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Cheshire Appoints St. John as Interim Town Administrator

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The two selectman were unanimous on Tuesday in voting to hire Edmund St. John IV as the interim town administrator for four months.
 
The agreement puts behind the discord that occurred over who to hire for the post, at least for the time being. 
 
Retiring Town Administrator Mark Webber told the board that all three original finalist candidates for the permanent position were interested in the interim position. The selectmen decided on St. John, who had stepped down as selectman to apply for the administrative post.
 
"They are coming in at a hard time as far as the budget and I think we need someone that has some idea of the town and our needs," Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said. "Someone who is familiar with the people in the organization. That is why I still support Ed."
 
Selectman Robert Ciskowski, who favored candidate Thomas Spiro, former program coordinator at Elms College's Greenfield campus and town administrative aide in Conway, agreed with Francesconi’s reasoning. 
 
"I still like the experience of Tom Spiro but I think I am going to defer to your thinking on this," he said.
 
This decision follows a series of contentious meetings during which the two members were deadlocked between the two candidates.
 
Just last week, they came to an agreement and decided to reach out to the three finalists to see if any of them would be willing to serve as interim until the May town elections could provide a third board member and tie-breaking vote.
 
Plan B was for Webber to stay on until May if the finalists were not interested. 
 
There was still some discussion on how the process would go forth and Ciskowski, who thought continuity was critical when discussing options, said the selectmen could either make their decision and award the position to the interim administrator at the end of the four-month period or reopen the process once there is a full board.
 
Or, appoint the interim for a one-year term to allow some stability to give the new board time to decide what direction it wished to take.
 
"We are the board and we are the approving authority and I am going to use the word saddle but it's not the right word," he said. "Maybe we, after three months, just give the new board an administrator for a year term. We can't tailor exactly what we do to the new board."
 
Webber said he thought this was fair and noted if new board members do not approve of the administrator, they do not have to renew the one-year term.
 
Francesconi is up for election this year and there is the possibility the board could have two new members. 
 
The selectmen noted they would have to negotiate a salary with St. John as well as hours.
 
The selectmen said they would like to have St. John start in one week, on Dec. 11. Webber said he would stay on until Jan. 1 to help with the transition.

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Cheshire Tackling Budget Process, Phase II Reopening

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Staff
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen elected a new chair Tuesday night as Michelle Francesconi was elevated to the seat for the first time. 
 
Francesconi was elected in 2019 when the board expanded from three seats to five. She will take over for Robert Ciskowski, who was roundly thanked by his fellow board members for his leadership over the past year.
 
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV is preparing to work with a 1/12th budget scenario for the first part of fiscal 2021. Cheshire, like many other municipalities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, has postponed its annual town meeting past the state's June 30 deadline, thus preventing them from finalizing a budget. 
 
State revenue and local aid numbers are unknown at this point but are expected to take a significant hit because of the pandemic. St. John and the board feel this is the most prudent course of action.
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