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Economic Talk Dominates Williamstown Selectmen's Race
By Stephen Dravis On: 03:49AM / Monday April 21, 2014
The four candidates for two seats on the Board of Selectmen focused on jobs at an election forum last week moderated by Anne Skinner.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The men who want a job with the Board of Selectmen think it's the job of that board to help bring jobs to the region.

If that sounds a little repetitive, then so was a candidates forum hosted Wednesday by the Williamstown League of Women Voters.

The four men vying for two open seats on the Board of Selectmen shared a platform built on economic development during air time on the town's community access television station.

The event, which ran for a little more than an hour and was moderated by chapter President Anne Skinner, focused almost entirely on how each of the candidates would help revive the local economy.

Hugh Daley, Gary Fuls, Andrew Hogeland and Jack Nogueira are on the ballot for the May 13 town election. Two of the four will win three-year terms on the five-person board.

Three of the candidates hit on the theme of economic development in their opening statement, and Skinner pressed them for more details about their ideas in that area with her first question of the night.

Hogeland suggested a collaborative approach that brings more voices from the town's business community and takes advantage of the successful strategies being employed in neighboring communities.

"We don't have a game plan for Williamstown at all to survive [population decline]," Hogeland said. "Anything we do has to be coordinated with our neighbors in North Adams and Pittsfield. I think if we do more branding, cross marketing, cooperative stuff throughout the area, we'll have a better chance."

Hogeland specifically identified the tourism and hospitality industries and talked about the town capitalizing on its two main assets: Williams College and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

Daley agreed that tourism is a mainstay but argued there is a place for manufacturing in the town.

"Another Sprague Electric is not coming back," Daley said, referring to the North Adams industrial giant that was a mainstay of the local economy for generations. "But small niche manufacturing has a place. ... My company [Meehan Electronics in North Adams] is a small, 20-person shop working in the aerospace industry."

Daley said the Selectmen needs to start an economic development committee akin to other volunteer committees in town addressing specific issues, like agriculture and affordable housing.

"I would hope to be appointed to it," he said. "We have a ton of creative people in Williamstown. Everyone wants the same thing. We just have to tap into them and organize them."

Daley said the town needs to reach out to summer tourists and Williams alumni to try to get them to make Williamstown their home. He suggested the town partner with the college to promote economic opportunities in town in its alumni magazine.

"We are a company town," Daley said. "The company happens to be Williams College."

Fuls and Nogueira agreed the town needs to take a strategic approach and said it needs to look well beyond the town line to build the economic base.

"We need to come up with a marketing plan, an advertising plan not only for Williamstown but for Pittsfield, Lenox, North Adams and Adams to let people around the country know what we have to offer," Nogueira said. "If they come to Lenox, have them come a little further north and come see Williamstown."

"Right now, the Berkshire County Chamber of Commerce is working on bringing North County and South County together," Fuls said. "Again, you have to have a plan where if you have people coming to Lenox, you tell them, 'Hey, if you drive 40 minutes, you can go to the Clark or you can go see Williams College and walk around the campus.' "

Daley said the town has a strong potential partner in North Adams. Hogeland said Williamstown's neighbors to the east and south have the right idea.

"This town needs to spend more of its time and its personnel on economic development," he said. "You look at our neighbors, and they actually have people hired with job titles that have the words 'tourism' and 'development.'

"We need to put together a broad team of people from different disciplines. For me, that would be the prime initiative."

Part of that solution includes looking at ways to recruit "satellite businesses" that could partner with the town's two big non-profits, Hogeland said.

Even when Wednesday's forum turned to other topics, the conversation seemed to come back to jobs.

The closure of North Adams Regional Hospital and the uncertain future of health care in Northern Berkshire County is a hardship for town residents, the candidates agreed. But part of the solution may lie in creating new ways to access health care, some of the candidates said.

"I don't think we'll ever see a hospital in Williamstown ... but the town and the college needs to come together," Nogueira said. "They have a facility that serves their students. Maybe the town and the college should come together and put together something that serves the residents, too."

Fuls picked up on the idea and noted that new private practices or an urgent care clinic in North County would be, "another way to bring business here."

Likewise, the subject that has dominated the town's political conversation for the last two years — affordable housing — has an economic development dimension.

"We need to welcome people to come to Williamstown," Nogueira said. "I think this is what affordable housing is going to be doing ... allowing people who can't afford half-million dollar homes to come or the ones who are here and thinking of leaving Williamstown because they don't think there's anything here for them to stay."

Nogueira said Williamstown does not have enough space to develop a strong manufacturing base, but it should work with North Adams and Pittsfield as they grow their economies and create housing options in the Village Beautiful for those who take jobs in other Berkshire County municipalities.

And the future of Mount Greylock Regional School figures into the local economy, too.

"I've been thinking a lot about sustainability of the local economy and population changes," Daley said. "I believe we must focus on ways to stop the shrinking population and hopefully bring people back.

"That means creating an economy that has a job for them, a housing market that has a place for them to afford and an education system where they want to send their children."

If Mount Greylock goes ahead with a new or renovated building — or even if it doesn't — the cost of infrastructure at the school promises to be a challenge for whoever wins the Selectmen's races. That's a point not lost on Daley.

"At my core, I believe we should invest in schools, but we should balance that with the ability to pay," he said.




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Four Races on Cheshire Town Election Ballot
On: 10:45AM / Saturday March 22, 2014

CHESHIRE, Mass. — There several races on the ballot this year for the annual town election, set for Monday, May 5, at the Senior Center on School Street.

The town has two races for two seats on the Board of Selectmen this year, with three newcomers on the ballot for one of them, ensuring at least one new face on the board.

James M. Boyle of Daniels Terrace, Robert S. Ciskowski of South State Road and Karmen B. Field-Mitchell of West Mountain Road are vying for the one-year seat.

E. Richard Scholz, of Stafford Hill Road, will challenge longtime incumbent Paul F. Astorino of Meadview Drive for the three-year term.

There is also a race for the two-year term on the Board of Health between Michael J. Biagini Jr. of Richmond Street and James Geary of Meadowview Drive.

For Water Commission, Michael J. Biagini and Rick Gurney of Greylock Road will face off for a one-year term.  

Incumbents running for re-election are Moderator Edmund St. John IV, one year; Board of Health member Jeffrey B. Warner, one year; Cemetery Commissioner Neil W. Baker, three years; Water Commissioner Donald F. Rueger, three years; Planning Board member Christopher Walsh, five years; Planning Board member Daniel L. Speth, one year; and Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee, Cheshire representative Edmund St. John IV and Adams representative Regina Hill, both for three years.



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Adams Voters to Decide Three Races on 2014 Ballot
Staff Reports On: 09:49AM / Wednesday March 19, 2014

ADAMS, Mass. — The town will see several races on this year's election ballot, including for the one selectman's seat.

Incumbent Michael Ouellette will vie for a third three-year term against newcomer Jeffrey Michael Snoonian of 1 Berkshire Square.

Ouellette, of Tramway Drive, was first elected in 2008 and won a narrow victory to retain his seat in 2011.

There will be a three-way race for treasurer/collector between the town's financial assistants Paula Schrade and Town Meeting Member Kelly F. Rice, and Melissa McGovern-Wandrei, currently the appointed treasurer/collector in Clarksburg.

The incumbent, Holly Denault, is retiring in May; the winner of the election will complete the two years left of Denault's term.

Dennis A. Gajda and George J. Haddad will vie for the one three-year seat on the Board of Assessors being vacated by Lynn D. Avery.

Incumbents Joseph F. Greenbush and David M. Strzepek are running for the two three-year library trustee seats; Jill Pompi, appointed to the trustees in December, is running for the two-year seat.

Jacob N. Schutz, an incumbent, and Scott E. Cernik are running for two three-year Park Comission seats.

Incumbents also running for re-election are Moderator Edward Driscoll, one year; Planning Board member Barbara Ziemba, five years; Housing Authority member, Mark Alan Covert, five years; McCann School Committee member Daniel J. Maloney Jr., three years, and Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee member Regina A. Hill, representing Adams for three years.
 
No candidates submitted nomination papers for a five-year spot on the Redevelopment Authority or a three-year seat on the Cemetery Commission.

The election will be held Monday, May 5, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the town garage; the deadline to register to vote is April 15 by 8 p.m.



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Williamstown Ballot Spaces Filling for Town Election
By Stephen Dravis On: 03:37PM / Monday March 17, 2014
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — With just more than one week left before the deadline for nomination papers, the town is looking at — minimum — a three-way race for two open seats on the Board of Selectmen.
 
With Selectman David Rempell and Chairwoman Jane Allen having announced they will not seek another term in May's annual election, four Williamstown residents have taken out papers, and three have returned them with the required 28 signatures to gain a spot on the ballot.
 
Andrew Hogeland of 2143 Cold Spring Road, Jack Nogueira of 149 Luce Road and Hugh Daley of 106 Southworth St. each have returned their papers to Town Hall, Town Clerk Mary Kennedy said on Monday morning.
 
A fourth man, Gary Fuls of 82 Elm St., has taken out nomination papers but has not yet returned them, she said.
Selectmen serve three-year terms.
 
Interested residents can take out papers and return them with the proper signatures by 5 p.m. on March 25, Kennedy said.
In addition to the Selectmen, there is one other town body with an open seat this spring.
 
On the Planning Board, the five-year seat currently held by Patrick Dunlavey is up for grabs.
 
So far, only one resident, Amy Jeschawitz of 1173 North Hoosac Road, has pulled papers, but she has not returned them, Kennedy said.
 
Four other positions positions will be on the ballot. Three of the current seatholders have taken steps to serve another term.
On the Williamstown Elementary School Committee, John Skavlem has taken out papers to run for another three-year term, as has Housing Authority Board member Joan Burns, who is serving a five-year term that expires in May.
 
On the Milne Public Library Board of Trustees, there are two seats on the ballot. Trustee Kathleen Schultze has returned her papers with the required signatures to run for another three-year term; Trustee David Dewey has not taken out papers as of Monday morning, Kennedy said.
 
The Board of Registrars confirms the signatures on nomination papers before names are placed on the ballot for the May 13 town election, scheduled for 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the elementary school.


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Sayers Wins Lanesborough Selectman Seat
By Andy McKeever On: 08:44PM / Tuesday October 15, 2013
Henry 'Hank' Sayers won the special election for the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday. 
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Henry "Hank" Sayers came out the winner in Tuesday's special election to fill a vacant seat on the Board of Selectmen. 
 
Sayers polled 270 votes; his opponent, Barbara Hassan polled 217.  
 
The election was held to replace Robert Barton, who stepped down to run for School Committee but too late to put the seat on the ballot for the annual town election. 
 
The turnout was 487 registered voters, out of 2231, or 22 percent, high for one race in a special election. The split was 55 percent for Sayers, 45 for Hassan.
 
The high turnout was the talk of those gathered for the results. Both Town Clerk Ruth Knysh and Selectmen Chairman John Goerlach said they were impressed with the number of voters who made it to the polls.
 
In contrast, in the June regular election, only 564 votes were cast for the two candidates seeking one selectman seat in that election. That election not only included voters for the special statewide U.S. Senate race but also various town seats.
 
Both candidates in this election are well known and have long-standing connections and roots within the community. Sayers owns Sayers Auto Wrecking and Hassan operates Barbara Hassan Realty and both have worked closely with town leaders. 
 
"She was a good candidate," said Sayers. "We did our best. Thanks to the supporters, voters... I'm going to try to do my best."
Barbara Hassan outside of Town Hall on election day campaigning for votes.

Sayers said he was ready to "hit the ground running" when he takes over the seat. Sayers campaigned on trying to lower the tax rate by finding ways to do more with less.

He has strong connections with many town departments and pledged to be fair in resolving issues fairly and quickly.

On Tuesday, Sayers spent the day with his family campaigning outside of Town Hall. 
 
Hassan boasted her knowledge of town issues and business aptitude from years of working as a real estate agent in town. She has been involved in various town subcommittees and regularly attends Selectmen and other government meetings.
 
"Although I would have loved to have won this race I feel great on how my campaign was run," Hassan said in a statement following the election. "I had great support from my husband in getting my signs out and his moral support was outstanding. Many of our family, friends and acquaintances that I've known in town were wonderful in their support and I thank them all."
 
During the day on Tuesday, Hassan said no matter what happened, she would continue to play an active role in town government. During the campaign she "got a laundry list of 'to do' items" from citizens and she will now pass those along to the sitting selectmen, she said.
 
"No regrets and as always I'll be back at town hall working on the Town Services Study Committee with the task of combining the Highway and Water Departments into a new DPW along with  any other projects that I am asked to help out with," she said.

 



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Adams: Election, May 5, 7-7;

Cheshire: Election, May 5;

Clarksburg: Election, May 27; town meeting, May 28

Williamstown: Election, May 13, 7-8; town meeting, May 20, 7 p.m.

 
Municipal Elections

The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015

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