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The two remaining selectmen have been unable to agree on a town administrator or a temporary replacement.

Cheshire Selectmen Still Gridlocked on Town Administrator

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The town's two selectmen continued to butt heads during a contentious meeting Tuesday over the town administrator post. Two weeks ago, they couldn't agree on one of the preferred candidates and this week could not agree on a temporary replacement.

"So, in other words, we are going nowhere," Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said.

They had narrowed the applicant pool to two candidates: Selectman Robert Ciskowski favored Thomas Spiro, the former program coordinator at Elms College's Greenfield campus and town administrative aide in Conway, while Francesconi favored attorney and former selectman Edmund St. John IV.

Last week, St. John asked to withdraw his name from consideration and Ciskowski threatened to resign if he was hired, however, Francesconi was not willing to vote for Spiro.

The Selectmen discussed a few different options going forward but Tuesday, Francesconi suggested hiring former selectman of 12 years Daniel Delorey as the interim town administrator to carry the board to the May elections.

"There wouldn't be a lot of training needed for the six months and he wouldn't be someone out of the blue coming in to meet everyone and having to figure out our routine," she said. "Dan at least knows the characters in the town … and he certainly knows the budget process."

She said if the position is posted in March, the selectmen would have a few weeks to conduct interviews and narrow their search. She said if they are still split, the new selectman elected to complete St. John's term could break the tie in May. She said the candidates could attend the interviews and get up to date on who the board is considering.

The other option was to hold a special election in two months and hire a new town administrator once there is a full board. Francesconi discouraged this because that selectman would then have to run again in May.

Ciskowksi said he was not comfortable hiring Delorey and that he would favor an outside person to take charge of the town.

"Dan was a selectman and the candidate we stumbled over was a selectman and I think selectmen are part of the problem in this town," he said. "We have got the town in the situation that we are in now … I would like to look outside the town. I think we could use a perspective outside of our inner circle."

Ciskowski was also hesitant to hire someone on an interim basis and train him or her only to train a new person who would be hired permanently.

He would not budge on Francesconi's motion and instead motioned to hire Spiro. After the motion failed, he motioned to hire Marian Carr, the third town administrator candidate both selectmen agreed was not their top choice.

Francesconi also left this motion unanswered.

Outgoing Town Administrator Mark Webber did add that an interim town administrator would merely "hold down the fort."

"Any interim in any situation is going to be a short-timer and they are just here to hold down the fort and keep fires under control," he said. "It is not a lot more than that so whoever you get is really for that purpose."

Town Clerk Christine Emerson agreed and thought Delorey was a good pick especially with his budgeting knowledge.

"To me, this is a compromise and Dan was a good selectman," she said. "He is an excellent figure man when it comes to the budget and to get us to May … I think it is a perfect fit. He knows everyone here and would be able to hit the ground running."

Francesconi asked Ciskowski if he wanted to hold a special election instead and have Webber stay on another two months.

Ciskowski said he had advocated for the town hold a special election immediately once St. John resigned.

"I wanted a special election then and I was told let's wait and see what happens … I am not really sure what was really supposed to happen," he said. "I think if we did it then at my suggestion then two months would be done, and we would have an election and be out of this deadlock … this seems self-induced."

Francesconi did not recall this sentiment and said she did not remember a motion or vote.

"That is a cop-out Bob and you agreed. It is not like you said, no I don't think we should wait, you never said that," she said. "You never said to me that you were opposed to this 100 percent … I would know that Bob. I am not that senile or old that I would forget that."

Ciskowski said he did not think the minutes truly reflect the discussion that goes on at meetings and added that the board does not solidify decisions in votes as much as they should.

Reaching a boiling point, Francesconi asked Ciskowski what he wanted to do and said she was not sold on Delorey if Ciskowksi did not have someone in mind.

Ciskowski did float going without a town administrator for a few months as they have done in the past but eventually looked to Town Accountant Lynne Lemanski who stopped in the Selectmen's room.

"I think she is well respected and she is included in current day-to-day things in the town," he said.

Francesconi asked Lemanski if she was interested.

"I can clearly help out with budgets … I haven't thought about it seriously I'd have to talk about it with Mark," she said. "I know I can help with certain things, but I would have to talk with Mark and see what it is all about."

With no clear agreement in sight, Francesconi asked that they move on with other business.

Even before the town administrator discussion, resident Charmaine Paquette accused Ciskowksi of age discrimination and asked him to resign.

"That is as far as I know against the law — age discrimination … I would like the person that it was said about to file a lawsuit against the town," Paquette said. "I think for the good of the town you should resign."

Last meeting, Ciskowksi said he was willing to cast his vote in St. John's favor but would resign. He said even though he thought St. John was a "great person" he would have a difficult time working with him because of a "philosophical difference" and a "generational difference."

Ciskowksi said he thought Paquette was twisting his words and fired back.

"You should do something about it please proceed," he said. "You don't want to know what I would think would be the best for the town for you either."

Ciskowksi then clarified his statement but said he stood by it.

"That candidate has a totally different attitude about things because he does not have the experiences that some of us people have had in various areas that he would be dealing with," he said. "He has expressed that difference to me many times and I think he would have a difficult time."

The two went back in forth cutting each other off. Paquette called Ciskowski arrogant and said his attitude will deter young families from moving to town.

Ciskowski said he is only doing what he thinks is best for the town and that he was confident young families will move to Cheshire. 

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Cheshire Select Board Discusses CARES Act Funding

By Gregory FournieriBerkshires Correspondent

CHESHIRE, Mass.—The Selectmen on Tuesday discussed CARES Act spending with Town Accountant Lynne Lemanski.

The town has "requested almost up to the limit of what [Cheshire is] eligible for," Lemanski said. She noted that the town is eligible for $277,199 and it has requested $276,828 thus far. Cheshire must request the remaining funds and spend them before the end of the year or return them to the state government.

Cheshire has left unspent close to $110,000, and the Selectmen brainstormed ideas about where to spend the remaining money.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding is limited to certain types of expenditures, including public health infrastructure and unemployment for municipal workers. In keeping with these restrictions, Selectman Ray Killeen suggested buying some portable pump-operated hand-washing or sanitizing stations.

Noting that Cheshire is opening up and have more events, Killeen said it would be beneficial "to have six or seven [stations] on hand so as people mingle, they have the ability to sanitize [their] hands."

Selectman Jason Levesque noted that the Appalachian Trail campsite on Church Street could use this for the through hikers to wash their hands.

Selectman Shawn McGrath wondered if personal protective equipment (PPE) "can be purchased [by the town] up front in case there's a spike" in COVID-19 cases in the future.

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