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Cheshire Highway Department Getting Up to Speed With Snow Removal

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
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The Board of Selectmen meet Tuesday night. 
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The first big snowstorms of the season brought long hours of work and little sleep for the Highway Department, said Superintendent Robert Navin.
Navin on Tuesday night updated the Board of Selectmen on some issues that arose during double whammy snowfalls that began on Sunday, Dec. 1, and didn't end until Tuesday, Dec. 3. Both Navin and the board saw the handling of the roughly 20 inches of snow as generally successful but both did see room to improve.
This is Navin's first year heading the department after spending last year on the Stockbridge crew and the previous 15 in Richmond. Cheshire usually carries five full-time employees on the highway department but currently sits at four. Also because of recent staff turnover, there is a dearth of plowing experience on Navin's crew.
"Things will definitely improve but this was a big storm ... and we have one person who has plowed in this town prior to this winter. They were the only one with the experience of the ins and outs of all the little roads. He helped us all," Navin said. "There are two of us that have plenty of plow experience but we are still learning the town."
Of particular concern was an injury that occurred on the School Street sidewalk when a resident fell and an ankle. As part of the town's snow removal policy, it is responsible for clearing sidewalks but roads take a priority.
Board Chairman Robert Ciskowski read directly from the town's policy: "If weather, schedules, and labor permit, sidewalks will be cleared in the days following the storm. Some sidewalks are not able to be plowed due to the width restrictions or obstacles including but not limited to telephone poles, fire hydrants, and stone walls."
As part of his superintendent's report, Navin outlined the hours he and his crew worked starting on Sunday at noon and carrying over until Monday morning when he said they got a couple hours of sleep before coming back in to tackle the second wave of snow.
"We were able to get the sidewalks started [Tuesday]. As soon as I had manpower available we were on sidewalks. Short of having someone stay until midnight and doing it, we did what the policy states to the best of our ability. When time and manpower permitted we did it as soon as we could," Navin said.
Selectwoman Michelle Francesconi thinks it might be time to increase the Highway Department's manpower.
"Maybe moving forward we could have a laborer position that does the mowing, snowblowing downtown, around the town buildings ... the school. Perhaps looking at adding an additional position to handle the smaller tasks at a lower hourly wage. Maybe something we consider during the next budget cycle," she said. "All the tasks that take time away from the major road work. Maybe that could help open up sidewalks."
Navin said that besides the sidewalk incident, he heard of no other major issues. 
"The few complaints that I received ... having to do with this storm were about little roads, that are technically driveways named by the town, that weren't done quick enough. There are some 'roadways' that maybe the board needs to address," he said. "There are still some roads that are very questionable. We're going to leave School Street to, technically, plow people's driveways? That might be something we should look at."
Navin finished his report by asking the residents to direct their concerns and complaints to him whenever possible and let his crew do their work.
"There was a resident who was pretty rude to one of my drivers. They weren't happy with how we plowed one of the roads," he said. "If you have an issue please come see me. [My crew] are out there doing the best they can. It falls on my shoulders. Come see me."
In other business, Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV gave an update on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail resurfacing scheduled for 2020. The 11 miles of the trail opened beginning in 2001 and haven't been paved since. Local outfit Maxymillian will be performing the nearly $5 million project.
"Phase one will start at the mall [in Lanesborough] and finish at the Railroad Street intersection. They plan to start at the beginning of April and conclude by the end of July. While phase one is happening that entire portion of the trail will be closed," St. John said. "I've started reaching out to the businesses that will be most impacted by this project to make sure that they know this is coming. 
"Unfortunately, it's something that's going to have to be dealt with. The best thing we can do as a town is to make sure people understand what's happening and when it's happening."
St. John will be busy on Saturday, Jan.18, as he and his wife, Jill, will be hosting a music bingo night in support of the Adams Suffrage Centennial Celebration. The celebration is in honor of the 200th birthday of Adams native Susan B. Anthony and the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. The event will be held at the Bass Water Grill in Cheshire and starts at 5:30.
• The next meeting of the Cheshire Board of Selectmen will be Tuesday, Dec. 17.

Tags: plowing,   snowstorm,   

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Hoosac Elementary Principal Invites Selectmen to Be Guests for a Day

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Staff

Principal Becky Sawyer invites the Selectmen to see a day in the life of students and faculty at Hoosac Valley Elementary.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Selectmen were invited to spend some time at Hoosac Valley Elementary School in Adams. 
Principal Becky Sawyer attended the board's Tuesday's meeting to issue the invitation to spend a day with the staff and students. Sawyer sees it as a way to not only get to familiarize themselves with the staff but also to see how the town's largest expenditure is being utilized.
"I know the school district occupies such a large percentage of your budget and I feel like it's only fair to let you come see what we're spending it on. What good work is being done with what we are getting [from the town]," Sawyer told the board. "We'd like to have our third-graders give a public tour of the building, and then ... have you shadow a teacher, and then we would invite you to have lunch and recess with our  children. 
"Which I can tell you is the best part of the day. It's the most fun that I have."
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