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DeFino, Francesconi Up For Cheshire Selectman Seat

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — Donna DeFino and Michelle Francesconi are vying for a three-year seat on the expanded Board of Selectmen.
The special election for two more seats — a two-year and the three-year — will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 13, from 9 to 7 at the Community Center. 

Donna DeFino wants to make voters have a choice for selectman.
DeFino said she felt a duty to run after seeing opponent Francesconi would be running unopposed.
"I feel that for democracy to truly work you have to have a choice," DeFino said. "There are a lot of people who feel disconnected ... and while it's nice to have a recognizable name, there is a segment of people who just see it as a continuation of the old guard they want to see new, they want to see someone who will promote some change."
DeFino, a former business owner and current accounting manager of Advanced Berkshire Medical Imaging at Berkshire Health Systems, said she has a strong background in finances. She is also the chairman of the Planning Board and ran unsuccessfully for selectman in the spring.
She said action is important to her and that many who complain about the town are afraid to step up and effect change.
"You get very vocal segments of the population who are very quick to criticize everything," she said. They don't offer solutions, they don't offer to sit on the boards themselves. They don't offer to effect change."
DeFino is worried about the mostly vacant Cheshire school building and the town's future plans for it. She said infrastructure is also an issue but that realistically roads are bad throughout the region. She said a lot of problems in town are not Cheshire specific.
She added that she has heard that there is a portion of the community who feel disenfranchised and do not feel comfortable approaching town government. She noted specifically there are many residents against the proposed Appalachian Trail campsite on public property but who are afraid to speak up.  
"There are a lot of people here that are against this they do not want it but they are afraid to walk in there and say so," she said. "They think because half a dozen people want it, everybody wants it."
DeFino said she hopes to change this perception of local government and provide an open playing field where all are safe to express their opinion.
"You can't have such a large segment who are afraid to bring issues up and unfortunately, that's what we have right now," she said. "...We need to shake things up. We need people to not be fearful of coming into this room and talking."

Michelle Francesconi wants Cheshire to put its best foot forward.
Francesconi said she decided to run because she wants to help Cheshire put its best foot forward.
"This is my home base and I love Cheshire," she said. "I want it to be a community that my children, once they are ready to work, want to come back to. It is somewhere where families can grow."
She is a former police officer has also worked as an emergency medical technician and dispatcher. Francesconi was executive director for Berkshire Dance Theatre Inc. and later business manager St. Mary of the Assumption Parish.
"I want to see the town thrive and I definitely have a background in marketing and development," she said. "You really have to market a town for it to be successful and highlight the assets in order to improve the tax base ... there are so many missed opportunities here."
Francesconi did note that one of the first steps in promoting the town is to fix its ailing infrastructure.
"It goes with creating a welcoming environment for people coming in from the outside," she said. "We have horrible roads and it does not make for a welcoming environment."
She added that infrastructure and marketing are all part of a larger vision to improve Cheshire, which she thinks the town needs to realize and adhere, too. 
"I think focusing on one vision for the town and every other vision aligning with that vision is important," she said. "Just looking forward, what do we want Cheshire to look like in 20 years."
Francesconi said she has the drive to help Cheshire be all that it can be.
"I have the energy and drive to really try to see this through and when I put myself into something I will give 200 percent," she said. "I think most of the people that have dealt with me they know that I will give it everything." 
Michael Biagini, Ronald DeAngelis, and E. Richard Scholz will vie for the second two-year seat on the select board.

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Cheshire to Stay With Single Tax Rate For Coming Year

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen voted on Tuesday to keep a single tax rate for the town, opting not to differentiate between commercial and residential properties. This decision  is consistent with historic town practices.
Barbara Astorino, chairman of the Board of Assessors, addressed the board at the tax classification hearing. Although no specific tax rate was made available to the public, the board decided to go with a single tax rate as it has always done.
"Cheshire has historically always maintained a [single] tax rate," Astorino said. 
She was asked by the board how urgent this matter was and what consequences might arise should they take more time to study the numbers.
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