of a grass field that allows for less overuse will increase availability and improve playing conditions; artificial turf fields pose their own injury risk in the form of "turf burns" and higher surface temperatures during August's preseason and the early part of fall varsity sports seasons, and temperatures will only increase from climate change; the day-to-day maintenance savings are erased by the need to tear up and replace the artificial turf every 10 years; and, anyway, the scientific evidence that artificial turf materials are safe is unproven.
 
A grass field is needed for the good of the children, they say.
 
One thing everyone can agree on: Mount Greylock has the money to build an artificial turf field if it wants to. The turf field has been bid once already as part of a larger project to address deficiencies in the school's athletic fields related to Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those deficiencies were grandfathered in to the "old" Mount Greylock, but the recent renovation/addition to the school itself triggered the need to come into compliance.
 
Although the artificial turf, per se, is not related to the ADA or Title IX issues, the field project as designed, includes the creation of some sort of multi-use field — grass or artificial turf — on land originally occupied by the demolished classrooms.
 
Mount Greylock has long intended to address its field deficiencies with a portion of the $5 million capital gift the district received from Williams College at the start of the building project. Neither the fields nor the space for the central administration (which was housed in the old Mount Greylock) were items that the Massachusetts School Building Authority would help pay for. Rather than putting them in the building project, which was MSBA funded, the School Committee and School Building Committee years ago broke the fields and administrative offices out with the intention of using the capital gift to pay for them.
 
The decision to build a new structure to house the offices and storage of supplies and outdoor equipment (mowers, four-wheelers, etc.) was made by the School Committee this fall but not without some rancor. An initial vote to tie funding for the building with a commitment to spend a minimum dollar amount on the fields was invalidated because it ran afoul of state procurement laws, forcing the School Committee to hold a second vote to get the building project going.
 
The debate over installing a turf field at Mount Greylock Regional School like this one at Williams College has dominated meetings.
As for the fields, the School Committee has decided to have them rebid with the artificial turf as an add alternate, potentially allowing the district to do the Title IX and ADA improvements without adding an artificial turf field … and certainly guaranteeing more arguments from the community and within the seven-member panel.
 
There was less division, but by no means complete harmony, at Town Hall this year.
 
The two biggest potential tempests were resolved without the need for the public body in question to make a decision.
 
In May, a request for a special permit to start a marijuana farm on Blair Road was withdrawn by the applicant before the Zoning Board of Appeals had to make a decision. This fall, the ZBA dodged another bullet when an applicant who sought to open a sporting goods store — with an inventory of "collectible firearms" — was withdrawn after strong opposition from neighbors of the proposed North Hoosac Road location.
 
Another controversy that generated a good deal of comment at meetings throughout the winter and spring ended in a pair of votes that were not nearly as close as the surrounding debates indicated.
 
The Planning Board brought to May's annual town meeting a proposal to amend the zoning bylaw to allow more Williamstowners to add accessory dwelling units on their residential properties. Critics of the bylaw as drafted argued for months that the ADUs should be limited only to properties where one of the units — either the principal or accessory — is occupied by the owner of the lot. The argument went that without that limitation, the ADU bylaw would allow for single-family housing lots to become "mini apartment" lots with absentee landlords and change the character of neighborhoods.
 
The opposition to the bylaw narrowed to an amendment made from the floor of town meeting that would have required all ADU projects to seek a special permit from the ZBA, allowing for neighboring residents to weigh in on the potential impact to their neighborhood at a public hearing.
 
The special permit amendment was defeated by a vote of 175-78 — 69 percent opposed. The bylaw as drafted by the Planning Board then passed with 86 percent majority.
 
"I thought it would be much closer than it was," said Amy Jeschawitz, who just a week before town meeting was voted off the Planning Board during the town election, perhaps, in part, because of her role in supporting the bylaw that made its way to the town meeting warrant.
 
When Williamstown residents were not arguing about what could be built, they were watching some long-term projects get built.
 
The year 2019 saw the opening of the town's new police station, a new Williams Inn, a new state-of-the-art dorm at Williams College and a new playground in a town park on Water Street, the latter built entirely with donated money and volunteer labor. And although the building is long-standing, a significant new business was added to the Colonial Plaza on Main Street, where Silver Therapeutics opened its doors as North County's first recreational marijuana retailer.
 
A small but significant building project, a single-family home on Cole Avenue, is well under way and nearing a spring completion as Habitat for Humanity looks to move a family into a house built on land donated by the Williamstown Affordable Housing Trust. And, speaking of affordable housing, a long-awaited 41-unit subsidized housing project down the road at 330 Cole Ave., could break ground in early 2020, the developer told the Select Board in early December.
 
In other building project news Mount Greylock Regional School, which occupied most of its new building in September 2018, got use of the final portion, the auditorium, in February, just in time to stage the spring musical on campus for the first time in a couple of years.
 
It will be some time before the Williamstown Fire District is ready to break ground on new fire station long sought by the Prudential Committee, which governs the district. But the committee itself expanded this fall with the election of two new members to add to the previous three-person panel.
 
Sadly, 2019 also saw the loss of a farm building and sugarhouse in a devastating fire that captured the attention of town and an outpouring of support for the operators.
 

The barn and sugar house at Sweet Brook Farm were destroyed in a fire in February.
Fortunately, tragedy was averted on Halloween when a car struck a trick-or-treater on Cole Avenue, but the incident prompted a discussion by the Select Board when parents lined up to demand that the town find some way to make the area safer for children each Oct. 31. The board and town manager agreed to consult with police and develop a strategy for Halloween 2020.
 
Grassroots activism and can-do volunteerism were directed at the issue of climate change in Williamstown this year. Numerous student-led protests have been staged both in town and in Pittsfield, and the Solarize program, that succeeded in recruiting homeowners to install solar photovoltaic arrays in 2013, returned as Solarize Plus, this time with Williamstown joining North Adams in the cause.
 
Some stories that percolated during this year were in a holding pattern at 2019's end but figure to pick up steam in the next 12 months, including: an initiative by the town to look at the feasibility of town-owned broadband service for residents; a drive to replace the town's street lights with more-efficient bulbs that have optimum intensity that preserves public safety without adding to light pollution; and the long-sought bike path from the junction of North Street (Route 7) and Syndicate Road to the Spruces Park on Main Street (Route 2), which was nearly backburnered by the commonwealth but was put back on course after a letter-writing campaign by proponents.

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Williams: 120 Students Moved to Remote Status in Wake of Party

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The president of Williams College on Sunday confirmed that 120 students are transitioning to remote study in the wake of a Feb. 26 incident at a residence hall.
 
"Last weekend's party unleashed tremendous feeling," Maud Mandel wrote in an email to the college community. "It shook many campus and community members' sense of safety. It resulted in painful consequences for students who acknowledged their involvement. And it is requiring that we say temporary goodbyes to people we care about. Some individuals have reached out to tell me how mad they feel, including about my decisions."
 
The college's actions have included an investigation by its Campus Safety and Security Department into a Friday night party that reportedly drew 80 to 100 people to Wood House in contradiction to the school's COVID-19 protocols.
 
Before they could come on campus for the fall and spring semesters this year, Williams students had to sign a "Community Health Commitment" letter. The last line of the letter, printed in bold type, reads, "you agree that you will comply with the college's public health rules and protective measures, and that any failure to comply may be subject to sanction or discipline in accordance with college policies."
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