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Council discusses city hall renovations, town recycling

March 20, 2020 | Danielle Eaton

AGAWAM – The Agawam City Council met on March 10 for a workshop meeting that addressed several important issues in town including recycling, a proposed accessory apartment bylaw and a study on the future of Town Hall to bring it up to current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

Only three members of the council were absent for the workshop meeting – Councilors Paul Cavallo, Gina Letellier and Gerald Smith. In attendance was President Christopher Johnson, Vice President Cecilia Calabrese, Councilors George Bitzas, Dino Mercadante, Mario Tedeschi, Robert Rossi, Rosemary Sandlin and Anthony Suffriti.

The first item of the night was a study of town hall given by architect Steve McCallister of Clarke and Green Architects based in Great Barrington. McCallister presented five options for building renovations. The first two options presented to the council included simply adding an elevator and shaft to the existing building on 36 Main St. The third option would involve building an elevator pulled out of the building, in a wing of its own.

The last two options would involve significant renovations, starting with taking off the entire back of the building and constructing an addition. Both options are similar, but the fifth option would give the building slightly more square footage than the fourth option. McCallister said while the fifth option is “the best value” it was “not the cheapest scheme” at an estimated $9 million.

Sandlin questioned how much, if any, parking would be taken over by the addition, but McCallister assured the council the construction “wouldn’t reduce the parking by a significant amount.” Johnson, however, said he’d rather see the money go toward a new city hall building and called the current building “not efficient” and “not laid out well.” Ideally, he said, “you would design [the] new town hall around workflow.” Johnson also pointed out how disruptive the construction would be as offices would need to be relocated until the work was finished.

Bitzas said he’d like to either leave the building as is or have it torn down, but felt that “city hall should be built on that land in that area.” The idea of turning the building into affordable housing was then brought up, which Sandlin said had been done before, citing the Danahy School House. Suffrit questioned the cost of the cheapest option, as even if the building was converted to affordable housing it would still need to meet ADA requirements. McCallister said the cheapest route would be option two and would cost $5.9 million. Tedeshi asked how long the construction would take for something more extreme like the fourth and fifth options, McCallister answered that something to that scale would “probably be about 18-months, maybe even a little less.”

The next presentation given to the council was by Agawam Director of Planning and Community Development Marc Strange and a consultant from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) Becky Basch. Strange and Basch went through a bylaw they’d been working on with the planning board that would allow for accessory apartments in town to accommodate the aging population.

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