MONSON, Mass. (WWLP) – Town Hall is the heart of every traditional New England town, like Monson in Eastern Hampden County. The June 1, 2011 tornado destroyed Monson Town Hall and its police station.
“The tornado blew my house down and the old station was across. Now, thank God, they built this new one,” said Bertha Samkin. She has lived in Monson all 94 years of her life. She wouldn’t miss Saturday’s symbol of the town’s resilience: the dedication of the new Town Hall and Police Station, nearly four years after the devastation. She sat in her wheelchair with a big sign saying “MONSON” on the back. That’s also what her license plate said when she used to drive.
“Town Hall becomes a cornerstone. When you come down Academy Hill into the center of town, that’s one of the first things you see is Town Hall. So having that vacant or under construction reminded people of June 1, 2011,” Evan Brassad, Monson Town Administrator, told 22News.
The building has been open since late November 2014, but Saturday, April 11, 2015, dozens of townspeople toured what 3 million dollars of their tax money and 7 million dollars from insurance created. It’s energy efficient and even offers a modern, temperature-controlled vault with town records dating back to its founding in 1775.
From the end of 2011, to late 2014, the back parking lot is where the Monson Police Department operated out of modular units. But since November of 2014, the brand new facility has been their new home.
“The old building was certainly functional, it had the space, but it was never designed to be a police station. it was an old school, so we had rooms that were constructed by local trade schools and they performed well as offices, but it didn’t perform well as a functioning police station,” Monson Police Chief Steve Kozloski told 22News.
“We got it right down the middle…I think psychologically and economically, I think we got hit worse than any of them,” recalled John Morrell, a Monson selectman.
The tornado’s visible path of destruction over the hillside still reminds residents of what they lost that fearful day, but knowing their town’s heart is back in the right place on Main Street also reminds them that as a community, they can, and will, come out stronger.