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Clarksburg Raises Water District Rates

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Homeowners in the Briggsville Water District will be seeing their annual bills more than double in just 18 months.
 
The Select Board, acting as the water commissioners, voted on Nov. 14 to increase the yearly rate by $120 effective Jan. 1, 2019.  The new rate beginning for 2019 will be $450. Bills are paid quarterly.
 
"It's something that I think is important," said Chairman Ronald Boucher. "What's in front of this board, what needs to be done for the Briggsville Water District, I think that raising the rate is appropriate."
 
The Select Board in July 2017 raised the rate from $200 to $300, and increased it again by $30, to $330, this past July 1.
 
Members of the water district, which serves about 180 people, voted more than a year ago for the town to take over the operations of the private water system, which has not had a functioning board in years. It was established by the Legislature in 1980 at the request of the users to take the place of the defunct Red Mills Water Co.
 
While some upgrades have been done over the years, the water district had largely been serviced by one member in a volunteer position. Water users were warned that rates would have to be raised to address infrastructure issues that had included leaks over the past few years that left many homes without pressure for days.
 
At the time of the takeover, the system was only taking in about $13,000 a year — not enough to make substantial improvements and hire a certified water operator. 
 
Town Administrator Carl McKinney said the new rate of $450 a year was "within range of what is standard for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."
 
The district has to take in enough revenue to hire the operator and meet the requirements of a public water system, he said. 
 
The board, however, said it will continue to address issues regarding the town's takeover of the district. None of the members of the current board were in office when the discussions on the takeover and the eventual vote took place. 
 
Select Board member Karin Robert, in particular, has been concerned about the legality and the perception of the town operating a public water system that covers only a small percentage of the community.
 
Robert said she had looked through the enabling act of 1980 and "there are all sorts of things in there that the town is not doing and that the water district has not lived up to and the agreement itself, we are in violation of it."
 
She questioned if the Select Board could even be the water commissioners. The phrasing in the act states they must be "inhabitants of and voters in the District."
 
Boucher suggested putting further discussion on the agenda for the Nov. 28 meeting. The board also voted to request Todd Driscoll, owner of the former North Adams Country Club, to attend that meeting after the town discovered a lateral sewer line had been installed (but not connected) from his property without permits or permission.
 
In other business: 
 
Clarksburg instituted the winter parking ban that prohibits parking on town roads at night or during winter storms from Nov. 1 to April 30. 
 
•  The board voted to add in a paragraph to the employee handbook under retirement/health insurance that "for the purpose of retirement health insurance, an employee must have been regular municipal, county or state employee with 10 years of continuous service during which he or she was eligible for benefit coverage."
 
The change was made because of a number of instances when the town has had to pick up coverage for retirees who had only worked for the town for a short period of time. 

Tags: drinking water,   water district,   

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Debate Over Solar Carports Heats Up in Clarksburg

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Planners Erin Scott, Gregory Vigna, Vincent King and Karin Robert look over the plans for the solar carports. 
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Planning Board says the structures at the former country club are ground-mounted solar arrays; the developer says they are carports with solar-panel roofs. 
 
The debate over the definition of the structures — and whether there was a permit issued for their construction — lead to heated exchanges between town officials and the owner at last week's Planning Board meeting. 
 
"They're solar arrays masquerading as carports," said Planning Board member Karin Robert.
 
The three structures were installed by BVD Solar, a solar development company owned by Todd Driscoll, who also owns the golf course. Driscoll pointed out several times during the evening that he does not own structures but builds them for solar companies. 
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