Dalton Voters Nix BerkshireTrail Roof Project

By Dan GigliottiDalton Correspondent
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A few dozen Dalton voters on Monday nixed a plan to fix Berkshire Trail School's roof.

DALTON, Mass. — Dalton said no to a new roof for Berkshire Trail Elementary School on Monday.

The bonding of $872,620 to fund the repair or replacement of a roof for the Cummington school was denied by a scantily attended special town meeting at Nessacus Middle School.

Over the course of about 25 minutes, little deliberation from about 40 citizens yielded a majority decision against the roof repair project that would have cost the town approximately $18,000 of the total bill, based on a formula detailed by Central Berkshire Regional School District Superintendent William Cameron.

A unanimous approval of the seven towns in the district's regional school agreement was required to receive funding for the project, which means that the initial plan approved by the Central Berkshire Regional School Committee will not take place in 2014.

During its meeting on Jan. 9, CBRSD decided to request funding for the roof project, under the assumption it would receive a grant from the Massachusetts School Building Authority to reimburse 54 percent of the expenses for the project upon its completion.

The MSBA approved a maximum grant of $468,253 to fund the roof project on Jan. 29.

Cameron said the town of Dalton would be assessed approximately $18,000 of the balance, based on its current total of three students out of the 65 enrolled at the elementary school.

None of the meeting attendees spoke in favor of the roof project. Most people asked questions of the School Committee about the project's more detailed fiscal impacts, which were answered by Cameron.

Those critical of the fiscal measure cited a disparaging rate of tax increases, in part due to the spending of funds on other large-scale school projects in recent years, as deterrents to funding the Berkshire Trail roof.

Mary Lamke said it is the request for funding coupled with an exponential increase in town assessments included in the tentative school budget that are of particular concern for residents.

"There's a possibility of the school budget going up [9.23 percent]," Lamke said. "If that's correct, then we're really going to be hurting as seniors."

Town Finance Committee Chairman Terry Williams formally endorsed funding for the project. Select Board member Jonathon Bartels questioned its wisdom amid reports of a declining school-age population in the region. When asked, Cameron reaffirmed that belief, saying there is no foreseeable rise in enrollment in any of the district's schools in the near future, including Berkshire Trail.

The Dalton vote effectively cancels the need for other towns to hold respective special town meetings. According to John Connor, a School Committee member representing the town of Hinsdale, the cancellation of a town meeting to rule on the roof project will save $1,400 in expected costs.

Ron Marcella's resignation from the position of town moderator necessitated a vote for a new officer. Select Board member Stuart Sargent wasted no time recommending Tony Doyle, who accepted the post and presided over the meeting.

Tags: bonding,   CBRSD,   MSBA,   school project,   special town meeting,   

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