The Recorder – Montague Selectboard seeks more information on a proposal to demolish the Farren Care Center

MONTAGUE – Discussion of Trinity Health New England’s recommendation to demolish the Farren Care Center continued at Monday’s selection committee meeting, which increased motivation to reunite with the organization.

Monday’s meeting focused primarily on public comment and city officials’ response to the company’s recommendation, which was presented to the Selectboard on November 8. The Selectboard refrained from making further decisions until they spoke to Trinity Health.

Selection committee and city administrator Steve Ellis opened the conversation by reflecting on the collective shock that resulted from the November 8 announcement.

“It was really the first time that I had heard the community really pause and pant from this,” Ellis said.

“I was devastated,” said Vice President Chris Boutwell.

Janice Hamilton-Crawford, president of Trinity Health of New England Senior Communities (Farren’s parent company), presented on November 8 the findings of a facilities assessment carried out over the summer on the Montague City Road building which has determined the redevelopment costs for the first year amount to approximately $ 24 million. According to Hamilton-Crawford, the second year would cost $ 23.8 million, the third year, $ 260,000, and the fourth year, $ 130,000.

“With that, as you can imagine, given the significant capital investment required to put this building back in good repair… the recommendation is that we take the building apart,” she said at the time.

By comparison, the demolition is expected to cost around $ 6.8 million. If the company proceeds with demolition plans, Trinity Health intends to hand over the property to the city.

The long-term care facility was closed earlier this year, having essentially merged with a similar facility in Holyoke called Mount Saint Vincent Care Center. All of Farren’s 105 residents were reportedly offered space at the Holyoke facility. Trinity Health argued that the Montague City Road building was too old for its needs and that it would be too expensive to update it to modern standards.

During a public comment period on Monday, residents expressed feelings of general neglect and concerns about a lack of communication from Trinity Health.

“It seems to me that we are kind of the forgotten village,” said Lilith Wolinsky, Town Meeting member, founder of the Montague City Improvement Association and resident of Montague City. “It kind of seems like we’re out of sight, out of mind, and sort of become a benchmark for some less than desirable companies. … The proposed demolition of the Farren comes at the end of more than 50 years of civic neglect and loss of resources, removing resources from Montague City without replenishing them.

Wolinsky expressed skepticism about the thoroughness of Trinity Health’s research and analysis.

“I understand that some historic buildings pose more problems than solutions,” Wolinsky said. “However, it is of concern… that this building was recommended for demolition without a really thorough and community informed redevelopment study, as Trinity Health promised last December.”

Following Wolinsky’s request for a “serious study for its reuse,” Ellis said he contacted Trinity Health’s real estate department to request a copy of their study, but had not received a response. He said he then spoke to Hamilton-Crawford.

“I followed up with Jan Hamilton-Crawford after the public meeting we had and she said she didn’t believe their legal team would allow them to release this document,” Ellis said.

City planner Walter Ramsey added that he agreed with Wolinsky’s request for a redevelopment study, but said the study might be best compared to the land itself, rather than the existing building. .

“As far as the redevelopment study goes, yes, I at least expect a redevelopment study,” Ramsey said. “It’s just a matter of whether this is a site redevelopment study or the reuse of this building.”

In support of the argument that redevelopment of cleared land might be the best, Ramsey referred to a series of city plans and preservation documents dating back nearly half a century. His research revealed that between the 1976 Montague Pictorial History of the Montague Historical Society, the 1999 Montague Building Protection Plans and the 2017 Montague Recreational and Open Space Plan, there was no There is “no plan we can give to say this is a historic building.” . “

“This is a unique opportunity to rebuild the center of the village,” he said.

The members of the selection committee had mixed feelings when they considered their options.

“I’m not thrilled to see it demolished, I’ll tell you that way,” Boutwell said.

The chairman of the selection committee, Rich Kuklewicz, however, said he was concerned about keeping the building due to the traps he has seen the city fall into historically. He said the demolition of the building would be a “responsible enough” decision.

“What I don’t want to leave to the community is a building that we fight to keep control of one way or another, and then we end up with a Rod Shop or a Strathmore or a Railroad Salvage. “said Kuklewicz. “I’ve just seen too many things that we’ve tried to take control of, or that people have irresponsibly left for this community, like (International Paper Co.) did with Strathmore, and they’ve plagued us for ages. generations. … As unpopular as it may be and as conflicting as it may sound, I’m sorry, but the reality is that we have a facility there that could lie fallow for years and years.

The clerk of the selection committee, Matt Lord, remained relatively neutral, approving the idea of ​​continuing the discussion with Trinity Health.

“My take is that I would like the Farrens to share the study they have,” Lord said. “There have been allegations that they didn’t do a full redevelopment study like they said they would. I do not know if that’s true.

“Let’s not give up,” Kuklewicz said of the subject, “but the other thing we all need to be aware of is that this is still a private entity and they might ask for a demolition permit tomorrow. “

Contact Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or [email protected]

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