CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials have set three more information sessions on the borrowing for the $19 million school project to be revoted on Saturday, Nov. 18.
The sessions will all begin at 6 p.m. and take place in the elementary school cafeteria/gym on Monday, Nov. 6; Tuesday, Nov. 7; and Wednesday, Nov. 15. Postcards with that information are being mailed to every household in town (the text can be seen at the bottom of this article.)
"Any questions you have, we will have people there and all of your questions will be answered," Select Board Chairman Jeffrey Levanos said at Wednesday's board meeting. He also said the board will be prepared for the turnout at this next special town meeting. "We have a very well thought-out plan of how this is going to work. It's going to be a lot more smooth, a lot more transparent. It's going to be much better."
The proposal to renovate and add onto the 50-year-old school has sparked contention in this small town of 1,700. Most feel that the school does need repair but the price tag for the town of $7.7 million spread across 40 years has raised serious concerns over the town's ability to handle the enormous $350,000 a year debt.
The Select Board is hoping to prevent a repeat of the confusion and delay at the Sept. 27 meeting. They're also trying to provide more information on the town's financial situation and the impact on taxpayers before the revote. And what a "Plan B" might look like for the aging school should this vote fail again, or the followup majority election vote for the debt exclusion to fund it.
The School Committee and School Building Committee held three forums in the weeks leading up to the first special town meeting with the owner's project manager, designers and the town's bonding agent to go over the school's physical condition, the initial proposals and the final plan approved by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
Those who attended were informed of the cost, the MSBA reimbursement rate and the anticipated impact on tax rates. Members of the Select Board and some of its financial team attended one or more of the meetings and did speak broadly as to how it could affect the town's ability to function. Still, a number of residents felt they weren't getting the full the story and there were accusations that the school officials' sessions were too much like "pep rallies."
"Any questions you have regarding anything from the design of the school, questions about the school, financial impact — how it's going to affect the taxes, how it's going to affect the town finances — we're going to have people there. All your questions will be answered," Levanos said. "Please try to attend one of them, anyway. The goal of the special town meeting is to not have the meeting rehashing everything."
He anticipated the special town meeting opening by bringing the school question to the floor and then immediately moving to a vote.
The information sessions will be moderated by Town Moderator Bryan Tanner; Levanos said he was still working on confirming the town accountant, tax collector/treasurer and assessor.
Nearly a dozen residents attended Wednesday's broadcast meeting to ask questions about the sessions and how the special town meeting vote would happen. Levanos said he was not able to answer all their questions and encouraged them to attend one or more of the information sessions.
Resident Eric Booth, an initial member of the School Building Committee, presented a list of 24 questions, which included queries on future trends in revenue and expenses. Levanos accepted them and said he would pass them on to the accountant and treasurer.
"We have'nt quite got all these together ... we're really trying to put all these together and make everyone as happy as we can," he said.
The moderator, Town Clerk Carol Jammalo and Town Administrator Carl McKinney will also be meeting on Monday to review the logistics for the special town meeting on Nov. 18.
*The registration process has changed since last week's meeting according to information provided on Thursday morning: "Check in of registered voters will NOT occur prior to the meeting thus enabling all attendees to enter the building immediately upon arrival."
Instead, the special town meeting will begin promptly at 3 p.m. The plan is to have six lines for voters to check in according to the street they live on; once checked in, they will be given a ballot similar that used last time — a perforated paper with the choice of "yes" or "no."
More seating will be created upstairs in the school and linked, at the least, with audio to the gym/cafeteria; the elderly and those dealing with accessibility issues will have seats available in the gym.
"They are going to be first after election officials to cast their ballots and there will be seating," McKinney said. "We are looking at a shuttle, possibly parking at the Senior Center or elsewhere ... We're going to try to minimize the amount of onsite parking ... once we have the plans finalized, we will let you know."
The board also set the special election for state representative for the 1st Berkshire District for Tuesday, Nov. 7, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Halloween hours for 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 31.
CLARKSBURG SCHOOL PROJECT
The Clarksburg Select Board will hold a series of informational meetings to discuss questions, and concerns regarding matters from design to financial impact. Please join us for one or all of these meetings.
WHERE: Clarksburg Elementary School
WHEN: November 6th, 7th, and 15th
TIME: 6:00 PM
SPECIAL TOWN MEETING IS SCHEDULED FOR:
NOVEMBER 18, 2017 AT 3:00 PM. TO VOTE THIS PROPOSAL AT THE CLARKSBURG ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.
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