Lanesborough Police Station Panel: No to Prospect Site

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
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LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Police Station Building Committee has decided that it does not endorse 8 Prospect St. as the site for a potential new police station building


The committee has discussed potential issues with the location of the current station on several occasions, including its size, location, required soil research and a lack of parking. In April, the committee also discovered the deed for 8 Prospect has a restriction requiring the town maintain the parcel as a public park.


"I could never feel good about putting a stamp of approval on that site, me personally," said Committee member Glen Storie. "Even if they decide that's just what they want, I'm still, personally, against it." 


Committee Chair Tool said the final decision on a new police station site is the Select Board's to make. She said the Select Board has not given the committee authority to explore other potential sites, despite its concerns with the Prospect Street site that's on the bottom of the hill at the corner with Route 7.


"If we are given permission to look at other sites, we can pull two or three sites and do a comparison of them," she said. "And that's really what should have been done from the very beginning with all of this, and now almost all of those sites are off the table." 


The Select Board entered executive session on May 23 to discuss the deed restriction, but has not provided the committee any additional updates. Tool said she thinks it would be irresponsible of the town to go through the process of changing the deed when the committee already has several other issues with the site. 


"My understanding is that the process is generally very difficult," said Committee Chair Kristen Tool. "It's lengthy, and you can go through the whole thing and think it's going to work, and the judge says no." 


Several committee members also voiced concerns with setting a precedent by pursuing legal action to change the deed restriction. Committee member and former Police Chief Timothy Sorrell said altering the deed could discourage future donations. 


"Who is going to want to donate property to the town of Lanesborough? And you want to donate property, 'Hey, I want this to be a park in my name.' And then you see what they've done," Sorrell said.


The board also discussed the lease for the temporary station, which Police Chief Robert Derksen expects to be ready for approval at the next Select Board meeting. Derksen said he and Town Administrator Joshua Lang have worked with the property owner to finalize the lease, with most of the work inside already being complete. 


"[The property owner] has done a tremendous amount of work," he said. "With the exception of a couple of rooms that they just have to finish painting, it looks amazing right now," he said. 


While the lease would have the Police Department taking over the building on July 1, Derksen said completing the move to the new space will likely take until August. 


"Just because we have to get IT in there, we have to get internet cables; we have to get security camera companies in. So there's a lot of logistics," he said.

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Pittsfield Officials Tour ServiceNet's Vocational Farm

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Officials got a first look at ServiceNet's therapeutic vocational farm in the former Jodi's Seasonal on Friday.
"I think it's a great reuse of a property with both a training and education piece and a community development piece," Mayor Peter Marchetti said.
Early this year, the nonprofit human service agency closed on the property when former owners Dave and Andrea Blessing sold  Jodi's after 40 years in operation.  Prospect Meadow Farm Berkshires is an expansion of ServiceNet's first farm in Hatfield that has provided meaningful agricultural work, fair wages, and personal and professional growth to hundreds of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities since opening in 2011.
Vice President of Vocational Programs Shawn Robinson, who helped spearhead the farm from day one, said they aim for a similar operation in Pittsfield.
"The model has been incredible. Families love the work that their loved ones are doing for a variety of reasons. A lot of folks we serve are folks on the spectrum and what we've seen is being outdoors, physical work, and connection with animals have tremendous benefits for that population," he explained.
"And then also, there's a significant population of young people coming through right now where your traditional program just doesn't seem like a good fit for whatever reason that might be and it might even be just the amount of space that that person needs. Being in a building isn't necessarily for everyone."
The 16-acre flower farm on Crane Avenue includes greenhouses, a few buildings, and a great deal of land.  An open house is staged for May and the hope is to have goat and chicken houses completed as well as a full-scale mushroom operation, tomato plants, and cucumbers if weather permits.
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