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Spruces Occupancy Projections Continue to Dwindle
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
06:46PM / Tuesday, January 10, 2012
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Can the Spruces recover?
No way
Yes, but it will take time
I don't know
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Barely a third of the homes in the Spruces Mobile Home Park are expected to be reoccupied some four months after Hurricane Irene flooded the low-lying area.

Town Manager Peter Fohlin said on Monday that 60 units have been permitted for occupancy and four more are pending installation of Techno Metal posts to fortify their foundations but beyond that, no other homeowners have asked for inspection nor filed engineering paperwork for repairs.

The news isn't surprising; last month, officials projected that some 75 of the 226 homes in the senior residential park would be reoccupied. But even that number appears to be too high.

"We do not, however, have any indication of any additional trailers that people intend to occupy beyond 64," Fohlin told the Board of Selectmen. "There are no requests for inspection, there are no engineers' reports that have been submitted suggesting that repair work is going to be conducted and building permits were going to be sought ... it would appear that 64 may be the end of the road at this point."

Demolition permits have been issued for 59 of the units, Fohlin said, but the town is unaware of any intention by owners to move back into the remaining 103 homes.

The park's owners, Morgan Management, has said about 80 percent of the park had to be occupied to be economically sustainable and that 64 is nowhere near that level. Questions about the future of the park are expected to be answered in the courts. The park filed a lawsuit against the town, the state attorney general and the residents in an attempt to clarify the next steps. That case is expected to go in front of a judge next week.

Longtime Finance Director Charles 'Chuck' St. John retired this week.
Morgan Management also has not yet applied for renewal of its license to operate through the Board of Health. The company has not filed the application, paid the fee nor provided attendant information by the first of the year, according the Fohlin. The Board of Health has sent out a letter (see below) requesting those items and Fohlin suggested the delay was "an oversight" by the company because of the confusion still going on at the park.

In other news, Town Accountant and Finance Director Charles St. John retired after 27 years. Treasurer Janet Saddler has moved into the finance director and treasurer role, Assistant Town Accountant Donna Estes was promoted to the town accountant position and Accounting Clerk Julie Snow has been promoted to Estes' position. Fohlin said the finance department has been preparing for St. John's retirement for more than a year now.

The board approved expanding the intermunicpal agreement for veterans services to include Clarksburg and Florida. The town is in a partnership with North Adams and Adams to split the cost of a veteran's affairs agent. Having an agent is required by state law and Clarksburg and Florida will pay for the agent on a per diem basis. There will be no changes to the number of hours or timeframe Williamstown will have with the officer. Adams and North Adams already approved the move.

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