|By Carley Dangona
The location for the Ashley Street School remains untouched more than a year after initial construction efforts.
Reminder Publications file photo
WESTFIELD – Almost a year since it began, the Ashley Street School Project remains halted.
Sept. 7 will mark the one-year anniversary of the groundbreaking for the site. In preparation for construction, Cross Street Playground was cleared and the former Ashley Street School was demolished.
The site remains under temporary injunction until the National Parks Service (NPS) rules on whether the Article 97 requirement has been satisfied for the use of Cross Street Playground as part of the new 600-student elementary school site, initially anticipated to open in September 2014. The injunction has been in place since Sept. 18, 2012.
This March, the city submitted its environmental assessment of the playground, which is protected by the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, to the NPS. In April, during the public comment period of the assessment Alice Wielgus, owner of own the property at 146-150 Main St., submitted a letter stating that her land, which was named as a replacement site in the environmental assessment to accommodate the conversion of the Cross Street Playground, was not for sale.
To date, the NPS has yet to rule on the situation. Despite multiple calls to the NPS, no new information was garnered.
The Westfield News reported that the city recently removed the contractor trailers from the site in an attempt to save money, rather than pay for them to remain on site.
Tammy Tefft, director of Purchasing for the city, told Reminder Publications that she had not yet received the invoices for the trailers so she could not provide a dollar amount that the city would be saving.
The site sits, overrun with grass and bordered by chain link fencing. The Fontaine Bros Inc. sign remains posted, directing visitors to stop at the trailer upon arriving at the site.
Resident Lisa Miller, a Westfield native, has lived across the street from Cross Street Playground for 10 years. She spoke to this reporter about some of the things she noticed since the site has sat dormant.
“It sends a bad message to visitors,” she said, referring to guests attending Westfield Little League playoff games that take place at the baseball diamonds directly next to the project site.
Miller stated that she saw spectators sitting on the overgrown dirt mound as bleachers and could hear the announcers tell the players not to slide down it. She added that attendees received tickets for parking on the tree belt. She said that it was an act to alleviate the congestion on the narrow streets and was done without the knowledge that tickets would be issued.
Miller said she has seen children and teenagers playing within the confines of the construction site despite the fences and trespassing signs. She is concerned that someone will get hurt.
There are no markers indicating the hole where the school once stood.
Miller said she would move once the school is under construction because her home will face a solid wall once it’s built. She also said that she misses the playground and would have enjoyed taking her two nieces and nephews there to play.
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