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WESTFIELD — Thanks to a few private donors, including a large anonymous gift, the city will be able to acquire the former Blessed Sacrament rectory property, for use as a new police station site.

A little more than a week after the Catholic parish rejected the city’s offer for three parcels on Union and Columbia streets, the city, the parish and the Catholic Diocese of Springfield announced Feb. 17 that the sale would proceed after all.

Westfield Mayor Michael McCabe said the city had offered to pay $758,000, which he said was the maximum it could legally spend. He said a state law prohibits cities from spending more than 125% of the assessed value on a property. The church, however, held firm to an asking price of nearly $1 million for the land, which includes a vacant residence and parking lots.

After learning of the Feb. 5 rejection of the city’s offer, several individuals asked to help, McCabe said.

“An anonymous donor, after learning of the impasse, stepped forward offering a $150,000 gift to the parish to help reduce its outstanding construction loan,” the city, parish and diocese announced in a joint statement.

“An additional gift of $25,000 was offered by Jack Dill, a principal with Colebrook Realty, the diocese’s real estate broker. Dill’s parents were parishioners of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish and this gift will be made in their honor,” the statement continued. “The remaining $17,000 will be a personal gift from the current pastor of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Father Daniel Pacholec.”

Pacholec stated that his personal gift is in honor of the parish itself, which has worked for 20 years to retire the debt from its move to Holyoke Road in the 2000s, after the old church on Union Street was purchased by the city for $1.9 million and torn down to make way for roadways connecting Union and North Elm streets, part of the construction project for the second Great River Bridge. The rectory on Union Street was not part of that purchase.

Springfield Bishop William Byrne gave his approval to the sale, saying, “I am most grateful to these generous benefactors and happy for Father Pacholec and the Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament community, as this has been a long time coming. And for the city of Westfield, this will help resolve a pressing public safety need, once the real estate transaction closes, it can commence planning and construction of a much-needed new police station, located in a central city location.”

In the statement, McCabe said he was also pleased with the agreement to purchase the rectory. Building a new police station will enable the city to retire its 1970s police headquarters on Washington Street, a building that police say is too small, obsolete, and prone to mold infections.

“This is a creative solution which allows the city to move forward with the construction of the new police station, pending approval from the City Council,” McCabe said. “We believe this proposal satisfies everyone: the diocese, the parishioners of OLBS, the city’s Police Department and the taxpayers of the city. We appreciate the people who stepped up with generous donations.”

McCabe said he pursued the rectory land because South Maple Street residents have made it clear they do not want a police station built on a city-owned field behind Westfield Middle School, which had been the Police Commission’s first choice. He said he had been misled into believing that option had local support.

The mayor said some preliminary site planning work for a new police station on Union Street has already been done.

“It can go pretty quickly from here,” the mayor said. “I’m super excited to get the thing done. It’s been since 2010, since the thought in people’s minds to get the Police Department out of the [current] building into something more efficient.”

amyporter@thewestfieldnews.com | + posts