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The Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee approved the transfers at a joint meeting Monday night.

Lanesborough Closes Book on Fiscal 2019

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The Board of Selectmen recognized Town Clerk Ruth Knysh for six years of service.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen closed the fiscal year's books on Monday after transferring some $63,538 from health insurance to cover deficits elsewhere in the budget.
 
Of particular concern for Finance Committee member Ronald Tinkham was a $45,167 overage in winter roads supplies and repairs.
 
The town, under the previous manager, had been creeping that budget figure up to become more accurate. Tinkham believes that should continue to eliminate deficits.
 
"We need to be sensitive to that when we establish next year's budget," Tinkham said.
 
Town Manager Kelli Robbins disagrees. The yearly expenses are difficult to predict and Robbins believes the $45,000 is a small amount easily covered elsewhere in the budget. She'd rather do it via transfers if needed than to overbudget, taxing the residents for money the town doesn't need.
 
"Going over $50,000 for winter roads in minuscule," Robbins said.
 
This year the transfers were covered from two health insurance lines -- one for school retirees and one for active employees. Robbins said there is a large balance left in that account because the insurance company provided one month free.
 
Tinkham questioned a few other lines such as $2,104 for the town manager salary. That hasn't been done in the past, he said. Robbins responded that the town paid the former administrator to stay on for three additional weeks, which wasn't budgeted, during the transition and that's why the account is over.
 
Tinkham asked about an overage for non-regional schools, which is tuition. Robbins said one student had left the district and the money had been transferred out previously when the town was unaware of another bill coming in.
 
In other business, the town settled on what it will ask for a local contribution from Royal Hemp LLC. Chocolatier Lev Kelman is looking to open a manufacturing facility of THC-infused chocolate at the former Arizona Pizza building on Cheshire Road. He's been working with the town on a local host agreement.
 
The Board of Selectmen agreed that it would request 3 percent for an impact fee, 3 percent of the sales taxes, and 2 percent for a local host fee. In all that would have 8 percent of the sales going to the town.
 
Robbins said that is somewhat comparable to Great Barrington and Pittsfield. In Pittsfield, the city gets 3 percent impact fee, 3 percent sales tax, and requests that a retailer makes a $10,000 annual donation to a local non-profit.
 
The city also includes a sliding scale with the 3 percent impact fee. For the first year it is either 3 percent or $60,000, whichever is lower, $100,000 or 3 percent the next, $150,000 or 3 percent the next, and then $200,000 or 3 percent in subsequent years.
 
Selectman Gordon Hubbard said he likes the additional fee to be a percentage instead of a set number like $10,000 that way if a business has a bad year, the town isn't making it worse, and the town makes out better if the business is successful.
 
Also, the board finally approved the request for qualifications to do a feasibility study on a new or renovated police station. The town is asking a qualified vendor to do a feasibility study mainly on three properties: the current station, Vacation Village, and a parcel in front of Laston Field.
 
The study will identify the department's needs and see if a renovation to the current station is feasible. If not, it will look at building new on the existing site, building new at Laston, or renovating a building at Vacation Village. 
 
The town also took a moment to recognize Town Clerk Ruth Knysh for her sixth year working for the town.

Tags: fiscal 2019,   snow & ice,   

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Lanesborough Planning Board Extends Solar Permits

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent

Representatives of solar developer Engie North America address the Planning Board on Monday night.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Solar power was the topic of the evening at the Planning Board meeting on Monday night as the board extended permits for three large commercial solar operations. 
 
Engie North America Inc. was seeking an extension to special permits previously issued for projects at 405 South Main St. (Skyline Country Club), 550 North Main St. (Pillar LLC), and land on Partridge Road owned by Petricca Development. The substantial use permit expired on Aug. 20 and the company is seeking an extension to the end of the year. The extension was made necessary by recent snags in obtaining the panels.
 
"We can get the panels, but in mid-June there was an exemption that was put in on bifacial (two-sided) solar panels to the tariffs that are being imposed on imported solar panels," said Matt Singer, project developer for Engie. "What that did was really turn the solar module market upside down. We were pretty far along with a supplier, ready to finalize a deal, then the market changed overnight and [the supplier] essentially backed out and we had to line up a new supplier. Which we did."
 
All the sites had minor issues that were addressed by Engie.
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