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Lanesborough Board of Selectmen discuss the police chief search committee at Monday's meeting.

Lanesborough Moving Forward With Search For New Police Chief, Station

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
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Skyline Country Club owner Jim Mitus and Mark Siegars address raise the possibility of the country club being a location for a police station and senior housing.
 
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Town officials may have jumped the gun a bit when they immediately formed a search committee upon receiving Police Chief Timothy Sorrell's retirement letter at their last meeting. 
 
"When we talked about this last time we were shooting from the hip and we were all very excited," Town Manager Kelli Robbins said at Monday's Selectmen's meeting. "I reached out to the Small Town Administrator of Massachusetts (STAM) and multiple towns recommended that we have at least one or two members of the police union on the committee. They recommended that we have a police chief from another town also sit on the committee. And then have a resident or a selectman."
 
The original search committee consisted of residents Tom Voisin, Barbara Davis-Hassan, and Mark Siegars. The two resident spots on the new search committee will be open to any interested residents including those named to the original committee. Gordon Hubbard will represent the Selectmen and Robbins will be reaching out for a union member and local police chief.
 
"When we have the members we'll bring them to [the board]. I already spoke with the union and asked if they would be interested in having someone sit on the committee and I got positive feedback," Robbins said. "The next thing is to review the police chief job description and make sure it's current with what we expect our chief to be responsible for."
 
The Selectmen said previously the hope is to hire a new chief by June and have the individual overlap with Sorrell for an amount of time to be determined.
 
The subject of a new police station has been on the front burner for the town. Lanesborough is currently conducting a feasibility study for a new structure and issued a request for quotation for potential buildings or sites for reuse.
 
There were two parties at Monday's meeting who addressed the board with potential sites.
 
Davis-Hassan, representing Vacation Village as its real estate agent, asked the board members if they would consider accepting a gift of land and buildings located on Route 7. 
 
"They called Friday and asked if I could do a feeler for them as their agent. They made an offer to sell at a certain price [as part of the RFQ] and that would be honored. This was for the use of the Police Department as part of the RFQ," she said. "In the meantime, especially since this has been going on for a while, they called and said, 'would you feel out the Board of Selectmen and the town administrator ... if there would be an interest in receiving it as a gift." 
 
The property is at 20 Williamstown Road. It sits north of the Amenitek building and consists of about five acres and has five buildings on it, one of which could be repurposed for a new police station. 
 
The parcel is assessed at $1.2 million which puts the property tax bill at roughly $24,000. This number gave board member Henry Sayers pause.
 
"I would just hate to see it come off the tax rolls. Business properties are scarce in town so for us to take it … ," he said
 
Skyline Country Club owner Jim Mitus spoke to the board along with Siegars to gauge the interest it might have in acquiring the property. Siegars listed several assets that might make it an attractive option for the future police station or other uses.
 
"It has a licensed kitchen, it has a dining area that can seat 160 people. The beauty is that it's open every day of the year except for Christmas so it's been insulated and all the necessary heating, ventilation, and air conditioning," he said. "I guess the three things that would be most important would be: it's less than a third of a mile away from the sewer connection, it's on town water, and all the communication requirements for a police station run in front of the property so you wouldn't need to run it any farther.
 
"This property provides the potential to meet three or four town needs. One is you get a police station, one is you get a community center; thirdly, you get enough area to potentially have senior housing and affordable housing. Lastly, it provides potentially another 70 acres for recreational space."
 
Mitus did not get the proposal in as part of the RFQ for the new police station so that process would have to play itself out before any decisions are made regarding Skyline. Also, Mitus currently has a lease agreement for a solar farm on roughly 26 acres of the 185-acre property that might complicate things if the town took ownership. Publicly and privately owned solar fields are treated much differently by utilities when it comes to buyback of power and putting energy back into the grid. 
 
"It changes the way we receive the funds and if we can receive funds. If we're subject to a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes), if they have to pay us, if it's going into the grid. It's very complicated, it's not something I'm in a position to actually give you any definitive information on," Robbins said.
 
In other business, Lakeside Restaurant hasn't picked up its 2020 liquor license yet and the board is starting to lose patience with the eatery adjacent to Pontoosuc Lake. The establishment has a new manager and has yet to file any of the necessary paperwork that goes along with that process. 
 
"We've bent over backwards for this company so far, so are we going to continue? They haven't even approached us (about hiring a new manager)," Sayers said. 
 
Robbins said the only reason the town was aware of the change of manager was that the establishment called the police to escort the previous manager off site. 
 
The board decided to give the restaurant until the next meeting on Feb. 10 to get its paperwork in order or risk being shut down.
 
The town is looking for seniors who are willing and able to staff the recycling center as part of a tax work-off program. Seniors can decrease their property tax bill by volunteering for the town in certain capacities. The town doesn't fund a recycling center position in the budget so if there are no volunteers, Robbins said they are in danger of having to shut the program down. Anybody interested can contact Town Hall. There are certain restrictions for the tax abatement program so not every senior will qualify.
 
• The cover of the annual town report will feature an art project by an Lanesborough Elementary School student. The town manager's idea for a competition between fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders was heartily endorsed by the board. There will be a separate contest for kindergarten through third-graders, with certificates going to the winning designs. The Senior Center staff and guests will serve as judges.
 
• There will be free paper shredding services provided by the Northern Berkshire Solid Waste Management District at the town garage on April 11 from 9 to noon.
 
• The next meeting of the Board of Selectmen will be Feb. 10 at 6 p.m.
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Lanesborough Officials Consider Mount Greylock Stabilization Fund

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent

Town Accountant Amy Lane, left, and Town Manager Kelli Robbins at Monday's meeting of the Selectmen, which approved Lane's contract.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Town officials are mulling limiting language that could be inserted into a town meeting article on the creation of a stabilization fund for the Mount Greylock Regional School District. 
 
The district wants to set up the fund as a "rainy day" account for unforeseen expenses. Municipal governments commonly use stabilization money for capital construction projects, equipment purchases, winter road safety overruns or even to stem rising property taxes. 
 
In the case of the school district, which educates the children of Lanesborough and Williamstown, it would only be able to use it for a project for which it would have to borrow money to undertake. 
 
"They would be seeking funds from each town. It has to go to a town meeting vote and the amount that they ask for each year can vary, Town Manager Kelli Robbins told the Board of Selectmen on Monday. "At the meeting we attended ... they said they would only be seeking around $25,000 this first year. The issue is that, the way the law is written, they can ask for up to 5 percent [of the town's appropriation to the school]."
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