|Williamstown Officials Confront Issues Related to Off-Campus Parties|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
03:55AM / Thursday, October 18, 2018
|An abandoned couch on the front lawn of a Hoxsey Street residence on Wednesday morning. The couch was cited at Monday's Select Board meeting as evidence of the lack of respect shown by some occupants of the neighborhood.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Two members of the Select Board fired a "shot across the bow" Monday at a nonprofit that hosts an annual fund-raiser tied to a block party on Hoxsey Street.
Jesse Facey, a leader of Williams College's chapter of San Francisco-based organization Reclaim Childhood, was before the board to request a street closure for an Oct. 27 party.
In response to reports by a local resident about past issues related to the event, board members Jane Patton and Andrew Hogeland voted against authorizing the closure.
"The message needs to be that it was barely approved and if it doesn't work out, it's the last time," Hogeland said. "As a shot across the bow, I'd oppose this."
Carol DeMayo, who owns a Hoxsey Street rental property occupied by non-students, told the board that past editions of the Reclaim Childhood event have been raucous affairs and left the street littered with the remains of the night's activities.
"I went at 8 in the morning, and I was knee deep in garbage," DeMayo said of the day after the event, scheduled from 9 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. on Sunday. "Litter, clothing, red Solo cups, shoes, you name it. They said they picked up? No. Neighbors picked it up."
DeMayo and the board recognized that the problem of loud drunken parties on Hoxsey Street is not unique to the annual fund-raiser. But Patton said a charity that organizes sporting events for girls and women in Jordan might want to reconsider using the house parties as a charitable endeavor.
"You have to take some ownership of who you choose to get in bed with, right?" Patton asked in a meeting telecast on the town's community access television station, Willinet. "You're going to the biggest 200 yards of partying happening in this town, knowing full well [Williams] campus security can't do anything about it. If something awful happens, and it's associated with the fund-raiser for the charity, that's not good.
"I'd think long and hard in everything you do about who you choose to partner with."
As Facey explained it to the board, the Reclaim Childhood group sells tickets to the party, which is hosted at four off-campus, student-occupied houses located on both sides of Hoxsey Street. Last year, she said, the event raised more than $7,000.
She stressed that Reclaim Childhood does not provide alcohol.
"That's something [the houses] do on their own," she said.
When Patton asked who is making sure underage drinking is not taking place during the event, Facey said the onus was on the students in the houses.
"We can't control what people in Hoxsey houses do in their homes," Facey said.
After DeMayo said the alcohol consumption has been "blatant" and visible on the street during the event, Facey said that if she and the organizers saw a keg on someone's porch, they would ask them to remove it.
"Will you check every red Solo cup to make sure there's not alcohol in it?" Patton asked.
"No, and frankly, that's not the college's policy either," Facey said.
"Do we have an open container law?" Patton asked Town Manager Jason Hoch, who indicated the town does.
Patton stressed to Facey, a Williams student, that by connecting her group's nonprofit to the house parties, Reclaiming Childhood is, in fact, taking some responsibility for what happens on the night of Oct. 27.
"I'm deliberately making this 'squirmy' for you because I have to work hard in what I do to supervise people drinking alcohol," said Patton, the facility director at Taconic Golf Club. "I'd love to throw a party and say, 'Not my responsibility.'
"I'm trying to get you to understand … I think the charity is great. I think it's great you're involved in it. But if you're going to the party street with the party people who have a reputation that's not great … ."
DeMayo said a neighborhood meeting about the partying on Hoxsey Street last year was attended by 20 people. On a personal level, she had a tenant last year move out in the middle of the night because they could not get any rest. She also reported that students have been known to urinate in public, appear in various states of undress and litter profusely — again, at various times throughout the year, not just during the fund-raiser at issue.
"I have enough red Solo cups to service a small nation," DeMayo said of the amount of trash she has had to pick up in the neighborhood.
Hoch said he and Police Chief Kyle Johnson had discussed the issue of excessive partying on Hoxsey Street when considering the request to close the street. Ultimately, Johnson recommended the closure to the Select Board.
"Darkness, combined with potential alcohol consumption by participants, are the leading factors to support the closure during this planned event," Johnson wrote in a letter Hoch provided to the board.
While expressing sympathy to DeMayo about her complaints, board members Hugh Daley, Anne O'Connor and Jeffrey Thomas voted in the majority to authorize the closure.
"If I had a neighbor who was making that much noise [at midnight], I'd probably call the police," O'Connor said. "But this is about closing the street to traffic for safety."
"If, after 10 o'clock, the party exceeds the noise level acceptable to the tenant, they're entitled to call the police."
In other business, Hoch informed the board that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which is in charge of the rebuilding of Water Street (Route 43) was delayed in its effort to repave the road due to the recent rains.
"The original plan was to have the first pavement down [Oct. 12]," Hoch said. "Once we get clear weather, they should be able to mobilize to do that."
Hoch also said MassDOT is doing design work to replace the bridge that carries Main Street (Route 2) over the Green River. Although design work is just beginning and road work is not imminent, it likely will ultimately require intermittent road closures, he said.
"At the moment, they're looking at a design and build strategy that would shut [the bridge] down completely," Hoch said. "The tradeoff is the shutdowns would happen in increments of a couple of days … as opposed to going down to one lane for a longer period of time.
"There will be pain involved one way or another."