The Recorder – With petition, Bernardston requests $ 1 million for fire hall expansion assigned to bond bill
BERNARDSTON – A petition calling for the million dollars that had previously been earmarked in a 2018 Bonds Bill to benefit the city’s fire hall expansion has collected 537 signatures and has been sent to lawmakers in the ‘State to seek their support.
The petition was launched in August. Last week he was sent with letters to Senators, Representatives and State Governor Charlie Baker, “in the hope of opening our eyes, in the distance, to the million dollars that has been insured to Bernardston in the bond bill “, municipal coordinator Louis Bordeaux. said at a meeting of the select committee.
Selection committee members said the city previously believed it was to receive $ 1 million from a 2018 bond bill, H.4549, whose cycle ends in 2022. Selection committee members, Brian Keir and Robert Raymond, shared with the Greenfield Recorder an email exchange between former City Coordinator Hugh Campbell and State Representative Paul Mark, D-Peru, November 17, 2017, in which Mark wrote to inform Bernardston that the Bonds Bill had passed the House and included the wording, “further provided that $ 1,000,000 be spent on the renovation or construction of a fire station in the town of Bernardston.”
When the Bonds Bill passed in 2018, the Selectboard expected it to receive the funding, and Campbell said at the time that the money was “authorized but not (yet) allocated” for use by the city. In 2020, Bernardston was told he did not meet the requirements, including the need for a ‘shovel-ready’ plan, to unlock the money. With a plan for a four-bay garage, parking lot and office space on Church Street approved, the council is now looking for the million dollars.
“We thought that this money was waiting for us to access it,” said Friday the president of the selection committee, Robert Raymond.
State Senator Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, who was only elected to office in 2019 after the bond bill was approved, explained that the bond bills do not guarantee that cities will receive anything.
“Warrants are authorizations to guarantee or borrow, and having an item assigned in a voucher note does not guarantee that a community or entity will get that money,” she said. . “And it’s heartbreaking that Bernardston relied on that money.”
Comerford said that “more money is coming in than ever thanks to surety clearances” and “unfortunately they do not constitute a payment guarantee like a grant or a loan”. As a result of their own discussions, Bordeaux reached out to administrators in small towns in Massachusetts and heard from more than 10 cities in the state tell similar stories of earmarked money that was never given to them.
One of the letters sent to state offices last week was written by Selectboard member Stanley Garland and argues that because the bill for the bond included the word “shall” in his language, Bernardston believes that the money is justified.
“The letter included the definition of the word ‘must’ and to a layman when you look at language like that, it’s just cut and dry. There shouldn’t be any reason we’re getting this money withheld,” Bordeaux said. at last week’s Selectboard meeting.
“We’re just trying to do everything we can to help the city as far as funding this thing,” Raymond said.
According to Bordeaux, Mark, who recently announced a campaign for the state Senate, had confirmed having received the petition and letters.
In April 2020, the city officially obtained the land at 12 Church Street, next to the current fire station. The property owned by late resident Frank “Bud” Foster was originally donated to the town to house its expanded fire station five years ago. The house on the property was demolished in October as the city prepared the site for future construction.
In May, voters approved a loan of up to $ 3 million for the project at the city’s annual meeting. Support came in the May 10 election, when a 133 to 68 vote passed Question 2 asking for a debt exclusion to pay the bond needed to build the fire station addition.
Zack DeLuca can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4579.