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The Selectmen discussed the possibility of adding a question about the size of the board on a master plan survey.

Cheshire Locks In New Electricity Rate

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — Cheshire locked in a green electricity rate with Hampshire Power that will drop residents' rate to 8.734 cents per kilowatt.

Town Administrator Mark Webber told the Selectmen on Tuesday that the new rate will be far less than National Grid's 13 cents per kilowatt and residents who don't opt out of the program should expect to see the new rate in May.

"The Hampshire product will be a 100 percent green sourced and it is the lowest price in the Commonwealth as we speak," Webber said. "There is always the risk that it could go lower but this is a good price."

Last year, town meeting passed a warrant article that started this process. Because of the increase in electricity rates, many towns and cities have joined municipal electrical aggregation plans, including some communities in Berkshire County that joined together for group purchasing power. 

Webber said the contract will last 18 months so Cheshire can sync up with the Berkshire County group. Right now Cheshire's rate is a few cents cheaper.

Chairwoman Carol Francesconi asked her colleague and member of the Master Plan Committee Robert Ciskowski to ask that committee if it would add a question to a community survey to gauge whether or not residents support increasing the select board size from three to five.

The change was initially accepted by town meeting last year via citizen's petition but was flagged by the attorney general because the size could not be changed by town meeting, but only through special legislation or a charter amendment.

Ciskowski said the committee is on an "aggressive schedule" because it wants to extract data from the survey before town meeting. He said members want to be able to provide the town with more information and gauge interest because they plan to ask for money at town meeting to complete the master plan.

"I am not saying we can't throw that question in but it would kind of put things in an uproar right now," he said.  

He said the committee sent the finalized survey to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission after Monday night's meeting and the survey will be released in the next few weeks.

He said he will contact the chairman of the committee and inquire about the additional question but it may slow down the process.

Francesconi felt the survey should be mailed to residents and said the selectmen should fund it.

"I know a lot of people won't go online and I don't think we will get a good response," she said. "I just think it is important enough for us to fund it ... we have selectmen expenses and it's a reasonable expense because we created the Master Plan Committee."

She said it would cost between $900 and $1,000 to do a complete mailing.

Ciskowski agreed and said the committee agreed to send out fliers to all people who get mail in Cheshire. He said the fliers will have the web address that would link residents to the survey and where in town to pick up a paper copy.

He said it would not be economical to send out the entire survey because it is nearly 15 pages.

Ciskowski said the committee does not have a budget and it would be a great help if the selectmen fund the mailing.

In other business, John Tremblay said the Cheshire Community Association received $2,000 from the Cultural Council to support summer block parties.

"It's exciting and we are going to continue to look at things like adding local crafters," Tremblay said. "They gave us $600 more because of our success so they really recognized that it was a good event."

A group of residents organized the block parties last summer. The parties featured live entertainment, food vendors, and showcased local businesses.

Tremblay said next block parties are tentatively scheduled for July 13 and Aug. 10.

Before the meeting adjourned, Ciskowski said if the town was given the garage at the former Bushika gravel pit it most likely would not be able to afford the repairs.

Originally solar array developer Kirt Mayland, who is developing an array on the gravel pit property, offered to give the town the garage. Webber reported last month that Mayland may sell it to a private buyer.

The board was disappointed, but Ciskowski still brought quotes from contractors just in case the sale did not go through. One contractor bid $32,500 to replace the roof while the other said a more complete repair would cost near $62,500.

Webber said he felt relieved the town did not take on the project.

"Now I feel better," he said.

Tags: community event,   electrical aggregation,   master plan,   solar array,   survey,   

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