Recently, I was grumbling while carrying paper grocery bags up eight feet of stairs to my kitchen.
Then it hit me: The "New Spruces."
When Williamstown submitted its Federal Emergency Management Agency grant application, it was required to offer two alternatives to its submitted proposal.
One alternative to build a levee to keep The Spruces drier was dismissed as too costly.
The other was to elevate the mobile homes six feet off the ground. This was dismissed as too costly: $40,000 per unit, and given the age of some of the homes, impractical. Also, since The Spruces is an age 50 or older park, ramps would be recommended for easier and safer entrances and exits.
My idea: Construct new homes on The Spruces site with concrete- and steel-reinforced, 7- or 8-foot-high, open-air foundations. Build ramps and decks around these homes for the occupant's use. Residents could also use the area under the house as a picnic shelter or to park their cars. It would provide shade in the summer and storage space, while allowing flood waters to flow by.
These homes would have enhanced views, and would once again be a source of pride for Williamstown residents -- as The Spruces once were -- and provide cutting-edge housing not only for all current and relocated Spruces residents, but for as many 300 affordable housing units.
Williamstown has talented architects who might be interested in designing the New Spruces foundations, ramps and houses. There are many prefab home companies currently offering affordably priced homes for the New Spruces foundations.
Current Spruces residents would have the choice of remaining in their homes with the expanded options of either moving into a new home near their current home or having their current home elevated.
Where would the money come from? Had Williamstown's FEMA grant proposal for $6.2 million utilized these ideas, there would be plenty of money. The bulldozing funds could have been used to repair infrastructure. The $3,000 targeted as a gift to the Williamstown Affordable Trust and the intended $20,000 per resident relocation money could be used to insure Spruces residents could stay and Spruces refugees could return.
The New Spruces houses would be sold as rent-to-own houses with fixed inflationary-indexed prices. Current Spruces residents and Spruces refugees would be required to use grant funds to increase equity and reduce mortgage/lot rent payments. The town or the Housing Authority would own the land and operate the park.
The town must nevertheless fix the problem of the three streams that flood The Spruces. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should also be asked to make recommendations regarding these streams and the banks of the Hoosic.
With 114 acres available at The Spruces site, there might be space left for a bike path, a couple of town-owned tennis courts, a basketball court and a soccer field.
Shuffleboard, anyone? Who knew?