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The Selectmen's meeting on Monday was brief but included updates on the Agricultural Commission and Williamstown Theatre Festival's difficulties with the ABCC.

Agriculture Commission Updates Williamstown Selectmen

By Stephen DravisSpecial to iBerkshires
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Kurt Gable Jr. is sworn in as Williamstown's Republican Party representative to the Board of Registrars by Town Clerk Mary Courtney Kennedy.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's rejuvenated Agricultural Commission is reaching out to town governing bodies and hoping their colleagues will return the favor.

Ag Commission Chairwoman Beth Phelps appeared before the Selectmen on Monday evening to outline her group's objectives for 2012 and invite the members of the board to attend the commission's monthly meetings.

"I will commit to attending all Select Board meetings that involve agriculture topics, and I ask you to let me know if any issues come relating to agriculture so we can be part of the discussion," said Phelps, who serves as the Agricultural Commission's liaison to the Selectmen.

Phelps, who owns Sweet Brook Farm on Oblong Road with her husband, Pete, said the Agricultural Commission has embarked on an ambitious agenda since it was revived earlier this year.

Among its first goals is the erection of Right to Farm Town signs on Routes 7, 2 and 43 entering town. Williamstown adopted the state's Right to Farm bylaw at town meeting in 2006. The bylaw, which has been passed by 100 towns in the state, "encourages the pursuit of agriculture, promotes agriculture-based economic opportunities and protects farmlands."

To further those same objectives, the commission also is working on a Williamstown agriculture website and a brochure and map of farms in the town — highlighting those that are open to the public.

"I'm glad you're working on a brochure and map," Chairman David Rempell told Phelps. "One of the things that came out of the discussion at town meeting about the wedding bylaw was people asked, 'How many farms are there in Williamstown and where are they?'"

Phelps also told the Selectmen her group would consider adopting a "conflict resolution protocol" developed by the Massachusetts Association of Agricultural Commissions.

"It is a format to formally document conflicts and resolutions between farmers and neighbors and farmers and town officials," Phelps said. "It's a tool for us to consider using."

The town's Agricultural Commission plans this year to hold the first of what it hopes will be annual meetings for all farmers in the town, she said.

Aggie Commission Chairwoman Beth Phelps invited board members to the commission's meetings.
"I wanted to make you aware that the Ag Commission is alive and well and trying to get active again and to invite you to come to our meetings," Phelps said.

The relatively brief meeting saw four members of the body (Tom Costley was absent) unanimously approve two requests for all-alcoholic beverage licenses for the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which opens its season on Tuesday night.

Jane Patton, who appeared on behalf of the theater festival, said it had run into a procedural hurdle with the state's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission because the agency required all members of the WTF Board of Trustees to submit paperwork supplying personal information.

"We have in hand 26 of 31 (trustees)," Patton said, noting the WTF board includes a number of theater luminaries, not all of whom are easily reachable.

"The lesson here is if you're going to have a board, keep it really small."

Patton said an investigator from the ABCC has been helpful talking the theater group through the process and impressed with the WTF's efforts to come into compliance.

"There's just been a little bit of confusion," Patton said. "Forty weeks out of the year, (WTF) has six full-time employees. Then when it explodes, this is when these things come up.

"At least I have documented now what we need to do, and I can give it to (Artistic Director) Jenny (Gersten) and her staff."

Rempell said the WTF's experience will benefit other non-profits that apply for alcohol licenses in the town.

"This has been a learning process for us also," he said. "We need to do a better job letting folks know what they need to do to be in compliance."

In other business Monday, the Select Board:

• Appointed Kurt Gable Jr. of Luce Road to serve as the town's Republican Party representative to the Board of Registrars.

• Approved a request from the Williamstown Community Chest to hold its fifth annual Fun Run on Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. The event will have a revised route this year with a start/finish line on School Street.

• Accepted the resignations of Malcolm Smith and Curtis Scott from the Community Preservation Committee and Sign Commission, respectively. Rempell encouraged residents to consider applying for the vacancy on the Community Preservation Committee or one of two open spots on the Sign Commission.

• Heard from Town Manager Peter Fohlin that renovations have begun to make the town's senior center, the Harper Center, more energy efficient by replacing sliding glass patio doors and installing air conditioning.

• Heard from Fohlin that the Zoning Board at its July 19 meeting will consider a camping permit from the organizer of the planned Hogs on the Farm motorcycle rally.

• Heard from Rempell that the Finance Committee plans a special meeting on Sept. 20 to discuss several major capital efforts being advanced, including a new police station, a new fire station, a new high school and renovations to the David and Joyce Milne Public Library.

Tags: ABCC,   agricultural commission,   biker rally,   WTF,   

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