WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Army Corps of Engineers has announced they will not study flooding at the Spruces mobile home park, a study some residents hoped would allow them to continue living at the site.
Members of Save the Spruces, a group advocating for the preservation of the mobile home park ravaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, petitioned selectmen to contact the Corps at a Jan. 28 meeting of the board. Residents cited three streams around the park as major contributors to flooding at the park.
When reached for comment on the Corps' response, Chair of the Board of Selectmen David Rempell reaffirmed his position that Spruces residents should be relocated.
"The letter seems to support the report that [Director of Public Works] Tim Kaiser shared at an Affordable Housing Committee meeting that the Spruces is not an appropriate place for housing," Rempell said Tuesday afternoon.
Rempell was referring to a meeting on Dec. 18, during which Kaiser displayed a United States Geological Survey map to demonstrate how over two thirds of the mobile home park would lie under four to six feet of water in a 100-year storm.
"I don't believe there's a legal, technically feasible, financially feasible way to provide a level of protection that would be safe enough so people can continue to live there," Kaiser told the committee.
The town announced the response on Monday, the same day that Save the Spruces members and Stratton Road resident Ken Swiatek filed a petition containing a warrant article for Town Meeting in May. The article asks voters to allocate $365,000 toward the unincorporated Save the Spruces group so residents can purchase the park from owner Morgan Management.
When reached for comment Tuesday evening, Swiatek questioned what information was provided to the Corp from the town.
Swiatek would not comment on whether the Corp's decision affected the plan outlined in the petition.
Attempts to reach Save the Spruces Chairperson Peter Russell were unsuccessful.
In the letter dated March 29, Chief of the Corps' Plan Formulation Branch Thomas J. Hodson said the park being owned by Morgan Management creates a "single owner problem."
"The Corps will not recommend adoption of a Federal project, or include as a separable element in a recommended structural project plan, flood control improvements which would solely benefit the private property of a single owner," Hodson stated.
Hodson said while it might be possible to investigate the flooding as a watershed study for the Hoosic River Watershed, but "to date ... no federal funds have been provided to this office that would allow us to initiate such a study."
Town Manager Peter Fohlin said the town could not interfere with the residents' right-of-first refusal, their right under state law to purchase the park.
"The Save the Spruces group can always buy the park if they can raise the money and if [Morgan Management] agrees to sell it," Fohlin said.
But Fohlin also expressed concern over Spruces residents continuing to live at the park, which lies directly in a 100-year floodplain.
"It's unconscionable to leave people in harm's way," he said.
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