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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Selectmen Sign Town Meeting Warrant

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Williamstown Selectmen's Chairman John "Jack" Madden reviewed a May 16 Town Meeting warrant during an April 10 Selectmen's meeting.
Williamstown - Selectmen reveiwed 45 articles included in a a 46-article May 16 Town meeting warrant during an April 10 meeting, and voted to recommend passage of most articles while electing to take no action or recommend against others.

The Town Meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the town elementary school at 115 Church St.. Article 1, which is to elect town officials, will be decided by town registered voters during a May 9 election. Polling hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the town elementary school on May 9.

Some Recommendations Are...

Selectmen voted unanimously to recommend passage of Article 4, which would increase the elected town moderator term from one year to three years. Also unanimously approved was a recommendation seeking a $441,331 transfer from the General Fund Unreserved Fund Balance to reduce the town tax rate.

Selectmen unanimously approved recommendations that voters approve spending $5,639,770 on Fiscal Year 2007 town government operations, with $5,422,892 generated via taxation, $117,081 appropriated from estimated water receipts, $82,219 appropriated from estimated sewer receipts, $10,000 appropriated from the Cemetery Perpetual Care Fund, and $7,506 coming from the Sherman Burbank Memorial Trust Fund.


Selectwoman Jane Allen and Selectman John Merselis perused town meeting warrant articles.
Selectmen recommended approving a FY 07 $4,834,361 appropriation for the town's elementary school and a $267,802 appropriation as the town's share of a proposed Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District FY 2006-2007 budget. The NBVRSD governs the Charles H. McCann Technical High School; students from the town are eligible to attend the high school, which is in North Adams.

Action To Come At Town Meeting

Selectmen did not recommend approval of a $4,174,969 appropriation as the town's share of a proposed Mount Greylock Regional School District proposed 2006-2007 budget as sought by the district's school committee, nor did they recommend passage of a town Finance Committee recommended school district appropriation of $4,097,074.

Selectmen unanimously agreed to make a recommendation about a town appropriation to the Mount Greylock school district budget at the town meeting.

The decision to wait until the town meeting was based on a belief that district school committee members and Finance Committee members may arrive at a compromise prior to the town meeting.

Excise Tax Refund Program Earns A Recommendation

A proposal to raise $10,000 that would be used to create a town-funded state excise tax refund program benefiting the owners of specific motor vehicles earned a recommendation for voter approval from four Selectmen; Selectmen's Chairman John "Jack" Madden abstained from the selectmen's vote on the recommendation.

Madden said he abstained because he felt some "conflict" about offering rebates at a time when property tax rates are on the increase.

If approved at town meeting, 75 percent of 2007 annual motor vehicle excise tax bills could be refunded to those who own passenger cars, vans, or trucks designated as lightweight vehicles manufactured within the past five model years with a USEPA fuel economy rating of 50 miles per gallon or more for city driving and 50 miles per gallon or more for highway driving. The proposal offers a 50 percent 2007 motor vehicle excise tax bill refund to those who own cars, vans, or lightweight trucks manufactured within the past five model years with a USEPA fuel economy rating of 30 miles per gallon or more for city and highway driving.

Town residents with qualifying vehicles that meet requirements for both refund options may take seek only one refund, according to the proposal.

Public Money For Private Betterment Generates Concern

A proposal to provide $50,000 from the town's Community Preservation Fund to the Caretaker Farm for purposes of acquiring an easement involving a 2.5 acre parcel of farm property generated significant Selectmen discussion.

Selectmen expressed reservations about the proposal because the proposal seeks taxpayer revenues that would benefit a private enterprise. While the public has been welcomed at the farm property, the space is not considered "public" in the same manner as a public park or similar venue.

If the proposal were approved, the funds would be delivered to the Equity Trust, a land trust foundation that works with farms. If the proposal is approved by voters, town funds will be spent but the town will not hold ownership of the easement, Selectmen noted.

Madden, Merselis, Selectman Philip Guy and Selectman David Rempell voted to take no position on the proposal, and Selectwoman Jane Allen voted her opposition to the action of taking no position.

Selectmen had the option of making no motion on the article, thereby bypassing any formal action on the proposal.

Selectman Philip Guy examined a warrant article that involves using Community Preservation Act funds for an easement benefiting the Caretaker Farms.


A request that voters appropriate $45,885 from the CPA fund to assist the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation with a Sheep Hill Farm silo relocation project met with similar concerns as the Caretaker Farm proposal. Selectmen said they are uncomfortable about using public funds for the "betterment of private property."

Selectmen voted unanimously to recommend passage of Article 32, which is seeking a $30,085 appropriation from the CPA fund as the minimum amount to be set aside during FY 07 for community housing.

Selectmen Recommend Wetlands Protection Article

A proposal asking that voters approve municipal wetlands protection bylaws described as "Chapter 38 Municipal Wetlands Protection" earned a unanimous Selectmen recommendation. The proposed action "is to protect the wetlands, water resources,and adjoining land areas in the Town of Willamstown by regulating activities deemed by the Conservation Commission likely to have a significant or cumulative effect upon resource area values, including but not limited to the following: public or private water supply,groundwater, flood control, erosion and sedimentation control, storm damage prevention,water quality, water pollution control, fisheries, wildlife habitat, rare species habitat including rare plant species, agriculture, aquaculture, and recreation values deemed important to the community [collectively, the 'resource area values protected by this bylaw']."


Williamstown Selectman David Rempell studied several warrant articles submitted via citizen's petition.
The protection proposal "is intended to utilize the Home Rule authority of this municipality to protect additional resource areas, for additional values,with additional standards and procedures stricter than those of the Wetlands Protection Act [MGL Ch.131, sec. 40 ] and 310 CMR 10.00 Wetlands Protection Act Regulations, subject, however, to the rights and benefits accorded to agricultural uses and structures of all kinds under the laws of the Commonwealth."

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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