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The five candidates are each given five minutes on Friday to make their final pitches to voters.

Five Candidates Make Final Pitch to Cheshire Voters

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The five candidates vying to two seats on the Board of Selectmen made their final pitches to dozens of residents at the Community Center on Friday night.
 
The forum, hosted by Gene Gebarowski, gave the candidates five minutes each to address the crowd before breaking into informal question-and-answer sessions. The two seats up for election will expand the Board of Selectmen from three members to five.
 
First up were the three candidates running for one two-year term. 
 
Michael "Mickey" Biagini touted his long history of working for the town and the knowledge that brings. He's been on the Board of Health for 14 years and volunteered for years on the Fire Department, which he believes gives him an intrinsic knowledge of the town.
 
"I've been involved in it all my life starting with the cemetery and the highway department when I was a teen," Biagini said. 
 
He said a priority would be the town's infrastructure and he is not in favor of sharing services with other towns.
 
"There is just so much that needs to be done with the infrastructure of the town, the highway equipment, the fire department, roads, and I feel that being involved as long as I have I can be an asset," Biagini said. "It's been a reactive board, I want to make it proactive."
 
Ron DeAngelis, longtime Petricca Industries employee, followed and quickly dove into fiscal issues facing the town. 
 
"Towns like Cheshire are going to have a hard time raising the capital to keep up with needed infrastructure improvements yet keep the town affordable for an aging population to remain here," he said.
 
He sees the now shuttered Cheshire School as potentially part of the solution. 
 
"The school is one of our greatest resources," he said. "We have to be careful what we do with it because if we do the wrong thing we're giving away a great asset that could bring revenue to the town." 
 
He sees sharing services in the future as a possible budget shrinker, "because all local towns are shrinking in population, we should be utilizing each other by sharing special equipment, and maybe even managers or supervisors. I think it's the way of the future for us."
 
E. Richard Sholz, meanwhile, believes his worldwide work experience will make him an effective selectman.
 
"I've worked nationally and internationally in the wireless and telecom field, I've done some extremely large and complex project management," he  said. "I have a lot of experience working with different people. I run budgets. I also did three years on the Finance Board."
 
He cited several specific projects both here and abroad and feels this experience makes him ideal for the expanded board. He also said he was first introduced the idea of expanding the Board of Selectmen from three to five members.
 
Sholz also mentioned road infrastructure as an immediate concern. He hopes to tap all resources possible to make improvements.
 
"Think of the roads as a boat," he told the crowd. "It's sinking faster than we can bail it out ... I'll be more than happy to go to Boston, to get to know our state rep our, state senator. I have a track record of being innovative. The reason we have two new seats is because I pushed for five long years."
 
Two candidates are seeking one, three-year term. 
 
Donna Defino, who also serves as the Planning Board chairman and town moderator, spoke about her experience in the private sector. 
 
"A lot of different hats," was the way she described her work as a one time small business owner and current position as an account manager in the medical field.
 
Defino emphasized her passion for town service.
 
"You have to be able to deal graciously and with respect to people who aren't happy with the situation. Not everyone is going to be happy with what the board is doing, you have to be able to listen, consider, and give them your time," she said.
 
Michelle Francesconi, the second candidate for the three-year term, went last and the former police officer spoke of her plans should she win the seat.
 
"We need a fresh take, a fresh vision. We need to clearly define who we are as a town," she said. 
 
She sees the town's natural resources and the surrounding areas as possible sources of revenue and she sees the need for a strategic plan to be developed to help focus the board on making long-term decisions. 
 
"We have the rail trail, the lake, and the Appalachian Trail. Take the assets that we already have and then look at the cultural destinations nearby to Cheshire and ask 'How can we harness that energy and turn it into revenue?'" Francesconi said.
 
"If we continue to make decisions on an as-needed basis the scope of what you want to accomplish becomes very blurry ... I want my children to grow up and want to come back here."
 
The polls will be open from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday for the special election at the Community and Senior Center on School Street.

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Cheshire Still Seeking Right Fiscal Equation For Elementary School

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent

The Selectmen have hoped to use the former school as a revenue generator. 
CHESHIRE, Mass. — When the Cheshire Elementary School was closed two years ago, the only silver lining to be found was the potential revenue source it might provide to the town through leasing the space privately. 
 
The Board of Selectmen are still working hard to figure out a formula that works.
 
Tuesday night's meeting was a good example as the board weighed the cost of temporary heating upgrades for the cafeteria versus rent the town receives from tenants. The upgrades would essentially serve one tenant that holds fitness classes in the west wing of the building. The school currently has three lessees: Youth Center Inc., the school district administration, and Berkshire Body.
 
"Electric heaters look to be the safest and most cost effective means to provide heating for the space," said Town Administrator Edmund St. John III. "We estimate the cost of the installation will be somewhere around $3,500." 
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