The Board of Selectmen agreed to accept this as the town's flag. It will hang in the Hall of Flags at the State House.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — It's a grand new flag.
And after months of discussion, several meetings of the Board of Selectmen, two committees and one online survey, it's Williamstown's flag.
The Selectmen on Monday night voted to approve a design that was created by members of the first town flag committee in collaboration with one of the people who submitted an alternate vision after the original design failed to win the approval of the board last year.
The board had other, arguably weightier topics on its agenda Monday, including the process for replacing the town's longtime town manager, an agreement to create a roughly 2-megawatt solar installation on town land and a proposal from a nearby town to share its police force with the Village Beautiful's.
But no topic generated as much debate among the selectmen — even creating the exceedingly rare instance where a member's motion received no second.
Andrew Hogeland, who has pushed in the past for a transparent process that welcomes input from throughout the town, was consistent on Monday night, moving that instead of approving the design, the board post it on the town's website to encourage one more round of comments.
Ultimately, that proposal failed to earn a second, and Hogeland joined a unanimous vote to OK the design created by a committee of local artists Julianna Haubrich and Anya Sheldon, Williamstown Historical Museum Director Sarah Currie and Selectman Thomas Sheldon, who convened the original committee along with Currie, Anya Sheldon and other collaborators.
"I want to stress collaboration here," Thomas Sheldon said. "There was no pride of ‘artistship' — as opposed to authorship. People were very generous in looking at other people's ideas and evaluating them and commenting on them.
"Everything blended together nicely because of that collaboration."
The finished product, which will be displayed on the town website, is a pared-down version of the original, which had four images representing the core values of agriculture, natural beauty, art, education and history.
The new flag has a single image that incorporates many of those concepts. In the background, there are three hills, with Mount Greylock in the middle with the War Memorial visible at the summit. In the center is a depiction of the 1753 House, a recreation of the kind of house occupied by the town's first settlers. The house appears to sit on a furrowed field, suggesting agriculture. At the bottom are the words "Culture, Education, Nature." At the top is 1765, the year of the town's founding.
Each of the selectmen, including Hogeland, expressed his or her thanks to the committee and appreciation for the finished product.
Hogeland's objection stemmed from the fact that after so much time and energy expended by the board, it made sense to run the idea up the flagpole — as it were — one more time before making a final decision.
Vice Chairwoman Jane Patton, who ran Monday's meeting while Chairman Ronald Turbin participated remotely by speaker phone, said she thought seeking more comments would keep the board on a road to nowhere.
"I think we can post it on the town website [prior to a vote], but I want to be clear," Patton said. "If we do this, folks will feel compelled to comment, and if their comments aren't heard or addressed. …
"As someone who has worked in the creative approval process for 25 years, this is a hamster wheel."
After Hogeland moved to delay a vote until after the town had a chance to react to the flag — which was revealed publicly for the first time on Monday night — there was an awkward silence.
"How long do we wait [for a second]?" asked Hugh Daley.
Hearing none, Patton entertained a motion to approve the flag, which Turbin made and Daley seconded. All five agreed to make the new, collaborative effort the town's official flag.
The board was less inclined to collaborate with the town of Lanesborough, which wrote to Williamstown to ask about combining the towns' two police forces under a single chief as Lanesborough begins the process of replacing its retiring police chief.
Town Manager Peter Fohlin told the board he had consulted with Williamstown Police Chief Kyle Johnson and was confident that neither the chief nor the town manager thought it was a proposal worth pursuing.
"If you want a comprehensive response from the police chief, he should be here to give it, but the simplest aspect we talked about is New Ashford, which is problematic," Fohlin said, referring to the town that lies between Williamstown and Lanesborough. "One might envision [bordering] North Adams and Williamstown sharing a police department, but New Ashford is a real problem when it comes to sharing services between Williamstown and Lanesborough.
"That's the starting point. The first hurdle, if you will, is what about New Ashford?"
None of the selectmen pressed Fohlin for additional reasons to pursue the proposal. But he did offer that a chief of police is more than just an administrator of personnel.
"It would be easier for us to share a town administrator or town manager, whose role is solely administration, than to share a police chief, who is not only an administrator but a law enforcement officer."
Speaking of town managers, Williamstown is in the market for one. And on Monday the board discussed how it will proceed with the search process. The town has received proposals from four different recruiters, and on Monday it divvied up the work that will go into deciding which one to pick.
Patton and Sheldon, who are slated to serve on a yet-to-be-named screening committee, will make followup calls to the headhunters. Daley, Hogeland and Turbin each volunteered to contact references for the four candidates
Fohlin's face will not be the only one — potentially — absent from the Selectmen's Meeting Room this time next year. On Monday night, Sheldon announced that he does not plan to seek another three-year term on the board. His is the only seat scheduled to be voted on at the May 12 town election.
Sheldon encouraged anyone in town who had an interest to run for the office and noted that when he first ran six years ago, he did so — in part — because no one else wanted the job.
Patton asked Sheldon if he would consider running if no other candidates emerge this time around, and Sheldon said he would "reserve judgment" on that question.
In other business on Monday, Fohlin brought the board up to date on the town's negotiations with Solar City to build a solar facility — likely between 1.8 and 2.0 megawatts — on the capped landfill behind the town's transfer station.
Fohlin said there are a few sticking points, including one substantive issue regarding the termination values that would come into play if the town decides at some point to buy the facility from Solar City (the current arrangement is for the supplier to own the panels and the town to purchase the energy).
The vendor wants to have those values determined by a formula. The town is pressing to set up a table that will have actual numbers in the contract, in part because neither Fohlin nor Daley — a North Adams business owner who has reviewed the contract — can make sense of the formula.
"If I showed you the formula, it would be unintelligible to the average person," Fohlin told the rest of the board.
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Williamstown Planning Board Weighing New Pot Bylaw
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Planning Board last week heard from several residents who want it to prohibit outdoor production of marijuana in the language of an updated bylaw the board intends to send to May's annual town meeting.
Several of the people who argued against granting a special permit to grow pot on a Blair Road parcel early last year were back at Town Hall on Tuesday to ask that town regulations be changed to allow marijuana production only indoors and then under highly regulated conditions to control odor.
The Planning Board chose to address the bylaw passed by town meeting in 2017 because it was written before the commonwealth's Cannabis Control Commission had written statewide regulations in response to the November 2016 vote to decriminalize marijuana in Massachusetts.
The town in 2017 was trying to "get ahead of the curve," and now wants to amend its language to align with the nomenclature used at the state level. For example, the 2017 bylaw refers to "marijuana production facilities." The CCC language is written to address indoor and outdoor "marijuana cultivators."
The Planning Board last week heard from several residents who want it to prohibit outdoor production of marijuana in the language of an updated bylaw the board intends to send to May's annual town meeting. click for more
A Department of Public Works employee was treated and released from the hospital Sunday morning after his snow plow went off the road and down an embankment in South Williamstown, police said Sunday afternoon. click for more
The Williamstown Apothecary is scheduled to open in early spring, following the completion of renovations to the property being undertaken by Berkshire Health Systems and municipal permitting. click for more
Among the more ambitious suggestions from the committee is to designate a town employee to "curate, prioritize and advance this work," a step that would have clear implications for the town's budget.
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