Town of Becket
Community Development Strategy Task Force
Meeting # 1 – August 17, 2009
5:00 – 7:00 pm
Task Force Members Berkshire Regional Planning Commission
Rita Furlong Patricia Mullins (Present)
Joshua Lombard Brian Domina (Present)
Stephen Labelle Thomas Matuszko (Not Present)
Madeleine Swindelhurst Members of the Public
Sandy Sayward Mark Karlberg
Beth VanNess (Not Present)
Patricia Mullins from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission opened the public meeting at 5:06 pm.
The quorum requirement is satisfied. (8 of 9 Task Force Members present).
Becket Select Board Member Bill Cavanaugh addressed the Task Force Members and thanked them for their willingness to volunteer and to develop the Community Development Strategy for the Town of Becket.
Patricia Mullins handed out copies of the meeting summaries for the July 25, 2009 and August 1, 2009 public input meetings.
Patricia Mullins provided the Task Force Members with an overview of the CDBG application process and the role of the Task Force.
Patricia Mullins reminded the Task Force that the Open Meeting Laws apply to Task Force Members. Patricia Mullins answered questions about the Open Meeting Law and referred the Task Force Members to material available at the Town Hall and from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.
Task Force Members Madeleine Swindlehurst, Sandy Sayward, and Stephen Labelle requested that they be contacted by telephone for scheduling items and to be made aware of documents that are sent via e-mail to them.
Patricia Mullins led an overview of the meeting schedule for the Task Force.
Patricia Mullins distributed informational handouts to Task Force Members that did not receive them at the other public input meetings.
Patricia Mullins suggested that the Task Force now elect a Task Force Chairperson to lead this and future meetings.
Madeleine Swindlehurst made a motion to nominate Rita Furlong as the Temporary Chairperson of the Task Force. Paul Campbell seconded the motion. Discussion followed about whether to elect Rita Furlong and the appropriate role for Town Administrator Tony Blair. Madeleine Swindlehurst suggested that Tony Blair should be elected as moderator. Another suggestion was made that Tony Blair be elected as Vice Chairperson. No vote was taken.
Madeline Swindlehurst nominated Rita Furlong for the position of Chairperson of the Task Force. Stephen Labelle seconded the motion. Vote taken: unanimous in favor.
Rita Furlong was elected as Chairperson of the Task Force.
Rita Furlong nominated Tony Blair for the position of Vice Chairperson of the Task Force. Stephen Labelle seconded the motion. Vote taken: unanimous in favor.
Tony Blair was elected as Vice Chairperson of the Task Force.
Rita Furlong directed the Task Force Members to consider the public input received at the two previous public meetings.
Sandy Sayward read aloud the public comments received about North Becket Village. The Task Force discussed the amount of signage in the village, foot traffic, crosswalks, potential uses of the abandoned lumberyard, transportation of seniors, senior housing, access to river/riverwalk, comfort stations, moving utilities underground, and possible land acquisition behind the Mullen House.
Specific issues discussed by the Task Force Members: Madeleine Swindlehurst suggested that the abandoned lumber yard needs an environmental site assessment, but once cleaned could be a site for senior housing or a park, or maybe both.
Madeleine Swindlehurst suggested that this would be an ideal location because seniors would be able to volunteer and interact with the school children.
Madeleine Swindlehurst suggested that the Senior Van drivers be CPR certified and the van could be garaged at Fire Station # 1 in the Village.
Rita Furlong indicated that a grant to remodel Fire Station # 1 has already been submitted.
The idea of a pavilion at a possible park at the lumberyard site was downplayed because of the existing pavilion behind Fire Station # 1 in the Village.
Meredyth Babcock suggested that composting toilets be installed if a comfort station or other public facilities are constructed in the Village.
Meredyth Babcock suggested that the Town of Becket look into acquiring land behind the Mullen House to open access to the ravine.
Meredyth Babcock suggested that a riverwalk would make the National Wild & Scenic West Branch of the Westfield River more accessible and the old Pontoosuc Turnpike would be an ideal spot for a riverwalk.
Rita Furlong suggested that all the hiking trails at the Quarry may preempt the idea of a riverwalk because Becket has a number of trails.
Meredyth Babcock suggested that the Quarry and riverwalk are separate.
Zina Jayne suggested that the riverwalk is different and it would be part of the larger attraction of the Village along with the Arts Center and Library.
Madeleine Swindlehurst suggested that wheelchair accessibility be improved in the Village.
Patricia Mullins pointed out that although many of these ideas are specific; certain commonalities exist between them, such as a focus on infrastructure and signage.
Paul Campbell suggested that access to the river and brooks in the Village is poor and it should be improved.
Meredyth Babcock suggested that funds could be used to move the Becket Highway Garage further down on Route 20 and away from the river. The consensus of the Task Force was that the overall cost of moving the Highway Department is too great for this grant.
Madeleine Swindlehurst read the public comments received about the Elderly Population. The Task Force discussed housing and transportation issues.
Specific issues discussed by the Task Force Members: Madeleine Swindlehurst suggested that senior housing could be constructed at the Jacob’s Well property or the abandoned lumber yard. Madeleine Swindlehurst re-stated her idea of having the emergency medical service employees also drive the senior transportation van and to garage the senior van at one of the fire houses.
Zina Jayne stated that senior transportation was discussed as a high priority need at an informal economic summit held in Spring of 2009 in the Village.
Madeleine Swindlehurst suggested that the elder nutrition services program be moved to wherever the senior housing is located.
The Task Force discussed the location of the Jacob’s Well property.
Stephen Labelle suggested that other communities have re-used old school buildings to meet affordable housing needs.
Meredyth Babcock suggested that the school can be used for other activities during the afterschool hours.
Rita Furlong read the public comments received about the Center Village. The Task Force discussed elderly housing behind the Town Hall, sidewalks, and affordable housing.
Specific issues discussed by the Task Force Members: Stephen Labelle suggested that elderly housing could be located on Route 20, a community center could be located in Sherwood Forest for the entire community, and it could also be used as a youth center, or a good location for an emergency shelter.
Meredyth Babcock posed the question as to where the Becket Seniors would prefer to see senior housing located?
Madeleine Swindlehurst indicated that she was speaking for herself and would like to live in the Village because of its proximity to the library, Arts Center, and the store.
Paul Campbell suggested that the Task Force also look at affordable housing for everyone and not just affordable senior housing.
Meredyth Babcock mentioned a small community of green buildings constructed in Haydenville, she also suggested that some houses on Maple Street could be renovated and used as affordable housing/senior housing.
Patricia Mullins informed the Task Force that the Hilltown CDC has agreed to meet with the Task Force to provide more information about senior housing and services.
Stephen Labelle suggested that the Town consider the construction of a wastewater treatment plant near Sherwood Forest. Rita Furlong suggested that because Sherwood Forest is a private community funds would likely not be allocated for that project.
Meredyth Babcock read the public comments received about Program Ideas. The Task Force discussed afterschool programs, job training/computer training, youth center, shared transportation, and recreation.
Specific issues discussed by the Task Force Members: Rita Furlong suggested that the lack of late busing deprives Becket children of the opportunity to play afterschool sports. Zina Jayne suggested that afterschool programs should not only focus on school activities, but activities at the library and the Arts Center and that Becket residents are training their children to leave Becket.
Rita Furlong asked what types of programs are covered by the CDBG program
Patricia Mullins indicated that the CDBG program does cover certain types of programs.
Josh Lombard asked whether any tenants are located in the Mullen House and if not, why not?
Rita Furlong stated that the Mullen House has no tenants, but the Nature Conservancy, Westfield Wild & Scenic, and a woodworking organization had once been located there and would be willing to come back if the house was renovated.
Rita Furlong suggested that the ideas for Sherwood Forest and Jacob’s Well be titled as West Becket.
Stephen Labelle suggested that all of the public comments previously discussed be placed into the following seven categories.
- Senior Housing/Affordable Housing
- Public Transportation (Youth/Elderly)
- Public Safety Facilities
- Community Centers
- Comfort Stations
- Site acquisition/assessment
All Task Force Members agreed that these categories make sense.
Rita Furlong suggested that signage is a small project and could be addressed through CPA funds.
Patricia Mullins asked the Task Force Members to review the handouts and contact the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission or Tony Blair if they have any questions.
Task Force Members inquired as to the availability of the Becket Community Development Plan. Patricia Mullins is going to attempt to make copies available to the Task Force Members.
Stephen Labelle made a motion to adjourn the meeting
Madeleine Swindlehurst seconded the motion. Vote taken: unanimous in favor.
Meeting adjourned at 7:16 pm.