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Selectmen Jane Allen, Vice Chairman Thomas Sheldon and David Rempell. Selectmen Tom Costley and Chairman Ronald Turbin were absent.

Williamstown Approves Veterans Agent Agreement

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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New open meeting rules require agendas to be posted in readily accessible areas. Williamstown has new shadowboxes for its agendas near the front door.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Selectmen on Monday approved a two-year agreement to share a veterans agent with North Adams and Adams beginning Aug. 1. It's the first of several partnerships the town is promoting with the city.

The state requires the city of North Adams have a full-time agent but the city doesn't need an agent for that many hours. The concept of sharing was suggested by Mayor Richard Alcombright, who pledged greater North County collaborations when he took office earlier this year.

"This in no way pushes [Veterans Agent] Michael Kennedy out of office," said Town Manager Peter Fohlin. Kennedy's been agent for 10 years. "He came to me a few months ago and asked if he could retire but I said no. ... He was willing to stay as long as he had to, not able to stay forever and wanted to leave as soon as possible."

In what Fohlin described as a "convenient confluence of events," Williamstown and the city, which has been without an agent, and Adams, whose agent and Town Clerk Paul Hutchinson was eager to retire, were able to agree on a "veterans district."

The town and Adams will each have the agent twice a week for 2 1/2 hours in the afternoon; the agent, David Robbins, will work mornings in the city. However, he will be available to any veteran in the three municipalities at any time. Adams approved the agreement last week and the North Adams City Council is expected to approve it on Tuesday night. (The draft agreement can be found below.)

Fohlin said he is also partnering with Alcombright in encourage the Hoosac Water Quality District commissioners to invest in a methane digester at the waste-water treatment facility to produce energy from sewer gas. The town and city share in the operation of the plant and are represented by two commissioners each.

The Williamstown Police are also in contact with the North Adams public safety department in working on a prescription drug collection program that could also include other towns. Fohlin said Officer Shuan Williams is taking the point on this initiative and he expected a North County collection program to be in place in about six weeks.

Jill Strawbridge said this year's Fun Run will honor Adam Falk.
A number of communities have begun prescription drug collections to ensure drugs don't fall into the wrong hands or are flushed into the environment.

Fohlin also told Selectmen that the town is iin full compliance with the new open meeting law, which requires that information on meeting agendas be readily available at anytime at Town Hall. Shadowboxes have been placed outside the main doors of Town Hall and agendas will be posted in them the required 48 hours before a meeting.

He cautioned the Selectmen about bringing materials to meetings because they would now have to be entered into the minutes. (Selectmen often bring in interesting articles about local topics.)

"We're going to be tightening up on the amount of documents we submit to the meetings, keep the extraneous stuff off the table," said Fohlin, adding that "this Town Hall never thought these changes were anything different than what we have been regularly doing anyway."

In other business, the Selectmen:
  • Approved the third annual Williamstown Community Chest Fun Run. Jill Strawbridge, representing the Community Chest, said the event is not a fundraiser but designed to bring the community together. Last year, the Fun Run (a 5-kilometer run and mile walk) drew 171 participants and 34 volunteers and was held in honor of the late Donald Westall. This year, the run will be held in honor of incoming Williams College President Adam Falk and his family.

  • The run will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11. The cost is $15 per person or family; $5 for seniors and students. Each participant receives a T-shirt. The route and a registration form can be found here.

  •  Approved a list of election workers submitted by Town Clerk Mary Kennedy  and warrant for the state primary on Sept. 14.

  • Approved an amount of $305.39 from the Botsford Fund toward the operation of the Local House of History.  The historical society applies each year for its portion of the fund.

North Adams City Council, Veterans Agent Agreement, 07272010
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Williamstown to Look at Updating Bylaw on Political Signs

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff

The ballot return box on the steps of Town Hall is bolted to the porch.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town is asking the Sign Commission to take a look at an out-of-date bylaw that addresses political signs.
The issue came up recently when residents asked questions about candidates signs and "issues" signs on town-owned property, like the town green, which runs along both sides of Main Street (Route 2) from the curb to the sidewalk from Field Park east to Cole Avenue.
Those inquiries prompted a look at the bylaw, which, Town Manager Jason Hoch told the Select Board last Wednesday, addresses such signage on private parcels but is mute about similar displays on municipal property.
"Where we are at the moment is a need to refer back to the Sign Commission to refresh some of the bylaw in this area to get some clarity around what should be there, what we'd like to see there, what shouldn't be there, and do we want to identify certain public properties for a free-for-all for signs, no signs?" Hoch said. "Picking and choosing is obviously a problem."
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