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Cheshire Board Seeks Hiring Transparency Following Open Meeting Complaint

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — An Opening Meeting Law complaint by a town resident is questioning recent actions in the search for a highway superintendent. 
 
And that has some Board of Selectmen members registering their own disappointment with the way another interviewing process was done.
 
Selectman Mark Biagini was unhappy he wasn't made aware that interviews for an operator at the Highway Department were happening earlier on Tuesday afternoon, prior to the regular meeting.
 
"I don't know who else knew the interviews were going to take place today but we had no idea," he said, referring to himself and fellow board members Robert Ciskowski, Michelle Francesconi, and Jason Levesque being unaware of the interviews. "This is the stuff we gotta stop."
 
The comments were made at the Selectmen's meeting held on Tuesday immediately before the special town meeting at the Community Center. 
 
Francesconi said she had tried to take action earlier that day when she found out the operator interviews were being conducted without her knowledge.
 
"I actually went to the Annex and tried to stop the interviews because I was not happy that I wasn't informed. At the open meeting last week, we discussed the formation of a preliminary screening committee and I assumed that the formation of that committee was going to take place tonight," she said. "I found out the interviews were being held at four o'clock today. It took away the board having the opportunity to decide if they wanted two members as part of the interview committee."
 
All four members who weren't informed made it clear they didn't want to do the hiring but just wanted to be aware the process was taking place.
 
Given the recent Open Meeting Law complaint filed by resident Gary Trudeau regarding the superintendent's hiring process, Francesconi feels the town needs to be more cautious and transparent.
 
"I did find out later on that one of the candidates that was interviewed was taken down to the Highway Department and walked around. Another town employee was saying we had already chosen, having seen the person at the Highway Department," she said. "It's really creating an unhealthy environment for the town and we want to be transparent. I would like to see better communication."
 
The board did not want to delay the process with snow season coming but will discuss a better process at next week's meeting. 
 
The Selectmen did not take up Trudeau's complaint other than to acknowledge it and say it was under discussion with town counsel. 
 
Finally member Levesque mentioned two upcoming fundraisers for the Fire Department. There will be a Pumpkin Blast to be held at the Cheshire Rod and Gun Club to benefit the auxiliary squad. The town will be collecting leftover pumpkins to be blasted with firearms. Date and time will be announced at a future meeting. This Saturday, there will be a spaghetti and meatball drive-thru at the fire station to raise funds for the Hoosac Hose Company. For $10, you can drive right up to the station and receive your food cooked by volunteers from the force.
 
The next Cheshire Selectmen's meeting will be Oct. 29 at 6:30 pm. 

Tags: interview,   open meeting complaint,   

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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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