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Cheshire Hires New Highway Superintendent

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
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Chairman Robert Ciskowski says he is pleased at the way the newly expanded board, seen in this file photo, is working together.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Board of Selectmen hired Robert Navin on Tuesday night as the new Highway Department superintendent after a two-month process.
The job became available when Blair Crane resigned the same position this summer. Foreman Jason Hoellerich has been acting superintendent and will return to his position pending a successful salary package negotiation. 
Navin didn't mince words when it came to his qualifications.
"Sixteen years in municipal highway experience and before that 17 years in construction, mechanical, and fabrication experience," he said. "For the hands-on part of the position, I'm more than familiar with any situation. I've enrolled and attended every course, class, seminar, or meeting possible to gain knowledge in municipal highway operations."
Navin spent 15 years on the highway crew in Richmond before taking the same job in Stockbridge for a year. He feels those experiences will benefit the town of Cheshire.
"[I've done] anything from snow and ice operation, spreader calibration, grader operation and technology, better pavement technology, and a series on succeeding as a foreman/supervisor," he said.  "My network is large and very supportive. I bring an open mind and willingness to hopefully unite the highway crew, select board, and townspeople to better Cheshire."
Navin's was one of about a dozen resumes received by the town for the position. He left Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV with the salary package he is looking for. 
Board member Jason Levesque addressed a circulating rumor surrounding the hiring process. Specifically that the "fix was in."
"When did I first meet you?" he asked Navin. To which he replied, "Last week, that I know of." 
Levesque then continued, "I just want to put to bed some public perception that this was a, well, predetermined outcome."
 Selectwoman Michelle Francesconi echoed Levesque's point.
"Clearly your name got out long before you were ever a contender in my mind and I want it to be known to the community that we, collectively, brought you here ... under a completely fair and balanced process," she said.
Chairman Robert Ciskowski admitted he was acquainted with Navin before the process began but they had never shared more than a few moments together outside of crossing paths at work.
"Do we go out to dinner together? Are you married? Do our wives do anything together?" Navin replied yes he is married but no to the other two questions.
There were no concerns raised by the 20 or so residents in attendance so the matter was put to a vote and Navin was hired unanimously, pending a successful salary negotiation.
The board hopes to have everything finalized so he can start by the first of October.
In other business, Police Chief Timothy Garner wants to institute an "Are You OK?" call service for seniors. 
"I was approached a while back by the Council on Aging ... and I think it would be worth it to help people who need to be put on the call list," he said.
The system, which has a one-time cost of about $1,300, places a robo-call at a predetermined time every day to a senior who has signed up for the service. Should the call go unanswered after a few tries, an alert would then be sent to a computer at the police station, which would notify the proper agencies. The system can also be used to remind seniors to take medication.
Garner cited the successful use of the program in neighboring Adams but did raise the point of that that police station being staffed 24/7 while Cheshire's is not. 
"There are a lot of questions I need to have answered before we do it,  he said, "but I think it would work for a lot of the aging population in Cheshire."
St. John announced that he is looking to schedule a special town meeting on Oct. 15. Warrant articles would include paying some old bills from fiscal 2018 and 2019, a school choice expenditure for a resident attending Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in Northampton, and a vote on a solar pilot agreement for the Ayotte property on East Harbor Road.
In a final bit of bad news, St. John read a letter from Charter Communications stating that rates would be going up for its Spectrum Cable TV service. Plans will be increasing by about $7.50 per month.
Ciskowski ended the meeting by reaffirming his faith in the town's decision to increase the Selectmen to five members.
"Going to five selectmen was a long haul ... but from my point of view this is working very well and I think we're starting to get things done," he said.
The next Board of Selectmen meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Center.

Tags: DPW,   superintendent,   

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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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