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Biagini And DeFino Vie For Cheshire Selectman Seat

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Mark Biagini is campaigning on infrastructure needs and a more open government.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Mark Biagini and Donna DeFino are vying for the open three-year selectman seat to be vacated by longtime Selectwoman Carol Francesconi.
This is Biagini's second attempt to land a seat on the board and, he said, move the town forward.
"I felt that I still wanted to help the town so I decided to try again and see what happens," he said. "I grew up in town, have always been in town, and I have some ideas."
Biagini, a manager at Walmart, unsuccessfully ran against current Selectman Robert Ciskowski in 2018.
One of Biagini's main concerns is town infrastructure and he believes the town has to dig deep for grants or start allocating money to address those roads.  
The aging fire station is also a concern.
"I just think that we're spending just too much money on the old fire station here and I don't think we're really looking at the overall picture," he said. 
Biagini is a proponent of utilizing the former Cheshire Elementary School for town needs and not only would he like to see Town Hall moved there, but also the fire station. 
"I think we need to see what is out there for grants -- state and federal and maybe spend a little bit of our own money," he said. "I think we need to try to combine everything. There is perfect access there. In and out."
Biagini also wants a more open government with which people feel comfortable getting involved.
"I would like to see the townspeople be more involved and comfortable expressing their own opinions," he said. "They should not be afraid to come up to express their opinions."
Biagini said he just wants to make Cheshire a better place.
"I grew up in town and my father was always involved in town and I just want to try to make the town better," he said. "I want to try the best I can to try to fix what I can."

Donna DeFino says her financial skills will be a benefit to the town. 
DeFino said she is ready for the next  step after three years as chairman of the Planning Board.
"I felt that the skill set that I have developed over the last three years has prepared me to take the next step up and to get more involved than I already have been," she said. "I want to educate myself on all the other nuances of town business and to bring my unique skills to the table."
DeFino, a former business owner and current accounting manager of Advanced Berkshire Medical Imaging at BBerkshire Health Systems, said she has worked over the years with a diverse group of people and has a strong background in finances.
"I understand that if you have $2 and you've got to stretch it to $5 you've got to find innovative ways of doing that," she said. "You have to start looking at other ways of dealing with the financial aspect of the town to make sure that there's continuity that we can continue not only to survive but to thrive."
DeFino said she was concerned with the increasing education budget that continues to eat away at the municipal budget. She said this means less money to address the town's aging infrastructure. The town needs to find a way to remedy these issues while staying clear of the levy limit, she continued.
She also is worried about the former Cheshire Elementary School and noted many of the discussed uses will be incredibly expensive and unlikely.
"What else can we do with that school to get it back on the tax rolls?... This is something that needs some attention," DFino said. "I don't know what the answer is ... but I am open to different ideas but unless you can see that from planned straight through to fruition it is a wish list." 
DeFino said she is also worried about the condition of the fire station and that she thought the town should explore grant opportunities to remediate the failing building.
"We have to take care of our volunteers and part of that is taking care of their building," she said. "Whether it's a continuity fund or whatever has to be done to get that building back to where it should be. It's in the perfect spot."
DeFino said Francesconi gave 30 years to the town and she wants the opportunity to start with three. 
"She's done an exemplary job and I'm hoping that I'm given the opportunity to put three into the board," she said. "If I'm fortunate to do half as well as she has, I think that with all of the experience that I have it would be beneficial for Cheshire to put me into the select board seat."
The election will be Monday, May 6, at the Community Center. The Council on Aging is hosting a candidate forum there on Friday, May 3, at 7 p.m.

Tags: election 2019,   town elections,   

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Cheshire Town Meeting Approves $6.6M Budget, Rejects Pot Bylaws

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Carol Francesconi takes the gavel as moderator for the meeting. 
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Town meeting on Tuesday night rejected four citizens' petitions that would have greatly limited marijiuna facilities.
Voters did approve amended versions of the 16 other articles on the annual town meeting warrant during a nearly three-hour session held in the Hoosac Valley High School gym. 
That included a revised fiscal 2021 budget of $6,640,131.64, authorizations for purchasing a number of vehicles and the redirection of $60,000 approved last year but unused toward a design work for turning Cheshire School into a municipal complex.  
The marijuana bylaws would have required any growing facility to file a water usage report annually to the town; allowed only one non-retail cannabis facility in town; broadened the definition of "facility" to include accessories such as fences, plants and related items; set up a 24-hour odor control; and asked the Planning Board to revisit its approved bylaw. 
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