Williamstown Voters OK CPA Funds For PreschoolBy Andy McKeever
11:00PM / Tuesday, May 17, 2011
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Town meeting approved all 35 articles on the warrant on Tuesday night, including the contested use of Community Preservation Funds to help the Community Preschool buy the former Methodist Church on Main Street.
The Board of Selectmen approved all of the articles that were later voted on by town meeting.
Granting the school $223,200 for the purchase faced the most debate while residents said the town should not be taxing itself for a private business. Others, however, felt the school is too important to the town to possibly lose. The warrant eventually passed.
"We shouldn't be taxing ourselves for a private school," resident Matt Holland said.
Holland encouraged residents to vote the article down not just on principle but also because the historic building could come with unexpected upkeep costs, and he cited a lack of need because a new library and youth center are to be built. The school could probably find a better deal without town support, he said.
Preschool Trustee Julie Munemo said the school has a financial plan to account for any unexpected maintenance costs and that school officials have searched for another location to little avail. All other locations were not not feasible financially, she said.
"We don't have any plans to come back to the town and ask for more money," Munemo said. "We'd very much like to stay where we are."
Ronald Turbin, a member the Board of Selectmen and the preschool's board, added that the church's assessment is actually higher than the asking price. Resident Andy Burr said the building is structurally sound.
Maury Lawson said the service provided by the preschool is an invaluable resource to working parents.
"I am a busy working mom and thanks to these teachers, my daughter had the best start," Lawson said.
Donnie Brooks, assistant football coach at Williams College, said that when he first moved to town and was working as an intern he did not have much money to spare, and the school helped his struggling family.
Despite the service the school provides, Malcolm Smith, a member of the Community Preservation Fund Committee, said there are better ways to use town funds.
Preschool Board of Trustee Julie Munemo presented the Community Preschool's case to 301 checked-in town meeting members.
"Not one person has come to me and said 'we need to save this building,'" Smith said. "There are lots of worthy causes in this town."
Town meeting members also approved two articles regarding the Milne Library's renovation plans. The library was asking the town to serve as the fiscal agent and approve the preliminary designs.
Some residents voiced concern that the town would be on the hook for the remaining renovation costs if the library is unable to raise its portion.
Library officials agreed that the $4.4 million they need to raise is a daunting task, but added they are not asking the town for funds at this time.
"We are confident that this project and design will bring the library into the 21st century," Library Trustee Nancy McIntire said. "There is no request for town appropriations attached to this article."
The library also got support from resident Anne Just, director of the Mason Library in Great Barrington.
Most articles were approved unanimously, including budget appropriations for the town at $6.4 million, the elementary school at $5.3 million, McCann Technical School at $366,466 and Mount Greylock Regional High School at $4.6 million.
A total of 301 town meeting members checked in to this year's meeting.
The full warrant is available below.
Williamstown Town Meeting Warrant 2012