LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — A special town meeting will ask voters for approval to fund renovations to the police station, restore the cupola on Town Hall, and switch the regular town meeting to Saturday, among other topics.
The special town meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 6 p.m. to vote on 10 articles. Three of the articles asks to move money around for the police station renovation, a project already done but missing a source of funds.
Selectman Robert Ericson had headed the project at the station with state Green Communities Act funding. But, that funding only covered a certain amount and the town was responsible for funding the rest. Ericson had continued with the project after receiving the OK from former Town Manager Paul Sieloff but somewhere along the line, the town's portion of the funding fell through.
Shortly after taking over as town manager, Kelli Robbins found the oversight. Robbins and the Board of Selectmen paused Ericson's work, allowing him to wrap up the phases he had already begun, and is now asking voters to transfer funds from other capital projects to cover the work.
"I trusted Paul to do what he needed to do and he didn't do it," Ericson said, believing the Sieloff had a funding mechanism in place.
Voters will be asked to transfer a total of $13,000 to the project -- $5,000 from the town's building repair engineering services line; $6,946.24 from parking lot repaving; and $1,053.76 from a backhoe line.
The way that unfolded particularly irked resident Michelle Johnson, who on Monday evening questioned the Selectmen on what happened. If Ericson had given the project's budget to Sieloff in February, she said, then he should have followed through to make sure there was money in the town's budget at the regular town meeting.
"I think the ball was dropped pretty heavy on that police project. It is disappointing," Johnson said.
The Selectmen are also looking to change the annual town meeting from a Tuesday to a Saturday in June. The article on the special town meeting warrant asks to change the town's bylaws to read "annual town meeting shall be held on the first Saturday of June of each year."
Chairman John Goerlach said a number of residents have asked for such a change and the hope is that it will increase attendance. A time for those meetings hasn't been determined yet but it will presumably be during the day.
"If we get a worse attendance, we can switch it back to the way it was," Ericson said.
The special town meeting asks to transfer $20,000 from the budget line for retaining wall engineering to pay for roof repairs at Town Hall and save the cupola. Town Hall's roof is leaking, particularly around the cupola, which had been repaired a couple times but now is too rotten. The Board of Selectmen is still waiting on getting quotes for the project, both with replacing the cupola and without.
Article 7 asks voters to transfer money from the tax collection software account to the more general software account to the tune of $12,777. Article 9 asks voters to approve transferring $9,420 from the capital stabilization account to pay for the replacement of the air conditioner in the library.
In other business, Robbins is still looking for grant funding through the state's Community Compact project to implement a more transparent financial software -- one that allows residents better access.
"Lanesborough's residents should have as much information in as easy of a format as possible that we can provide them to show how we are using money and that everything is open and transparent," Robbins said.
She wants to bring in the software Cleargov and has a contract with the company. But she had to reapply to the Community Compact program so any contract can't be signed just yet.
Robbins also found an issue with benefits paid to part-time workers in Town Hall. The town's policy doesn't provide permanent part-time employees working less than 20 hours a week holiday pay. But, two of the four in that category were putting in for it and getting paid while the other two weren't.
Robbins put a halt to the holiday payments, much to the chagrin of those two employees who had been getting it all along.
The town manager is now proposing a change to the town's policy to give holiday pay to those working 18 hours or more, which will cover all of the employees in this particular non-union situation. She is also putting forward a provision allowing them to put in for bereavement.
"Some people were getting paid for holidays, some people were not getting paid for holidays -- strange and arbitrary at best," she said.
Robbins said this would align practice with policy and adding bereavement is something she believes is a good gesture of goodwill to the workers. The change wouldn't affect seasonal workers or anyone covered by a collective bargaining contract.
Goerlach is a little reserved about the move, however, fearing that other town employees could ultimately make a push for the same benefits during contract negotiations.
"I don't want to give anyone a bargaining chip that would come back affecting 20 more people," Goerlach said.
The Selectmen are also looking to install a bright light on an existing utility pole on Bull Hill Road to provide for better safety for people fishing. The causeway is used often by residents for fishing but the road is narrow and dark. Adding another light is seen as a way to help improve safety for now.
The board also wants to look into getting state funds to renovate the area, much like is being done with the Narragansett Avenue bridge.
As for the ongoing saga of the ambulance service, Robbins still hasn't received quotes from private services to take over the town's operations. But she did track down a request for proposal that can be modified for the town if the board chooses.
She is also looking into a project in Deerfield where three towns joined together to run a service, wondering if such a model could work here. Robbins asked Berkshire Regional Planning Commission if it could craft a similar concept for Lanesborough and other towns.
"I am still looking for options," she said.
Trick or treat is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 31, from 5 until 7.
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Licensing Board extended the hours that the Proprietor's Lodge can serve alcohol on its patios to help accommodate social distancing while dining.
The board acted Wednesday on a request from the lodge's owner Eric Taylor, despite concern from the neighborhood, that would provide the restaurant a lifeline during the reopening process.
"This is a unique situation and Mr. Taylor is in a difficult situation much like other restaurants across the state," Chairman Thomas Campoli said. "The neighbors have a legitimate point about this but I believe there ought to be some accommodation to this restaurant and I think we have to view this through the prism of the pandemic."
Taylor said the COVID-19 pandemic has already dampened the summer season and essentially all weddings and events at the lodge have been canceled. They now hope to shift more toward the restaurant portion of the business and promote its outdoor space that will allow more seating while social distancing.