Williamstown Results: School Debt OK'd, Gold Wins Moderator
SELECTMEN (two elected)
|Richard Haley Jr.
MODERATOR (one elected)
|Mark Gold 1,102||Frederick Leber 320|
Debt Exclusion for Remainder of the Roof Debt
for Mt. Greylock Regional High School
Debt Exclusion New Boiler and Repair of Locker Rooms
at Mt. Greylock Regional
Williamstown Elementary School Committee (two elected)
Margaret McComish 910
Valerie Hall 845
Huff Templeton III 453
Northern Berkshire Regional Vocational School Committee (one elected)
James Gazzaniga 863
Daniel Collyer 354
1,632 people voted (36.2 percent of registered voters)
WILLIAMSTOWN — Voters overwhelmingly backed two debt exclusions Tuesday, while the incumbents held on in the Selectmen race and Mark Gold won in a landslide for the open town moderator seat.
In response to a pair of ballot questions regarding the passage of Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusions to fund repairs at Mount Greylock Regional High School, voters answered with a resounding 'yes.' According to unofficial results Tuesday night, 65 percent of voters answered 'yes' to Question 1 while 66 percent backed Question 2.
"It's a great thing," David Archibald, chairman of the Mount Greylock School Committee, said Tuesday night. "I think it's important for the school, the teachers, the parents and the students when the town supports them like this."
Gold, who will replace longtime moderator Stan Parese, received 77 percent of the votes against Frederick Leber. The moderator position is a three-year term.
"I'm really flattered by the margin," Gold said. "I'm looking forward to running a fair and open town meeting. I thought [Parese] was an outstanding moderator, and I hope I can serve the position as well as he did."
Leber, who ran on the platform of a more aggressive approach when selecting the Finance Committee, was disheartened by the margin of defeat.
"I'm very surprised," he said. "I thought I was going to win. Oh well, that's democracy in action."
In the Selectmen's race, incumbents Tom Costley and Ronald Turbin were re-elected to serve another three years. They each eclipsed 1,000 votes while challenger Richard Haley Jr. tallied 690. Haley said that running for public office was an exhausting process, admitting that he had trouble sleeping during the nights leading up to the elections.
"It felt like it was the beginning of a road race before the results came in, just all the nerves," Haley said. "It's worth standing up and saying what you believe. I did it for people who needed it to be done. I'm glad I did it."
Costley and Turbin both expressed excitement after Town Clerk Mary Kennedy announced the preliminary results Tuesday night at Williamstown Elementary School.
"I love being a Selectmen, and I look forward to serving for three more years," Costley, chairman of the Selectmen Board, said.
"I'm very gratified that the voters thought I did a good enough job in the past three years to give me another term," Turbin said. "[Haley] made it an interesting race. It's healthy to have contested elections. It encourages people to participate, and it brings out the issues."
In the other contested races:
-- Incumbent Margaret McComish and newcomer Valerie Hall won the two available spots on the Williamstown Elementary School Committee.
-- Incumbent James Gazzaniga was reelected to serve on the Northern Berkshire Vocational School Committee.
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Election Day in Williamstown
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — As of 1 p.m. on Tuesday, just under 20 percent of registered voters had cast their ballots in the annual town elections, according to Town Clerk Mary Kennedy.
Polls close at 8 p.m. and all voting takes place at the Williamstown Elementary School. Check back later tonight as iBerkshires will post election results once they become available.
There are two debt exclusion items on the ballot and four contested races for town offices, including a three-man race — incumbents Tom Costley, Ronald Turbin and challenger Richard Haley Jr. — for two spots on the Board of Selectmen. A new town moderator will be elected, as well; either Mark Gold or Frederick Leber will fill the vacancy left by Stan Parese, who served the position for 12 years.
Kennedy said she expected bigger crowds for the morning and early-afternoon tallies, but she said it's still early. She pointed to a sticker on her shirt that read "I Voted Today," which is being handed out as voters leave the school.
"This helps a lot. Somebody comes back in the office and says, 'Oh it's election day. I'll have to vote after work,'" Kennedy said.
"My barometer for how busy an election is going to be is the absentee ballots, and I didn't have a big demand for them. But any time you have a debt exclusion of Prop 2 1/2, it usually brings in a crowd."
State Rep. and candidate for Berkshire County sheriff Daniel E. Bosley was outside of the elementary school on Tuesday afternoon, greeting voters and handing out fliers for Wednesday night's campaign kickoff event at the American Legion in North Adams.
"The people in Williamstown always come out for elections, so you know there's going to be a good crowd. You've got to start now. You can't wait until September."
Left, State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley stands outside of the Williamstown Elementary School on Tuesday. Above, candidates for the town elections are set up near the entrance of the school.
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Williamstown Candidates Differ on Debt Exclusions
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — With the casting of ballots on Tuesday, May 11, voters will elect two of the three candidates vying for two available seats on the Board of Selectmen.
Incumbents Ronald Turbin, 65, and Tom Costley, 50, are both seeking re-election to a second three-year term and Richard N. Haley Jr., 44, is making his first bid for public office.
Costley grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and came to Williamstown in 1978 as a Williams College freshman. In 1986, he and his wife, Liz, moved to Williamstown to raise their family; they have a daughter and son. He's founder and director of Overland, which has programs for youngsters that span the outdoors, service, language and environment.
He had not considered ever running for office until January 2007 that he told his wife he was interested in being a selectman. "Liz and my family have always been supportive," he said.
As Costley recalls it, then presidential candidate Barack Obama's remarks about the power of grassroots endeavors and civic engagement, had inspired him to use his business knowledge and life experience to serve as a selectman.
Now looking back, Costley candidly commented, "when you start, you have no idea what is required. It takes two years to learn how it works. Now I am much better at it."
For Costley, working with his colleagues has been one of the most satisfying aspects of being a selectman, especially with Jane Allen, whom he describes as a mentor. But while he shares her strong convictions against underage drinking, his passion got the better of him last month when his anger over a violation at Mezze led him
to use the term "I will kill you" several times, including to owner Nancy Thomas and waiter Jeff Willette.
Costley acknowledged it was a "mistake" to speak in that manner. "I apologized to Nancy Thomas and Jeff," he said. A day or so later, he also posted a general apology on the story posted on iBerkshires. "Now I'm moving on," Costley said. "It was painful."
In the time remaining before the election, he intends to do all he can to help people understand the two ballot questions regarding the Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusions for Mount Greylock Regional High School's final two payments on a repaired roof and the more extensive heating system and locker room repairs. The cost will be shared by the state, Lanesborough and Williamstown; the Selectmen recommended the articles last month.
The debt exclusion is "not for a fancy curriculum, but for brick and mortar capital expenditures," said Costley, adding that an Prop 2 1/2 exclusion was used to build Williamstown Elementary School. "We have to have the building."
The tax increases would not take effect until 2011. Costley said the roof payments will be finished in two years at a cost of $9 per year on the tax bill for an average Williamstown home, valued at about $300,000. The second bond will be paid in 10 years, starting at $26 a year and decreasing in time to $20.
"It's not popular to talk about raising taxes, but you must do it under some circumstances, and this is one of those times," Costley said. "I'm very careful about tax questions in town because I know there are many people for whom every additional expense is a burden. I will not simply say yes to an idea that seems good, unless it is important that it be implemented."
Costley has in mind several approaches to increasing revenue through bolstering the tax base. For one thing, if re-elected, he wants talks with the Planning Board on creating a "dense pedestrian center."
He wants to remove a zoning bylaw that requires multifamily buildings be spaced 1,000 feet apart and another that requires the first floor of buildings in certain areas be limited to commercial use. He believes that should be allowed, but not required.
"We want families and young people to live close by to Spring Street. If there were townhouses on Meacham Street, Latham Street, Water Street ... the residents would be able to walk rather drive to the shops, etc.," he said. "This would also preserve open spaces and the rural character of our town."
Costley believes that with the population close by, stores, restaurants, etc., would enjoy an upswing in sales, and that would draw new businesses to Spring Street. There would also be health benefits, he said, since people would walk more and fewer cars would be on the road polluting the air.
He considers it a privilege to serve as a selectman. "I am looking forward to having the opportunity to do it three more years. I will work my hardest and do my best to help improve town."
Richard N. Haley Jr.
Haley considers running for selectman "a big thing, and serving as a selectman a big responsibility."
A native, Haley lives in his childhood home on Cold Spring Road; his mother and father live across the street in his grandparents' old house.
Haley installs foundations for gravestones in North County. "And I'll always be a farmer," said Haley, whose family roots in Williamstown go back to the 1800s. "It's in the blood."
Though he had talked for years about running for selectman, he never followed through. "I would think 'someone else can do it,'" he recalled. "But now is the right time. I don't think the town is going in the right direction."
Richard N. Haley Jr.
Haley loves the town and said he wants to be a voice for the people, especially those who, like him, want to stay here. Some of his friends and family have had to move because they could no longer afford to live here, he said.
He is very much opposed to the Mount Greylock debt exclusions on the ballot; both the Selectmen and Finance Committee have recommended the articles.
"Once you vote for the override you're stuck with it," Haley said, and pointed out that property owners are still paying for the 2003 override. Then expressing a homespun philosophy, he added, "When you ask your parents for $20 and they give it to you, you come back again for another $20 and another $20."
People on fixed incomes, like his Uncle Charley, make trade-offs to meet increasing expenses, he said. "He fought in World War II and then came back here to live. He's 88 now and living on a fixed income. When his taxes went up by $200 this year, he cut back on heating oil. And now, his taxes can go up even more."
Haley believes the perks some town employees receive could be eliminated to help the town budget and that the "over spending in schools" should be addressed.
"Williamstown spends money like it's going out of style," Haley opined. "These are hard times and we should learn to get by on what we have."
Haley is a graduate of Mount Greylock Regional High School, as is his son, Richie, 23, who now works and lives in Boston, and his younger son, 15-year-old Spencer, is a student at the school.
Haley is concerned about the quality of the water at the school, pointing to the problems in 2004 when perchlorate was discovered in the water. "They drilled a new well, but the same pipes in the school that carried the [tainted] water are still there," he said.
In 2008, Richie was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and the doctor said he had had it for a while, Haley recalled. Five Mount Greylcok alumni about Richie's age have also suffered from cancer, he said. "What can I do but speak out about it for the kids' sake."
Turbin, a retired assistant attorney general for New York State, has been residing in Williamstown since 2003. "I'm happy here," he said. He has three grown children and three and one-on-the-way grandchildren.
He currently is the Northern Berkshire delegate on Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is part of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. "We're in charge of allocating Massachusetts highway funds," Turbin explained.
Turbin said he loves working in government and for the public. And, if given the opportunity to serve another three years, he would be especially interested in continuing to work on three projects: The further development of Spring and Water streets; housing young families can afford and the proposed bicycle and pedestrian trail that would connect Williamstown and North Adams.
"One of the main reasons for making Williamstown affordable for young families is to increase enrollment in our schools," said Turbin. "Decreased enrollment has many ramifications, including a reduction in state education funds."
Development is important as it will bring in revenue, and Turbin is pleased with the Cable Mills project on Water Street, the former industrial buildings being converted into a mixed-income residential community. Two new businesses, Nature's Closet and That's a Wrap, have come to Spring Street.
Plans to sell the Phototech building on Cole Avenue, abandoned in 1990, however, seem to have fallen through, he said, but renewed efforts will be undertaken to locate a new prospect.
When asked about debt-exclusion override, Turbin prefixed his answer with "I like to be direct and up front." Then he went on to say he believed an override should not be the first option. "All options should be considered."
But he also believes the Selectmen did the right thing in recommending that voters approve the exclusion on this year's ballot. "They are essential projects," he said
"Rebuilding or renovation is difficult to envision at the moment because of the financial crisis, but planning should start for the future," Turbin said. "I envision a joint effort or partnership with the college, Clark and other venerable institutions. Our school system, including the infrastructure, is one of the keys to preserving and enhancing the quality, vitality and financial stability of our town."
The polls will be open Tuesday, May 11, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Williamstown Elementary School, 115 Church St.
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Williamstown Candidate Statements
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — All 17 candidates on the May 11 town election ballot were offered free television time to introduce themselves to voters and say why they are running for positions ranging from library trustee to town moderator to selectman.
WilliNet, Community Access TV for Williamstown, invited the candidates to videotape a short statement of up to five minutes in length. Over the course of three days, 12 of the 17 candidates taped their message in the Spring Street studio. They were combined for broadcast as "The Candidates Speak."
"'The Candidates Speak' offers voters the opportunity to put a face with the name on the ballot and acknowledges the efforts of the individual candidates, especially in the uncontested races," said WilliNet Executive Director Deb Dane.
"The Candidates Speak" airs on WilliNet's Channel 17 and at willinet.org through May 10 or can be watched below.
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Williamstown School Candidates Say They'll Listen
Williamstown School Committee candidates Huff Templeton, left, and Valerie Hall; moderator Anne Skinner; McCann School Committee candidates James R. Gazzaniga Sr. and Daniel H. Collyer.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Candidates hoping to represent voters on two school boards pledged to do their best to maintain their school's excellence and listen the community.
Four of the candidates spoke at Wednesday's forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters; the fifth, Williamstown School Committee incumbent Margaret A. McComish, was represented by her husband, Magnus Bernhardsson.
McComish is running for re-election to one of two three-year seats on the Williamstown School Committee against newcomers Huff T. Templeton III and Valerie A. Hall.
McComish, who works in the Williams College Development Office, was away at a conference she'd committed to sometime before. Bernhardsson read a statement from her that expressed her desire to run for a second term and some of major events that had occurred during her past term, such as allowing the Youth Center to build on school land and the merger of Williamstown and Lanesborough into a new school union.
Daniel H. Collyer
James R. Gazzaniga
She has two children in the school, a third-grader and a sixth-grader, is currently vice chairman of the committee and served on the supervisory union, endowment and long-range planning committees. She and her family moved to Williamstown in 2003.
As former financial attorney, she stated, "I believe I am well equipped to continue to plan strategically for the future and to tackle the current challenges facing the school, such as declining revenues, declining enrollment and increasing costs."
Bernhardsson said McComish was looking forward to the opportunity of serving three more years. Any questions on her stance on issues can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Templeton is a local entrepreneur and owner of Ephporium on Spring Street and a health club in Bennington, Vt. He has two children in the school, a fourth-grader and a sixth-grader and moved to Williamstown in 2002. He has served on the long-range planning committee and as president of the Parental Advisory Council.
He said his two degrees in business and background in creating a volunteer organization and his two years developing computer-based training in the 1990s would be valuable to the committee.
"I've grown to really love Williamstown Elementary School and I've been impressed with everyone I've met there," he said. "My motivation for running is really to help improve it from where we are and have an opportunity to not only be a great elementary, which we already are, but be a world class elementary school."
Valerie Hall is currently a stay-at-home mom, also with two children in the school, who moved here with her family in 2001. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering and formerly designed communications satellites.
A member of the PTO, she served as president and vice president. She has volunteered with a number of school activities, including the sixth-grade yearbook, and regularly volunteers in her children's classrooms.
"I am devoted to keeping our school on the right track while facing these tough budget times. Our enrollment has been declining, our budget is level-funded, while fixed costs are increasing," she said. "The school as a community needs to be flexible and work together to control expenditures but hold the high standards and the essential character of our school."
Running for a 11th three-year term on the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School Committee (McCann Technical School) is James R. Gazzinaga Sr. He is being challenged by Daniel H. Collyer.
Gazzaniga is a retired Mount Greylock Regional High School guidance counselor who has resided in Williamstown for 51 years. He began his teaching career in the Williamstown schools in 1953, spent two years active duty in the Navy, then became a guidance counselor in 1961. He retired in 1990.
He's long been a strong believer in the opportunities offered by McCann's combined academic and technical curriculum and ran successfully for one of the town's two seats on the 14-person board in 1980.
"My greatest concern over the years has been the disappointing number of enrolled students from Williamstown. Currently we have 14 students attending McCann," he said. "There is one major factor contributing to this lack of interest: there is a serious misperception among adults and students regarding the strength of the academic and technical course offerings."
Collyer was on the McCann faculty for 19 years. He holds two postgraduate degrees and was special education director for the former School Union 69 and taught vocational teachers how to create programs for students with special needs. Semi-retired, he currently is a learning specialist at Berkshire Community College.
He agreed with Gazzaniga that McCann's academic strength is too often underrated. He is running to "keep an eye on these austere times of the budget and how it affects Williamstown residents."
As special education director, he said he was active in working with the school committee and the superintendent. "I believe that experience has more weight ... not only with parents but with community members in preserving what I call one of the jewels of Berkshire County."
In response to questions, the Williamstown candidates had no answers on how to stem declining enrollment.
"In my opinion, this is going to be a natural phase and will level out," Hall said, noting the reduction of teachers from four a grade to three had also meant a drop in the number of school-choice slots. "I don't think there's anything the School Committee can do about it."
Templeton thought that because of the decline, school choice should be looked at for more revenue. "We could always introduce a fourth teacher."
All the candidates agreed that the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System is here to stay.
MCAS is a very good tool, said Gazzaniga, "we shouldn't fear evaluation." Collyer said it had its uses but should not be the only measure of learning. Hall and Templeton said the concern was that too much pressure was being put on the younger children. Templeton also said there was a need to ensure that all the kids were progressing and not just passing.
In terms of curriculum, Hall thought the elementary school offers a broad curriculum but math should be reviewed, as well as continuity going into the middle grades. "We need better integration of languages," she said. "A school of the future should be offering language during the day."
Templeton said he was not convinced that high-achieving pupils were being challenged enough, and that language and technology were lacking.
"They should be exposed to comptuers every day not every third day," he said. "Multicultural communications should be added into the curriculum. That can be taught at a young age."
All four said they would listen to their constituents but noted in some cases, their and their committees' ability to effect change was limited.
"The only role [we have] is to hire and fire the superintendent, but we can give suggestions, said Gazzaniga. "But our role is greatly diminished."
"If I am on the School Committee I'd certainly be open to suggestions," said Templeton. "The climate is a bit contentious ... We're a community. We have to think like a commmunity, have to put the ideas forward no matter whose they are."
"I'm willing to listen to all sorts of opinions," said Hall, adding Facebook would be one way she'd communicate with residents. However, she said, "the board could be better articulating the answers they give."
"I think it's the job of the representative, the role of the school committee member, to get that input and give it to the whole committee body," said Collyer.
The election is set for Monday, May 11, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Williamstown Elementary School.
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