DPW Building Project Hits Snag

LONGMEADOW, MA – The Department of Public Works building has hit a snag, but it is not anticipated to be a major setback for the project.

During his report to the Select Board during its June 18, 2018 meeting, Town Manager Stephen Crane noted the DPW building project encountered an “unforeseen circumstance” in the form of materials containing asbestos at the site that will require abatement and removal.

“It sounds a lot worse than it is,” Crane said. “I won’t say it’s no big deal, but it is a completely manageable situation, and the cost to fix the situation will be basically time and materials. We didn’t discover nuclear waste or anything like that. It’s a pretty standard thing.”

Crane went on to say the cost could be “significant” due to high labor and disposal costs associated with asbestos. Exposure to asbestos can result in health issues, including respiratory illness and mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lungs and lower digestive tract.

Town officials celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony for the 42,250-square-foot facility located at the site of the former Grande Meadows on Dwight Street on June 1. Voters approved two warrant articles for the project, which had an estimated price tag of $21.1 million, at the 2017 Annual Town Meeting. Residents approved a Proposition 2 ½ override to fund the construction at the 2017 Annual Town Election.

Crane also said he was encouraged by his attendance at a recent Western Massachusetts Economic Development Conference at which Gov.
Charlie Baker was the keynote.

“I think there’s a lot of good new emanating from economic development circles in Western Mass.,” he said. “I know sometimes in Longmeadow, because we’re a more residential community, we feel somewhat insular with regards to economic development, but the economic fortunes of the region definitely affect our economic fortunes, our house prices, all those things – the ability for people to move here and have a quality job that they can go to and support their family and their community.”

Crane noted the governor recognized Western Massachusetts as a leader in collaboration, noting that aspect of economic development was unique to the area when compared to other parts of the state or the country.

The Select Board was also informed in departmental reports that Baystate Urgent Care Center in the Longmeadow Shops gained approval from the Health Department. The clinic is located next to Max Burger in the space previously occupied by Peachwave.

Crane said he toured the clinic, which includes modern medical diagnostic equipment, including an X-ray machine.

“It looks like a really nice facility,” he said. “I think it will be a really great alternative for most healthcare issues for people in our community besides driving all the way to Mercy or Baystate.”

Regarding the new Adult Center, Crane said in addition to discussions related to selecting a project manager, he hoped to discuss opportunities for private fundraising efforts with the Council on Aging board and the Friends of Longmeadow Older Citizens Association.

“The town’s not going to manage private fundraising, but it’s a discussion we need to have with those groups about how they view their role in raising money privately and what the money would be used for.”

Crane mentioned topics such as scope of work for the building’s design, offsetting shortfalls, and naming opportunities as topics that had not been discussed in depth with those organizations. He noted that no person or entity had yet presented themselves to him as spearheading any fundraising efforts.

“I just want to get a sense of what people are thinking about. I’m not going to be the fundraising chair. That’s not an appropriate role for me to take,” he said. “It’s just making sure that if fundraising does take place, the town is included in those discussions and is aware of what’s happening because there are materials that we are going to generate through the design process that fundraising groups – ‘Friends of’ groups, if you will – are going to want to use. So we just want to make sure we are in sync with any efforts that are going on.”

He also recommended putting the project out to bid in February or March of 2019, observing it was often a favorable time of year in terms of pricing. He noted the town used a similar strategy for the DPW project.

– By Chris Maza