Motorists, pedestrians will find the going easier in downtown Williamstown this year

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WILLIAMSTOWN — As the new year unfolds, residents and visitors might notice a reduction in construction disruptions in downtown Williamstown. Signs of work will vanish, for the most part, by midsummer.

And the town doesn't expect any new construction projects in 2019, according to Town Manager Jason Hoch.

So, for the first time in years, vehicle and pedestrian traffic will flow unheeded by detours, torn-up pavement and construction vehicles. The new Williams Inn is set to open in July, with new foot traffic and new patterns of navigating the bottom of Spring Street.

"We are finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel," Hoch said. "It will feel like a whole new environment. I will be interested to see how those changes come about."

Around that same time, the town will open its new police station, answering a need discussed for more than 20 years.

Then there is the expected opening of a recreational marijuana retailer in the Colonial Plaza on Main Street early in the year.

Those are likely to be the most visible features of the coming year in Williamstown, Hoch said.

He noted that construction of the police station on Simonds Road is on schedule and on budget.

The interior of the $5 million structure will be closed off from the weather by next week, allowing interior construction to continue unimpeded through the winter.

"The new building section is up and the roof is going on now," Hoch said.

The new marijuana shop might draw crowds when it opens, as it could be among the first dozen or so to open statewide.

"It is a potentially new source of revenue, and sooner or later I expect we will see someone else bring forth an application to open another shop in town," he said.

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Hoch said that as the opening draws closer, store management and the Police Department will evaluate the possibility of long lines and the need for traffic management.

Behind the scenes, work will continue to design the hike/bike trail along the river and into North Adams, for which construction is expected to start in early 2020. Hoch said there is an outside chance that work could start late this year.

Also this year, a study of the Williamstown Fire Department's operations and needs is likely to be concluded, helping the department better understand its needs — and what type of new fire station could meet those needs.

In the meantime, the Select Board will seek to appoint a committee to evaluate the town's recreational facilities, and offerings and make recommendations on changes or improvements.

A private project will come to completion early in the year: The new Fairfield Inn on Main Street.

Hoch said the tennis courts in Linear Park might need an upgrade. There has been talk of adding pickle ball courts to the site.

At Mount Greylock Regional School, the new building will have finishing touches completed. Meantime, a new administration office building is planned south of the new school, while the athletic playing fields will be redesigned and renovated. The new school building opened in September.

According to Joe Bergeron, chairman of the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee, the $2 million project would be funded through a $5 million gift to the district from Williams College, meant to cover needs for the school that went unfunded by the Massachusetts School Building Authority as part of the school building project.

It would house the school district administration, including the superintendent and her staff. The district staff now works out of a construction trailer behind the gymnasium complex, next to the contractor's trailer.

There also would be handicap-accessible restrooms in the new structure that would be available during athletic events on nearby fields.

It would include space for storage of athletic field equipment that needs to be sheltered from the elements. This space also would be used in the winter by the cross-country ski team for waxing and storage of skis and gear. Officials hope the new offices will be ready for use in the next school year.

A parallel effort is looking to assess what fields are needed for the school's athletics (including lighting, bleachers, fencing and walking paths between the facilities), and how many fields can be created for about $1.5 million.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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