CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Division of Ecological Resources has removed the Kitchen Brook Dam project from its priority list.
Town Administrator Mark Webber presented a letter from DER to the Selectmen on Tuesday that stated although DER is not opposed to working with the town in the future, the removal of the decommissioned dam on West Mountain Road is no longer a state priority.
"They are moving on," Webber said.
In 2015, the state asked Cheshire to consider removing the dam, which had been used for a secondary public water source, or repair it because of wildlife concerns.
Removal of the dam would likely cost more than $500,000, however, DER's involvement with the project meant it would be subsidized or paid for in full.
The Water Commission came out against the removal of the dam and asked to preserve the water supply just in case the town's wells ever became contaminated.
The Office of Dam Safety considered the dam a high hazard and could mandate that the town remove or repair the dam and pay for it. This sparked a sense of urgency to move in some direction with the dam however late last year the dam was reclassified to a low hazard dam – giving the town some breathing room.
Chairwoman Carol Francesconi reminded her colleagues that the Water Commission did show an interest in seeking out grants for the repair of the dam, but she had heard nothing from them about this prospect.
In other business, the Selectmen briefly discussed the failure of Article 16 at Monday's annual town meeting that would have allowed the town to borrow $230,000 to purchase a new 10-wheeled dump truck with plow and agreed to bring it up again at a future date.
"I think we need to discuss the truck at a later date after we had some time to think about what we want to do," Francesconi said. "We will wait a couple of weeks."
Those who railed against the purchase Monday had little concern over the price but rather the majority of the conversation centered around how many wheels the truck should have. The town meeting members who spoke felt the town should go with a six-wheeled vehicle instead of 10.
Francesconi said the town could hold a special town meeting and try again – perhaps this time with a request specifically to purchase a six-wheeled vehicle.
Town meeting did approve the purchase of a pickup truck for the highway superintendent to use so he no longer had to use his own vehicle and Ciskowski asked Tuesday if the town should also extend this to the superintendent's cell phone.
"It is your cell phone it is your payment plan … and what if your phone got out of your pocket and into some blacktop on Windsor Road?" Ciskowski asked. "I just want to be fair with you ... we never talked about you providing a cell phone when we hired you."
Highway Superintendent Blair Crane said he would report back with a breakdown of his cell phone usage.
"It's hard to put a number on it and I'd hate to even guess," he said. "I don't want to give you a false number."
Webber's report said the town is nearing a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with a solar developer who has proposed a development on East Harbor Road.
He said it looks as though the agreement would provide the town $11,000 annually per megawatt. The proposed array would be 5 megawatts and contain 17,000 panels. This would mean $55,000 annually for the town.
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Cheshire Selectmen Eye Salary Increases in FY21 Budget
By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The fiscal 2021 budget preparation dominated at Tuesday night's Selectmen's meeting.
Aside from reviewing the Board of Health and Council on Aging operating budgets, the board discussed at length what some members see as stagnant salaries for many town positions.
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV recently undertook a salary study with input from the Massachusetts Municipal Association's Human Resources department. Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi feels Cheshire has fallen behind other similar communities in compensating it's employees.
"Based on feedback that we received at the town meeting last year, a concerted effort has been made by the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee towards improving the overall salary structure of our town. We have been undercompensating our employees, we do recognize that, and it's something we are looking to address," she said to the virtual attendees.