WILLIAMSTOWN -- Construction of a proposed senior housing project soon could kick into high gear now that a crucial piece of funding has been secured.
The Board of Selectmen this week voted to authorize the release of $2.6 million to the developer, Berkshire Housing Development Corp. The funds represent a portion of a FEMA grant meant to relocate residents of the Spruces Mobile Home Park.
"We anticipate the project getting funded and being able to break ground on it later in the summer, which would bring us plenty of time to bring housing online to meet the needs of folks coming out of the Spruces," said BHDC President Elton Ogden.
The proposal calls for a three-story building with two identical wings, with a central section serving as the main entrance and the common space; a large green space; and space with a hair dresser and visiting nurse. Total project cost is estimated at $12 million, a combination of local funds and federal low-income housing tax credits.
Last year, the board voted to commit the $2.6 million out of the $6.13 million FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant, awarded to relocate the 66 households in the Spruces Mobile Home Park, which was devastated by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.
Park owner Morgan Management received $600,000 of the $6.13 million for the 114-acre property. The remaining funds, just under $3 million, will be used to relocate residents and to remove all structures from the site.
Following a long discussion this week, the board voted to approve language in the official contract. Selectman Andrew Hogeland was the one abstaining vote.
Hogeland stressed his support for the project, but expressed a concern over the timeline, which wasn't included in the contract. In addition, Hogeland was concerned that the town would be responsible for issuing the funds regardless of whether the money had been dispersed by FEMA.
Ogden and Attorney Donald Dubendorf stressed the team of developers' commitment to the project. The money was needed for the complete funding package, they said, and was necessary to show to other funders.
Town Manager Peter Fohlin said a three-year termination date on the agreement would help protect the town's interest. In addition, the agreement states the developers would only get the funds if a certificate of occupancy was issued by the town.
At the discussion's end, Hogeland said he still felt uncomfortable about voting either way.
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