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Town Clerk Christine Emerson talks to the board about the upcoming special town meeting.

Cheshire Sets Date For Special Town Meeting

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — After a busy summer that saw it add two members and reorganize responsibilities, the Board of Selectmen tied up some odds and ends Wednesday night in a brief meeting.
 
Most important on the docket was setting the warrant for a special town meeting to be held on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. Town Clerk Christine Emerson presented the paperwork to the board for signatures.
 
"The voter registration will be Oct. 11, it's a Friday. Registration will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Town Hall in my office," she said.
 
Cheshire has an open town meeting so any resident registered to vote by Friday, Oct. 11, will be eligible to vote at the special town meeting.
 
There are two fiscal issues at hand for the special town meeting. One is the transfer of $40,000 from the stabilization fund to pay for transportation and tuition for a resident who chose to attend an out-of-district vocational school. The second is for roughly $3,500 to pay bills from the previous two fiscal years that have fallen through the cracks. 
 
The special town meeting will be held at the Community Center on School Street.
 
The idea to hold the townwide election along with the national primaries was endorsed by Emerson.
 
"As [Town Administrator St. John] mentioned I think it would be cost effective to run two ballots in March rather than have two elections," she said. "Otherwise 65 days' notice (the minimum required for a town meeting) would be running into the holidays or the first of the year. Also you're likely to get more people voting if they are coming to the primary."
 
St. John was disappointed the town wasn't a bigger partner in the recently finalized plan to repave the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.
 
"I expressed concern that the town was not part of any discussion on this mill and fill project that they had," said St. John. "Specifically, a few months ago when some residents along the path complained about flooding issues. On Thursday, I plan to walk parts of the trail and document the issues that we see there."
 
St. John reached out to state Rep. John Barrett III and Adams Town Administrator Jay Green to discuss his concerns but was realistic in his expectations.
 
"At the end of the day there's not a lot we're going to do. They are so far into this process, they've already awarded the contract for the paving," he said. "However with basically a road that goes right through the middle of our town, it would have been nice had there been a little more communication."
 
Paving will begin in earnest in 2020 and will cover the 11.2 miles from the Berkshire Mall to the Adams Visitors Center. Catch basins and culverts will also be cleaned and repaired.
 
The cost for replacing a door at Town Hall is causing a bit of sticker shock. Estimates came in higher than expected for the egress to be fully compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
 
"Martino Glass gave a price to replace the door to the basement of the Town Hall. The base price was $6,421 with add-ons if required," St. John said. "One of the add-ons was red paint, which would add $2,855 and 3-5 weeks [to the project]."
 
It was pointed out the red paint was only required to match the other doors in the building so it was quickly decided to go in another direction.
 
"For $2,800 just to color match to the other existing doors in the building which are also in need of maintenance ... we would be color matching something that would need improving anyway," said Selectwoman Michelle Francesconi.
 
St. John mentioned the possibility of receiving ADA grants to perform the work along with other issues that might arise.
 
"There are other ADA issues that I'm sure we could find in town but this is one of the ones we should move on," he said. "We would first have to get a grant for the plan then we could get a grant for the project itself."
 
The board wants to form a Citizens Advisory Committee to hear any grievances related to its housing rehabilitation project through a Community Development Block Grant. The town was awarded nearly $1 million of grant money aimed at rehabbing low- to moderate income housing in a joint application with New Marlborough. 
 
Although the town of Cheshire hasn't received any official complaints, the town of New Marlborough did and sent them along to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
 
"Even though the grievance was over a project that had nothing to do with us at all, it highlighted to me that we should move on this sooner rather than later," St. John said.
 
An advisory board would act as the first layer of hearings for any grievances that should arise.
 
The next Selectmen's meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 6:30 p.m.

Tags: Ashuwillticook Rail Trail,   special town meeting,   

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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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