Sheffield keeps its word, removes disputed UFO monument
SHEFFIELD — After threatening last year to move the UFO monument near the old covered bridge if the owner didn't do it first, the town has made good on its promise.
Town officials Tuesday hauled away the 5,000-pound concrete monument, which, it says, was on the town's right of way easement.
But Thom Reed, the man who was instrumental in erecting the monument, insists that it was on the private land of an abutting farmer, who gave his permission.
The monument, which sat at the end of the Upper Sheffield Covered bridge, was placed at the site in 2015 to commemorate the Reed family's reported encounter with an unidentified flying object. Dozens of residents in South County reported seeing bright lights and a saucer-shaped object in the sky.
It bears a plaque from Gov. Charlie Baker's office that reads, in part, "This Governor's Citation [is] in recognition of the off-world incident on Sept. 1st, 1969, which engaged the Reed Family, which has been established."
It is collectively owned, it appears — the monument was funded by some of the witnesses to the event, as well as other community members.
The monument has brought media attention to the town — and to Reed, who now lives in Tennessee. The History Channel filmed an episode of "Ancient Aliens" at the park last year.
But the town and Reed have sparred over the monument for years. It had to be moved several weeks after it first was installed, when town officials said it was on town property. That same year, it was defaced.
Then, after an initial land survey in May 2018, Town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard said that unless the owner moved it by the following May, the town would have to do it.
On Tuesday, that's what happened. Workers also removed a bench that also had been installed near the monument. The current location of the items was not clear.
Select Board member Nadine Hawver told The Eagle that a full land survey conducted last year by the Great Barrington survey firm Kelly Granger Parsons & Associates definitively marks the property line between the easement and private property owned by farmer Louis Aragi.
"The property lines weren't exact," Hawver said. "We felt that we needed to do a full survey before we took action."
But Reed disputes the results, saying that property tax records show otherwise, and that this matter had already been settled by the town. And he cited a letter from the town's attorney saying the monument could stay put under the terms of an agreement reached between the town and Reed.
"This new so-called survey, has nothing to do with anything," he wrote The Eagle. "The agreement had already been ... Established for 4 years."
Town officials say the monument's owners have been sidestepping municipal rules.
"There just was no cooperation with the town to have this stuff done," Hawver said.
She said some land was cleared near the Housatonic River without Conservation Commission approval, nor was approval sought from the Select Board.
"They didn't do what everyone else has to do," she said. "The Conservation Commission ordered restoration [at the river] — the town had to do it."
Hawver said the town's action, in part, was to set a precedent.
"We feel very confident of the action we took to protect the town's property," Hawver said. "We can't allow somebody to start arbitrarily establishing monuments on town property."
Reed insists that the town is wrong about the property lines.
And he produced an email from the town counsel dated October 2015 stating that "the town is satisfied with the current location and stands by the agreement reached with you."
Gearing up for a fight, he is beginning a media campaign and has contacted a Great Barrington attorney to press criminal charges for theft of property, as well as charges of slander and harassment.
"My last conversation was with a law firm in Great Barrington," he wrote.
Heather Bellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.