Athol: Downtown panel grapples with graffiti

  • Graffiti defaces the interior wall of the downtown parking garage in Athol. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

  • Graffiti is seen on this downtown building in Athol. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 2/21/2021 4:15:25 PM
Modified: 2/21/2021 4:15:23 PM

ATHOL — At the most recent meeting of the Downtown Vitality Committee, a conversation on a long-discussed proposal to paint the downtown parking deck/garage morphed into a discussion about the general problem of graffiti, both downtown and in other areas of Athol.

“I talked to (Public Works Director) Dick Kilhart again to kind of get an update,” said committee Chair Mary Holtorf, “because there’s been another spate of graffiti around town. I’ve also been doing some research on what actually works to deal with graffiti vandals.”

She said she has been told that a new court date has been scheduled for an individual arrested last March who is a suspect in a rash of graffiti around town.

“He’s out on bail,” she said. “Whether he’s behaving himself, we don’t know. But of course, the number one thing they recommend you do for graffiti is to remove it as soon as possible, which is a problem when the weather is too cold or too nasty and you can’t cover it up right away. So, in New England it sits there for probably six months before you can get rid of it.

“But Dick said they have it budgeted and they’re ready to get going on it, and they will use the material we originally got for the parking deck”

Holtorf said Kilhart and his department are aware of the newest graffiti but noted that some of it is on private property, in which case it is the responsibility of the property owner to take care of it.

She said DPW crews “will work on the barrier where you come down the (Main Street) hill into town which has been graffitied — again — on both sides, and under the parking deck. And he said it would probably be about mid-April before the weather cooperates, but they’ve definitely got it on the schedule.

“We also talked about the graffiti on the parking deck, and the condition of the parking deck, and the future of the parking deck. I think we probably need to talk to (Town Manager) Shaun (Suhoski) about the status of the parking deck, because we need to know; we need to know if it can be repaired or if it’s beyond repair.”

The parking area is located between Main and South streets, with access from Exchange street just south of Hometown Bank.

Holtorf said the town has contacted a structural engineer from Greenfield to assess the condition of the deck.

“If he determines that it can be repaired, salvaged, managed,” she said, “then we can go ahead and plan to have the graffiti taken care of.”

“He said they’ve been out there to look at it, so they know all about the issues with cars parking under the deck to get out of the snow, and that it was a bit of a mess under there again, with trash and what not. So, they’ll do what they can do.”

“It’s really encouraging to know they have that engineer coming out,” said Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith. “That is the key thing. There might be grants available to help redevelop that whole parking area, including fixing up the structure. But we do need to know in what direction the structure will be going.

“Would we redevelop something without the structure, or are we able to fix that structure and kind of enhance the area? That’s a fork in the road that we’ll hopefully get to soon.”

“Whether or not there’s ever train service again,” said Holtorf, “there might be additional mass transit service, and that deck could be a needed resource.”

Before concluding the discussion, Holtorf stressed the need “to really reach out to anybody who has eyes on the downtown and sees any of this graffiti happening, because it’s right out there where you’d think ‘how does anybody get away with this and nobody sees them,’ I guess downtown Athol must be pretty quiet at four in the morning in the winter.

“But we need to reach out and stress that if anybody sees anything, they need to call the police.”

Greg Vine can be reached at

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