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Elks home could serve as temporary library site

July 26, 2013
By Carley Dangona


WEST SPRINGFIELD – The Elks property, 429 Morgan Road, is slated to serve as a satellite library for the West Springfield Public Library on Park Street, during its renovation.

Mayor Gregory Neffinger made the announcement on July 24 on the 20.89-acre former home of the Elks, which includes an 11,900 square-foot building and a 7,000 square-foot, covered pavillion.

He stated that by using the Hard Rock New England (HRNE) $400,000 community enhancement payment for the purchase of the site, combined with the savings of the proposed $650,000 cost associated with a satellite library, there would a savings of more than $1 million to the town.

“The town is moving forward with the purchase,” he stated, noting that at least six of the city councilors support the purchase.

Neffinger will once again seek approval from the City Council to purchase the Elks property, now that the town has secured the remaining $400,000 needed for the purchase. He anticipated that the council would consider the matter at its Aug. 5 meeting. If approved, the mayor will seek to close the purchase by Aug. 9.

One issue still being discussed is the $20,000 tax payment that is due on the property, which is a result of the nonprofit status termination upon merger with the Westfield Elks Club.

Once the sale is complete, the town will assess the building’s handicap accessibility. If the structure is considered two buildings, then entrance ramps will be installed to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, Neffinger explained. If considered one building the town would have to install an elevator. At this time, the cost of either option is unknown.

Another cost to be determined is the maintenance to fix the “humidity” issue with the building. The mayor said the carpets would have to be removed and the building cleaned.

Once acquired, the two ball fields – one for soccer and one for baseball – would be created to alleviate the “current overuse” of the existing fields, according to Neffinger.

Library Director Antonia Golinski-Foisy said the renovations to the library should be completed some time in 2015.

The future of the Elks building after it serves as a satellite library has yet to be determined.

On July 16, HRNE presented the town with a $400,000 check to assist with community enhancement, fulfilling one of the Host Community Agreement (HCA) stipulations that required the non-refundable payment be made within five days of the HCA completion and signing.

“We look forward to giving you a lot more money in the coming years,” HRNE President Tim Maland said after presenting the check to Neffinger.

“The City Council was trying to use Community Preservation money, but if you were there at the meeting you saw there was a lot of potential roadblocks,” Neffinger said.

He continued, “We found out later that it is a long road and [the funds] are probably not going to be available for the Elks project so we’re going to use that [the Community Preservation funds] for open space and for recreation.”

At a special meeting on June 27, the City Council approved an appropriation of $100,000 – the mayor had requested $500,000 to cover the total purchase and related expenses – from the Free Cash account to use as a deposit towards the purchase of the Elks property.

In response, Neffinger stated that he would not move forward with negotiations until the rest of the balance was secured because the deposit is non-refundable.

During the discussion at that meeting, the mayor and the council discussed the use of Community Preservation Act funds for the purchase, but questioned whether the project would be eligible for the funding since its proposed uses include the creation of a public safety complex and/or the sale of the front of the lot as multiple parcels.

Neffinger said the majority of the council was in favor of obtaining the land and thought that it “is a great project for the town of West Springfield for open space, for recreation, for our community activities.”

He said, “It looked like we were going to lose that project.” Neffinger stated that the HRNE payment is the opportunity for the town to acquire the land and move forward with the project.

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