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Williamstown Candidates Differ on Debt Exclusions
By: Phyllis McGuire On: 07:23AM / Friday May 07, 2010

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — With the casting of ballots on Tuesday, May 11, voters  will elect two of the three candidates vying for two available seats on the Board of Selectmen.

Incumbents Ronald Turbin, 65, and Tom Costley, 50, are both seeking re-election to a second three-year term and Richard N. Haley Jr., 44, is making his first bid for public office.

Tom Costley

Costley grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and came to Williamstown in 1978 as a Williams College freshman. In 1986, he and his wife, Liz, moved to Williamstown to raise their family; they have a daughter and son. He's founder and director of Overland, which has programs for youngsters that span the outdoors, service, language and environment.

Tom Costley

He had not considered ever running for office until January 2007 that he told his wife he was interested in being a selectman. "Liz and my family have always been supportive," he said.
 
As Costley recalls it, then presidential candidate Barack Obama's remarks about the power of grassroots endeavors and civic engagement, had inspired him to use his business knowledge and life experience to serve as a selectman. 
 
Now looking back, Costley candidly commented, "when you start, you have no idea what is required. It takes two years to learn how it works. Now I am much better at it."

For Costley, working with his colleagues has been one of the most satisfying aspects of being a selectman, especially with Jane Allen, whom he describes as a mentor. But while he shares her strong convictions against underage drinking, his passion got the better of him last month when his anger over a violation at Mezze led him
to use the term "I will kill you" several times, including to owner Nancy Thomas and waiter Jeff Willette.

Costley acknowledged it was a "mistake" to speak in that manner. "I apologized to Nancy Thomas and Jeff," he said. A day or so later, he also posted a general apology on the story posted on iBerkshires. "Now I'm moving on," Costley said. "It was painful."
 
In the time remaining before the election, he intends to do all he can to help people understand the two ballot questions regarding the Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusions for Mount Greylock Regional High School's final two payments on a repaired roof and the more extensive heating system and locker room repairs. The cost will be shared by the state, Lanesborough and Williamstown; the Selectmen recommended the articles last month.

The debt exclusion is "not for a fancy curriculum, but for brick and mortar capital expenditures," said Costley, adding that an Prop 2 1/2 exclusion was used to build Williamstown Elementary School. "We have to have the building."

The tax increases would not take effect until 2011. Costley said the roof payments will be finished in two years at a cost of $9 per year on the tax bill for an average Williamstown home, valued at about $300,000. The second bond will be paid in 10 years, starting at $26 a year and decreasing in time to $20.
 
"It's not popular to talk about raising taxes, but you must do it under some circumstances, and this is one of those times," Costley said. "I'm very careful about tax questions in town because I know there are many people for whom every additional expense is a burden. I will not simply say yes to an idea that seems good, unless it is important that it be implemented."
 
Costley has in mind several approaches to increasing revenue through bolstering the tax base. For one thing, if re-elected, he wants talks with the Planning Board on creating a "dense pedestrian center."
 
He wants to remove a zoning bylaw that requires multifamily buildings be spaced 1,000 feet apart and another that requires the first floor of buildings in certain areas be limited to commercial use. He believes that should be allowed, but not required.

"We want families and  young people to live close by to Spring Street. If there were townhouses on Meacham Street, Latham Street, Water Street ... the residents would be able to walk rather drive to the shops, etc.," he said. "This would also preserve open spaces and the rural character of our town."
 
Costley believes that with the population close by, stores, restaurants, etc., would enjoy an upswing in sales, and that would draw new businesses to Spring Street. There would also be health benefits, he said, since people would walk more and fewer cars would be on the road polluting the air.
 
He considers it a privilege to serve as a selectman. "I am looking forward to having the opportunity to do it three more years. I will work my hardest and do my best to help improve town."

Richard N. Haley Jr.

Haley considers running for selectman "a big thing, and serving as a selectman a big responsibility."

A native, Haley lives in his childhood home on Cold Spring Road; his mother and father live across the street in his grandparents' old house.

Haley installs foundations for gravestones in North County. "And I'll always be a farmer," said Haley, whose family roots in Williamstown go back to the 1800s. "It's in the blood."

Though he had talked for years about running for selectman, he never followed through. "I would think 'someone else can do it,'" he recalled. "But now is the right time. I don't think the town is going in the right direction."

Richard N. Haley Jr.

Haley loves the town and said he wants to be a voice for the people, especially those who, like him, want to stay here. Some of his friends and family have had to move because they could no longer afford to live here, he said.
 
He is very much opposed to the Mount Greylock debt exclusions on the ballot; both the Selectmen and Finance Committee have recommended the articles.
 
"Once you vote for the override you're stuck with it," Haley said, and pointed out that property owners are still paying for the 2003 override. Then expressing a homespun philosophy, he added, "When you ask your parents for $20 and they give it to you, you come back again for another $20 and another $20."

People on fixed incomes, like his Uncle Charley, make trade-offs to meet increasing expenses, he said. "He fought in World War II and then came back here to live. He's 88 now and living on a fixed income. When his taxes went up by $200 this year, he cut back on heating oil. And now, his taxes can go up even more."
  
Haley believes the perks some town employees receive could be eliminated to help the town budget and that the "over spending in schools" should be addressed.
 
"Williamstown spends money like it's going out of style," Haley opined. "These are hard times and we should learn to get by on what we have." 

Haley is a graduate of Mount Greylock Regional High School, as is his son, Richie, 23, who now works and lives in Boston, and his younger son, 15-year-old Spencer, is a student at the school.
 
Haley is concerned about the quality of the water at the school, pointing to the problems in 2004 when perchlorate was discovered in the water. "They drilled a new well, but the same pipes in the school that carried the [tainted] water are still there," he said. 
 
In 2008, Richie was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and the doctor said he had had it for a while, Haley recalled.  Five Mount Greylcok alumni about Richie's age have also suffered from cancer, he said. "What can I do but speak out about it for the kids' sake."

Ronald Turbin

Turbin, a retired assistant attorney general for New York State, has been residing in Williamstown since 2003. "I'm happy here," he said. He has three grown children and three and one-on-the-way grandchildren.

Ronald Turbin

He currently is the Northern Berkshire delegate on Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is part of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. "We're in charge of allocating Massachusetts highway funds," Turbin explained.
 
Turbin said he loves working in government and for the public. And, if given the opportunity to serve another three years, he would be especially interested in continuing to work on three projects: The further development of Spring and Water streets; housing young families can afford and the proposed bicycle and pedestrian trail that would connect Williamstown and North Adams.
 
"One of the main reasons for making Williamstown affordable for young families is to increase enrollment in our schools," said Turbin. "Decreased enrollment has many ramifications, including a reduction in state education funds."
 
Development is important as it will bring in revenue, and Turbin is pleased with the Cable Mills project on Water Street, the former industrial buildings being converted into a mixed-income residential community. Two new businesses, Nature's Closet and That's a Wrap, have come to Spring Street.
 
Plans to sell the Phototech building on Cole Avenue, abandoned in 1990, however, seem to have fallen through, he said, but renewed efforts will be undertaken to locate a new prospect.

When asked about debt-exclusion override, Turbin prefixed his answer with "I like to be direct and up front." Then he went on to say he believed an override should not be the first option. "All options should be considered." 

But he also believes the Selectmen did the right thing in recommending that voters approve the exclusion on this year's ballot. "They are essential projects," he said
 
"Rebuilding or renovation is difficult to envision at the moment because of the financial crisis, but planning should start for the future," Turbin said. "I envision a joint effort or partnership with the college, Clark and other venerable institutions. Our school system, including the infrastructure, is one of the keys to preserving and enhancing the quality, vitality and financial stability of our town."
 
The polls will be open Tuesday, May 11, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at  Williamstown Elementary School, 115 Church St.



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Bissaillon Campaign Kicks Off With Spaghetti Supper
By: Campaign to Elect Bissaillon On: 10:59AM / Thursday May 06, 2010

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Dave Bissaillon's campaign kick-off spaghetti supper will be Thursday, May 13, from 4 to 7 at the North Adams American Legion.

The event provides an opportunity to meet the candidate running for state representative, 1st Berkshire District, or for people who already know him to learn more about why Bissaillon seeks to represent the district at the
State House.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for seniors and kids under 12. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Creations  and Shima on Main Street or Smith Brothers-McAndrews Insurance Agency Inc. in Adams. Tickets will also be sold at the door.

To donate baked goods for the dessert table, contact Ashley Cote at 413-663-6209.

"I hope to see new friends and old at this event, so I can continue hearing from you about the state legislative issues that matter to you," Bissaillon said.

Bissaillon, a vice president at Coakley, Pierpan, Dolan & Collins Insurance Agency and former president of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, has a long history of community service.

He seeks to convert his professional and community experience to public service by representing the residents of the 11 communities that comprise the 1st Berkshire District. The district consists of Adams, Clarksburg, Florida, North Adams, Savoy and Williamstown, all in Berkshire County, and Charlemont, Hawley, Heath, Monroe and Rowe in Franklin County.

For more information, visit www.bissaillon.com, call 413-672-2460, or e-mail dave@bissaillon.com.



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1st Berkshire Candidates Talk Regional Issues
By: Kathy Keeser On: 06:31PM / Monday May 03, 2010

Candidates Gailanne Cariddi, left, Edward MacDonald, moderator Joyce Wrend and David Bissaillon at the first candidate session for the 1st Berkshire distir

 

FLORIDA, Mass. — Florida is first — first for snow, as one candidate noted, and first when it came to scrutinizing the potential replacement for its native son in the 1st Berkshire seat.

About 30 people were in attendance at the Florida Senior Center, an appropriate place to kick off the race since Florida is the hometown of Daniel E. Bosley who will be stepping down after 26 years as state representative. Joyce Wrend of the League of Women Voters, moderator for the forum, started things off with a few comments including joking she was from "South Florida" — North Adams.  

The candidates are North Adams City Councilor Gailanne Cariddi, former Berkshire Chamber of Commerce President David Bissaillon and Chester Town Manager Edward MacDonald. All three are Democrats, like Bosley, and will vie in a September primary for placement on the November ballot. The primary will essentially settle the election.

Citing his experience with the chamber, as a member of the business community, volunteer leader in many nonprofits and as longtime youth athletic coach, Bissaillon said, "the distinctions that I bring to this race are that my perspective has always been a regional one. My track record has been built on collaboration and I already have in place the strong professional relationships across the district that are necessary for success." 

He listed his key issues as are the evolving regional economy (creating and sustaining job opportunities), education (local schools and colleges), and the infrastructure (more than roads and bridges).   

Cariddi pointed to her experience in business, legislative and public policy as manager of a small family wholesale business in North Adams (Cariddi Sales), her more than 20 years of experience as a city councilor, and as a lifelong community volunteer.

Bringing up ideas for more openness in government, Cariddi said, "the concept of open and accessible government has become a quaint relic of the past on Beacon Hill. I will be inclusive of our diversity, build bridges across any divides, and be truly in touch with each of our communities. I am committed to using my skills as a listener and facilitator to bring our collective wisdom to Boston."  

MacDonald, a former Adams selectman, said he brings a "unique personality with a background that is very diversified." McDonald emphasized his 20 years of public service in the state of New York, on a school committee and, in particular, as Chester's town manager.

"We have been through $400,000 cuts in a million-dollar budget and can still keep the town going, we are not looking at a tax increase next year," he said. "We were able to hold the line for next year in our taxes."

His three priorities are to "Keep the [North Adams Regional] Hospital the way the hospital should be instead of as a secondary-care unit, taxes and that people have a job they can go to and be proud of."

Regarding regional development, McDonald brought up a need for "seed money to provide economic development for small business, because that is the foundation of our society, and we haven't given enough tax credits. I think it should be $15,000 to 25,000 for small businesses." 

Cariddi mentioned the importance of working on access to broadband Internet, incuding how people would receive communications (computers and cell phones) and ensuring the decommissioning of the Yankee Rowe nuclear plant continues safely. She is already working on those issues, she said, but stressed it is not just the issue, but also researching, talking to all the people involved and trying to bring together a focus that everyone can agree on. 

"Jobs know no boundaries," said Bissaillon. "What is important that we have a process in place to help people find jobs."

Bissaillon said he would match state resources to programs like the new 1 Berkshire (which brings the region's bigger  players together for economic development) and Berkshire Compact. "It is the role of a state rep to find resources in the state to support good projects that are under way."  

In response to question about the qualities of state representative, Bissaillon said it was important to have someone you can trust and "who cares more about the district than he cares about his own career." 

Cariddi said it was important to develop trust, to have passion for the work, and have a desire to bring the constituents what they need. She said it is also important to know what the priorities are in general for your district and to have the ability to bring people together with one focus.

MacDonald said it is important to be able to listen to constituents, take care of the constituents and do what they need. But the bottom dollar was to "bring home the bacon."

In answer to how he would make cuts to the state budget, MacDonald focused on the need to look at and cut down the budgets of the state Legislature, calling them slush funds that are spent on things like meals.  

Cariddi agreed that this was a good place to start: "Line items for legislators should be an open process. Right now it is a secret how they spend their funds. ... Taxpayers want value for what is spent for their tax dollars." She would also scrutinize line items and ask questions about why things like Tufts University's Veterinary School receive funding. 

Bissaillon stated that he would start by asking what are core areas that are most important to the voter. "Make sure to take care of kids in school, whatever we can for cities and towns, do as much as we can for infrastructure — those are the things that we just can't play budget games with, those are the things that are important every year — what I would focus on."



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Williamstown Candidate Statements
By: WilliNet On: 12:17PM / Friday April 30, 2010

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — All 17 candidates on the May 11 town election ballot were offered free television time to introduce themselves to voters and say why they are running for positions ranging from library trustee to town moderator to selectman. 

WilliNet, Community Access TV for Williamstown, invited the candidates to videotape a short statement of up to five minutes in length. Over the course of three days, 12 of the 17 candidates taped their message in the Spring Street studio. They were combined for broadcast as "The Candidates Speak."

"'The Candidates Speak' offers voters the opportunity to put a face with the name on the ballot and acknowledges the efforts of the individual candidates, especially in the uncontested races," said WilliNet Executive Director Deb Dane. 

"The Candidates Speak" airs on WilliNet's Channel 17 and at willinet.org through May 10 or can be watched below.

 



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Melville, Nichols Elected to Adams Selectmen
By: Tammy Daniels On: 12:07PM / Friday April 30, 2010


Paula Melville Scott Nichols Donald Sommer
 537  638  432

 ADAMS, Mass. — Voters seem bent on completely reconstituting the Board of Selectmen, ousting another chairman on Monday night and selected a newcomer and a former selectman to fill two three-year seats on the board.

In a low turnout, Scott Nichols, a former selectman and athletic director at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, was returned to the board with 638 votes, besting his closest competiter, Paula Melville, by 101 votes.

Melville, a member of the Finance Committee, received 537, enough to place her in the second seat that was up for election.

Donald R. Sommer, who was elected to the board in 2007, failed to garner enough votes for a second term, polling only 432 votes.

Victors Scott Nichols and Paula Melville were a little red-faced from standing in the sun out on Summer Street with campaign signs.

Sommer was chairman of the Finance Committe and his election three years ago was fueled in part by his criticism of the board's handling of the town budget. But the since then, the board's gone through some rough waters as a number of actions taken by the Selectmen — especially over the firing of a town administrator — have caused controversery.

Last year, two selectmen including the then chairman were ousted in favor of two newcomers. Sommers, picking up the reins, pledged a more open and transparent board and fiscal responsibility. It apparently wasn't enough.

"I did the best I could. People didn't like the way I did them," said Sommer, 75, who declined to speculate more on his defeat. "I'll have more time with my horses."

A Nichols/Melville victory seemed assured as the numbers were read off from the five precincts. Sommer quickly turned to Melville as the last precinct was called and congratulated her.

"I was a little nervous because of the turnout but I'm pretty happy with the results," said Nichols, who declined to run after a single term in 2006. "I'm looking forward to working with the board."

Nichols said he needed to get back up to speed with the issues the board's been working on. He'd like to see some forward movement on the master planning process.

Nichols said both his opponents had run good campaigns. "I know Paula worked very hard and I thought Don Sommer was doing a good job."

Melville was a little giddy with victory. "I think my parents would be proud."

Donald Sommer, left, shakes hands with former colleague Joseph R. Dean Jr., who turned in his selectman's cap for town moderator.

"I think it's great a woman is going to be on the board, we bring a different perspectives," continued Melville adding she, too, was looking forward with working with her fellow selectman, citing the schools and expanding the tax base as issues she thought it should tackle."

Town Clerk Paul Hutchison was disappointed with the turnout: "Lousy." He did, however, say the newest location for the polls at the Department of Public Works garage had worked out well despite a couple glitches. "You always have growing pains."

Some 1,030 ballots were cast, or 17 percent of the town's 5,994 registered voters. The selectmen were the only race on the ballot and a number of town meeting seats went empty. Some 285 blank ballots were cast for selectmen.

Longtime Selectman Joseph R. Dean Jr. ran for moderator this year, besting all the selectman candidates by toting up 874 votes while running unopposed. Also elected unopposed were Treasurer/Collector Holly Denault, three years; Assessor Charles J. Welch, three years; Board of Health member Roy Thompson, three years; Planning Board member Michael O'Brien, five years; Library Trustee Juliet Wilk-Chaffee, three years; Cemetery Commission Lawrence Clairmont, three years; Northern Berkshire Vocational School Committee (McCann) member Joseph Allard, three years, and Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee members Paul Butler and John Duval, three years.

 



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