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Voters approve just about everything on the warrant, rejecting only one article to switch the town meeting to a Saturday.

Lanesborough Approves Police Station, Town Hall Repairs

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Police Chief Timothy Sorrell has been pushing for a new station and a feasibility study is the first step in securing grant funding to build it.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The town voted to fund the renovation of the Police Station but will also consider a feasibility study for a new structure in the future.
 
At a special town meeting Tuesday, voters approved transferring $13,00 from other accounts to pay for the renovations Selectman Robert Ericson has undertaken.
 
But that wasn't without a push to use those funds instead for a feasibility study for a new station.
 
"The renovation looks nice but eventually we are going to need a new facility," Chief Timothy Sorrell said.
 
The 151-year-old building has fallen into severe disrepair so much so that the police officer's union, Lanesborough Police Officers Association MassCop, Local 390, filed written complaints with the town about it several times.
 
Sorrell said the building has outlived its purpose and he wants the town to build another one on a plot of land owned by the town on Prospect Street. That starts with a feasibility study and state Sen. Adam Hinds has joined the effort in helping to find funding for such a project once that study is done.
 
Two years ago, Ericson started an effort to rehabilitate the building on his own. He plotted out a multi-phase project, $11,000 of which is being paid for through the state's Green Communities Program. The project involves a significant amount of weatherization and insulation.
 
Ericson developed the plans with input from the Police Department and eventually set on doing the work himself. The retired engineer has been focused on the southernmost portion of the building and eyes moving across to the rest. But progress has been slow and the Board of Selectmen have been pushing him to get more accomplished.
 
In the last few days, Ericson and other volunteers finished the first section, which is about a third of the total project. 
 
But throughout, the town hadn't had an identified source of its portion of the cost. The former town manager had a pool of money eyed for it but never made it into the budget. The state is only paying for the weatherization aspect, leaving a gap for the rest. The town asked voters on Tuesday for $13,000 to be moved from other places in the budget to make Ericson's project whole.
 
"We're trying to improve the situation and make it better for the police officers," Ericson said.
 
The idea of a new building has been a constant source of conversation. Hinds has toured the building and said he'd make an effort to help secure funds. But Ericson said a 2013 estimate would put the cost of a new building at $717,000, which could be even more given so much time has passed.
 
"My concern is that Lanesborough already has the second highest tax rate in Berkshire County," Ericson said. "It seems to me outlandish to spend another $700,000 or more to build a new police station."
 
Residents, however, pushed to use the money instead for a feasibility study to move along the process of a new building. However, Town Manager Kelli Robbins said the $13,000 wouldn't likely be enough. 
 
Others were taken aback by the concept of a new building being brought up at a lowly attended town meeting. There were only about 30 residents present for the meeting with a fairly vanilla warrant.
 
And yet others felt that the town will still want to use the building in the future and the money is still worth being spent. 
 
Voters also approved $20,000 to repair the roof at Town Hall. The goal is to repair both the roof and the cupola — though the Board of Selectmen may opt against doing the cupola if the price is too much. Robbins said the $20,000 is sufficient to cover either option.
 

The special town meeting was the first for new Moderator Chris Dodig. Dodig won the election in the spring and takes over for the former longtime Moderator Robert Reilly.
Perhaps the lengthiest discussion on Tuesday was whether or not to switch town meeting to a weekend. The Board of Selectmen put forth an idea of moving town meeting from the second Tuesday in June to the first Saturday in June. The hope was that more people would be able to attend.
 
But ultimately, the voters decided to leave town meeting on a Tuesday evening. 
 
"Many seniors do not like to drive at night, this will allow for seniors to hopefully attend more town meetings," said Finance Committee member Ronald Tinkham. "The intent is to take it out of a dark period of the day and into a light period of the day."
 
But the first Saturday didn't stick with everybody and a few amendments were made to accommodate. Ericson started by amending it to the second Saturday in June in hopes to avoid high school graduations. Donald Dermyer then amended that to provide either that Saturday or the June, so the Selectmen could go back to the Tuesday meeting without having it go to another vote.
 
"The intention of this article is to get more attendance. If we don't get more attendance, then I'd like to go back," Dermyer said.
 
The Mount Greylock Regional School graduation isn't always on the first Saturday; in fact, this upcoming year it is on the second. So Dermyer's amendment failed. Ericson then tried to pull his amendment back but Moderator Chris Dodig opted to put it to a vote. And that amendment failed. 
 
Back at the original petition, Dermyer then put forth an amendment to allow the Selectmen to select a date for the annual town meeting. 
 
Town Secretary Diane Stevens, however, said that would cause more confusion with people not knowing when the meeting is scheduled. She opted for consistency. And resident Barbara Hassan didn't think it was right to give a three-member board the ability to choose at their convenience and not the townspeople. 
 
"Right now we have a standard, as the legislation reads now, we know it is going to be the second Tuesday in June," Hassan said.
 
A number of people said no matter what, there are going to be conflicts in scheduling. And ultimately, the decision was made to keep it as is.
 
"Trying to find a time that people can come to a meeting is next to impossible," said Al Terranova.
 
That was the only item to be rejected in the 10-article warrant. However, two were postponed: one relating to connecting Berkshire Village to the town's water system because the price still is unknown and another to adopt provisions allow the town clerk to charge fees because it had already been adopted in the past.

Tags: municipal buildings,   police station,   special town meeting,   

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Pittsfield Airport to Serve as Hub For Disaster Preparedness

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent

Thomas Grady, left, Robert Czerwinski, and Lucy Britton at Wednesday's Central Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee meeting.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Berkshire County has received a total of $71,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a "point of distribution," or POD, training grant to aid residents in the event of a public disaster or emergency. 
 
The Central Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee announced the grants at its meeting Wednesday morning in Lanesborough.
 
Central Berkshire received $25,000 while the Northern and Southern Berkshire committees each were awarded $23,000 from the highly competitive grant program.
 
Bruce Augusti from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's regional office in Agawam was in attendance to break the news and give credit to the parties involved.
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