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A survey revealed that townspeople would like to see an option for just a police station, a combined police and emergency medical services complex, and a complete facility with police, EMS, and the Fire Department.

Lanesborough Public Safety Committee Supports Fire Station Study

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Residents asked the Public Safety Building Committee for three proposals to solve the town's public safety facility, and the committee will abide. 

On Tuesday, the panel voted to spend $10,000 on a needs assessment, schematic design, and a cost estimate of adding the fire department to the public safety building proposal.

A survey revealed that townspeople would like to see an option for just a police station, a combined police and emergency medical services complex, and a complete facility with police, EMS, and the Fire Department.

"The Select Board has charged you people with seeing what the town's people want and coming back with choices so, somehow, we might get a building if the town's people will accept," Selectman Timothy Sorrell said.

"And if it's police, police, and ambulance, or all three, we give it to the people, and they vote they decide what it is they want."

In March, the town rejected a $6 million police and EMS proposal.  The committee has been working for a few months to produce a proposal that resonates with residents while meeting the town's needs.

In July, the panel received over 250 responses to a community survey. Of those, 161 responses indicated interest in a complex with all three public safety departments, 139 in just a police station, and 124 in a police and ambulance facility.

"We're really down to an equation of how to pay for it," Architect Brian Humes said.

"If you figured out the needs and those are the needs and you've understood the needs, now is the question of how to pay for it. If you add square footage for a fire department, I don't care if you add square footage for anything, you're going to raise the price of the project. Its square footage is what's driving the overall cost of the project."

It is believed that the panel still has all of the $40,000 that was appropriated for the design of a public safety building at the annual town meeting, as the costs that have been expelled so far came from American Rescue Plan Act funds.

This will allow for an accurate estimate of what it would cost to add the fire department to the equation.  The space needs assessment will then translate to a schematic design that will go to a professional cost estimator.

Humes explained that to do it right, all three have to be done.

"I am interested in trying to find a solution for Lanesborough. I've been doing this with Lanesborough for years now so I want to find a solution," he said. "If this helps to get to a solution, great."

The spacing assessment for a police-only facility recommended 4,700 square feet for a police station and 7,000 square feet for a police and EMS complex.

It was pointed out that construction pricing will only get more expensive as time goes on.

Because the project will cost over $1.5 million, the state requires an owner's project manager to be hired to oversee it and make sure that procurement requirements are met.

"I was only hired to do the study," Humes explained. "So once your funding is in place for the entire project to go forward, you need to hire your OPM before you rehire or hire an architect because the OPM will also look at the study to see that it was valid and legitimate and met all of the requirements of the study."

Committee member Eric Harrington wondered if the committee was at a crossroads and should report to the select board before asking how to proceed.

"I'd hate to see us doing too much work, go too far if we're going in the wrong direction," he said.

Sorrell felt it was best to give residents all of the information and let them decide.

"My feeling is a Select Board member if we just go in with everybody into one building with a rough guess of the cost, people are going to chastise us," he said, adding that it has to be done right.

Chair Mark Siegars also pointed out that the town is currently negotiating a lease for the station that is owned by the fire association and knowing the cost of a replacement may inform a discussion about the long-term health of the building.


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Lanesborough Select Board OKs Single Tax Rate

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Select Board on Monday voted to adopt a single tax rate that will mean the average homeowners' tax bill will go up by $107.
The tax rate will be $17 per $1,000 assessed value, down 67 cents from last year. 
This is the third year the rate has decreased but rising home values account for the increase in property taxes. On the other hand, the average commercial property tax bill will decrease by more than $400 due to devaluation.
Town Assessor Ross Vivori explained that over the last couple of years, people have been spending more on residential housing than commercial properties, which accounts for the discrepancy.
"They are overspending on residential," he said. "Whether that's all related to COVID, people moving from the cities to here, but that's driving that residential value up and you're just not seeing that on the commercial side so that's coming down and, of course, with the tax rate coming down, you're also seeing that being reflected in the commercial tax rate."
The average single-family home valued at $318,803 will have an annual tax bill of $5,420 in fiscal 2024. Last year, the average home was valued at $300,705 home and billed $5,313.
The average commercial property is valued at $525,450, a decrease from $528,697 in FY23, and will pay $8,933 in property taxes.
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