The Selectmen set the date for the town election and town meeting on May 27 and May 28, respectively.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The town election and annual meeting will be held the fourth week of May this year, a week later than tradition holds.
But while it may have been tradition for decades to do the town's annual business the third week, no one so far can prove why that's so.
Town officials are asking the attorney general's office to tell them what bylaws had been approved by the town and the AG's office from 1975 to 2000. The Finance Committee on Tuesday authorized using $225 from its reserve fund to pay the cost of obtaining those records.
It was discovered last year that the bylaws were in disarray — possibly from a past effort by volunteers to organize the documents, or a recordkeeping error years ago.
Town Administrator Thomas Webb said the bylaw designating the fourth week was found going through the older records, and no newer one could be found to supersede it.
Why was the date changed? Town Clerk Carol Jammalo speculated that voters and officials didn't like an election the day after a Monday holiday so moved it back. Selectmen Chairman Carl McKinney thought it might have had to do with state budgeting, since it was around the time Chapter 70 school funding was implemented.
In any case, Jammalo came before the board because she needed a set date to get the elections process under way. "I need to get nomination papers out in February," she said, suggesting the town seek a legal decision.
"Unless I see a compelling reason not to, keep it where it historically has been," said McKinney.
But Selectman Jeffrey Levanos countered that there was no proof that the date had even been legally changed. "I don't think we have any choice but to go with the fourth [week]," he said. "That's the only way it can be done."
Webb agreed, saying, "this is what we know as the bylaw.
"My opinion is we put it the fourth week and put in a new bylaw to change it back to the third week."
The board agreed, voting to set the town election on Tuesday, May 27, and the town meeting on Wednesday, May 28.
In other business, the Selectmen continue to evince support for a preschool but cautioned that the financial picture was not good.
Superintendent Jonathan Lev, Clarksburg Principal Linda Reardon, School Committee member Patricia Prenguber and teacher and parent Kim Rougeau, who spearheaded the project, appeared before the board with the feasibility study by Guntlow & Associates presented to the School Committee last week.
The report found that the former kindergarten classroom in Town Hall was suitable for a pre-kindergarten but would require $220,000 to $240,000 in upgrades to meet new codes and handicapped access.
"There are some residual benefits to the town ... we get rid of the asbestos that has been here forever and we'll get the front of the building done," said McKinney. However, he added that "we have another tough budget year ... the town has a great number of needs some of which are probably not going to be met and our free cash is going to be very limited."
Lev said the district was committed to finding a way to provide a preschool, noting the support from parents and voters last year.
"We're taking this very seriously and looking at all the options we have," he said, including sharing with another school. Lev had already contacted Stamford (Vt.) School and Abbott Memorial School in the town of Florida, which indicated interest in hosting a preschool there.
He also touched on the possibility of looking at other buildings, dipping into the school stabilization fund, put aside for when the school district can pursue a new or renovated school, or using school choice funds, or charging tuition.
"These are things we have to think about so we have a plan to present to citizens," Lev said.
McKinney thought borrowing half the amount could be feasible, as long as something like the $18,000 being paid to North Adams in school tuition for preschoolers requiring special education be dedicated to loan payments, since those children would return to Clarksburg.
Town and school officials had questions about the proposed design, including the need for a kitchenette or multiple bathrooms. Webb said he would ask Vincent Guntlow to attend the Feb. 12 Selectmen's meeting to answer questions.
"If we can slice $40,000 to $50,000 off this, it's a lot more doable," said McKinney.
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