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The Finance Committee will support a special town meeting warrant to borrow up to $2.5 million to repair damage left by two severe rainstorms.

Adams Finance Committee Approves Special Town Meeting Warrant

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — The Finance Committee approved a special town meeting warrant that will allow the declaration of a state of emergency and permit the town to deficit spend.

The committee met in the GAR Memorial Hall at the Adams Free Library on Thursday and quizzed town officials about the more than $2 million in proposed emergency repairs needed after two mid-September storms — chiefly, what happens if no state aid comes through?

"Worst-case scenario going forward, we go ahead and do this, and we borrow all of this and what if the state does not come through with any funding," Chairman Tim Burdick asked. "How are we going to address that?"

The simple answer was Adams will pick up the bill.

"The contingency plan is paying for it," Accountant Mary Beverly said. "If we don't get any money, if no one cares about us, we are going to have to bond it."

Earlier this week, the Selectmen declared a state of emergency to allows the town to deficit spend in order to mitigate damage left in the wake of the two rainstorms that caused substantial flooding.

A subsequent special town meeting vote is needed to complete the process and the Selectmen set a date of Thursday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m. in the Hoosac Valley Elementary School auditorium.

The damage is estimated to be in the $2 million range but the town is asking to be able to deficit spend up to $2.5 million.

State representatives are trying to secure $1.9 million in the Legislature's supplemental budget, however, repairs need to start as soon as possible before winter.

Beverly said the town will take out supplemental notes of around $500,000 apiece to make repairs as they go. She said they hopefully will not have to take out the total $2.5 million, which would mean a lower interest rate.

"We will take them out as we need them and if we don't need $2.5 [million] we will stop," she said. "We certainly aren't going to spend it all if we don't have to."

Beverly said if there is no reimbursement the town would have to bond out. She said bonding out for 20 years will add 30 cents initially to the tax rate. The current rate is $22.21 per $1,000 valuation but the town will be setting the fiscal 2019 rate in the coming months. 

It was suggested if the state representatives can't come through with the money that the town turn to federal funds.

Interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan said the town has already made these contacts and will "exhaust" all options.

The committee asked if any of the projects have been finished or have even begun.

Cesan said much of the time has been spent getting permission to deficit spend and permission to begin such emergency repair projects.

"We have been working our tails off on this," she said. "It has been an education, but we want to make sure if we are going to make repairs and spend this money that it is going to be done right and protect these areas into the future."

She said nothing has been completed but priority projects have started. Design work for the Davis Street bridge repair project has begun and work on Glen Street and East Road will begin next week.

"The sinkholes on Glen Street are growing and East Road has now collapsed in a portion of the travel lane," she said. "It is only going to get worse, so these are truly emergency situations."

She said many of the projects may not be completed or may change as work begins. Some projects such as a watershed survey are more long range.

"Some of these are immediate repairs needed. We have roads and public infrastructure that have to be repaired. They are public health issues," Cesan said. "The study will look at the entire system ... and I think what we are seeing is climate change. The entire country is seeing it in different ways and it is exacerbated here because we are in a valley."

The board swiftly came to a unanimous vote when the time came and wanted to be sure efforts were made to educate town meeting members on how dire the situation was.

"I don't think any of us like having to do this, but we have taxpayers in this town who are at risk with emergency vehicles not being able to get to their homes or further flooding damaging their homes," Burdick said. "They pay a pretty good tax bill each year and I think we owe it to these people."


Tags: deficit,   special town meeting,   state of emergency,   storm damage,   

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