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."
Sawyer hopes to build a closer relationship with Cheshire and its partner in the district, Adams.
There has been lingering resentment in Cheshire over the closure of Cheshire School a few years ago in favor of what was then C.T. Plunkett School. The school district recently changed its name from Adams-Cheshire to Hoosac Valley in part to create more of a sense of unity.
"We are trying to form some strong partnerships between the school and the towns. To strengthen that community, they're our kids ... the kids of your town members," Sawyer said. "Our hope would be to partner up some members of the Cheshire select board as well as the Adams select board to go into the various classrooms and do a little bit more than a walk-through tour.
"We thought it would be a little more meaningful to camp in a classroom and watch what teacher rotation looks like, what independent learning looks like right in the classroom."
The principal hopes to schedule two sessions, one in February and one in March.
In other business, new Highway Department Superintendent Bob Navin wants to add to his fleet of trucks. He asked the board to approve, or consider approving in the future, the purchase of a new pickup truck.
"I'm looking to purchase a 2020 F-250 that we can use for the day-to-day operations for the crew. For patching, checking the roads, mowing. Last week when a truck was down I was using one of the big trucks to bring paperwork to Town Hall because [the crew] was using my pickup to patch," he said.
Navin said the cost through the state bid is $30,000 and that he had looked into the options and found that the Highway Department's budget could absorb the cost of the pickup so there would no be no extra cost to the taxpayers.
"Yes, that money was originally set for road projects that should have been done last summer, but no projects were done as the department was in transition," he said. "There's a good chance that money will just end up going back into free cash come July 1."
Navin told the board he feels they could get more life out of the heavier duty, more costly vehicles if they strictly used them for plowing, sanding, and other heavy projects.
Board member Ron DeAngelis didn't feel that money earmarked for road improvements should be spent on new vehicles, especially not without voter approval.
"To say the money is in the budget, I don't agree with that. The money in the budget was appropriated for work to be done on our highways, it wasn't appropriated to be used for vehicles," he said. "I'm not against vehicles but they are a capital expense. It should be put forward in a budget and have it voted on at town meeting."
Selectwoman Michelle Francesconi, who was running the meeting in Chairman Robert Ciskowski's absence, felt there were more questions that needed to be asked and requested the matter be put on next week's agenda.
• The dispute between the town and the state over who owns the maintenance on Cheshire's stretch of Route 116 continues. Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV is trying to wade through the bureaucracy while also looking for hard evidence that the town ever owned the maintenance as the state is insisting.
"I reached out to MassDOT regarding any documentation that the control and maintenance of 116 was transferred to the town. I called the clerk of the House of Representatives who helped me with the clerk of the Senate and nothing was ever filed with them. They directed me to the state library and nothing was on file as far as that goes," St John told the board. "Later that afternoon, I received some information that DOT believes that this was an old county road and therefore it became the town's once county government dissolved."
St. John said he will continue to investigate.
• Town elections will be held Monday, May 4, at the Community Center. The following positions are up for election:
• One-year term: Board of Health
• Three-year terms: Board of Selectmen, assessor, Board of Health, Cemetery Commission, Water Commission, Hoosac Valley Regional School District Committee
• Five-year term: Board of Health
Nomination papers are available at the town clerk's office and are due by Monday, March 16, by 5 p.m.
• The next meeting of the Board of Selectmen is Tuesday, Jan. 28, at 6:30 p.m.
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Cheshire Selectmen Eye Salary Increases in FY21 Budget
By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The fiscal 2021 budget preparation dominated at Tuesday night's Selectmen's meeting.
Aside from reviewing the Board of Health and Council on Aging operating budgets, the board discussed at length what some members see as stagnant salaries for many town positions.
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV recently undertook a salary study with input from the Massachusetts Municipal Association's Human Resources department. Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi feels Cheshire has fallen behind other similar communities in compensating it's employees.
"Based on feedback that we received at the town meeting last year, a concerted effort has been made by the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee towards improving the overall salary structure of our town. We have been undercompensating our employees, we do recognize that, and it's something we are looking to address," she said to the virtual attendees.