Proposed new owner of Cheshire Liquor Center Raj Patel, right, with his attorney, Darren Lee.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The town is shifting the location for the annual town meeting this year.
Hoosac Valley High School will host town meeting for the first time. The school district land is within its two regional partners — Adams and Cheshire — but the bulk of the property and the entire school building is in Cheshire.
Selectwoman Michelle Francesconi wanted to make the switch to the recently renovated building, citing better technology and comfort over its more recent location in the Cheshire School cafeteria.
"I feel that anybody who is going to go to annual town meeting is going to go to annual town meeting. It's always the same crew. I don't feel that the location will necessarily deter [anyone]," she said at Tuesday's Selectmen's meeting. "More comfortable seating, better ventilation, air conditioning in June. Just a more professional presence for the community. You could not hear the town moderator at all [in the cafeteria], you couldn't see the audio-visual presentation in the back of the room and that's a key component to distributing data throughout the meeting. We could potentially coordinate with the Council on Aging to see if there is a pickup opportunity with the COA van."
Her comments were in response to Selectman Mark Biagini, who was the only member to oppose the move.
"I feel we should keep it where it is. It's centralized for the town residents. It's easy for people to walk to and from. I think it's going to be a little bit harder for some of our elderly to get back and forth," he said. "We want to use our school for some things. We just put the heating system in there. I just don't think we're going to get the people [at Hoosac] that we do at the elementary school."
The board voted 4-1 to move the next annual town meeting to Hoosac.
In other business, the Cheshire Liquor Center and the neighboring apartment building will soon be under new ownership. Raj Patel plans to purchase the property at 106 South St. from Mike and Sam Patel. He intends to form two separate limited liability corporations, one to own the property and one to own the liquor license and run the business. The hours will remain the same.
The board approved the transfer unanimously.
As part of the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Dale Laroche raised concerns about the state of two vacant structures. One is the former Beechwood nursing home and the other is located farther south on Route 8 near Whitney's Farm. His main concern lay with the danger to public officials should anyone need to enter the structures in an emergency.
"There are two very dilapidated and dangerous buildings in our town. Dr. Mach's old home and the nursing home. You get young kids, teenagers, someone looking for an adventure. Something is going to happen," he said. "You're going to end up having the Fire Department go in to rescue them and endanger [their lives]."
The old nursing home, a Second Empire mansion at the corner of South Street and West Mountain Road, had been tagged for demolition to make way for a Dollar General five years ago but pushback from the town had the discount outlet building farther north on a vacant plot. The mansion is in a serious state of decay; another neighboring historic building, the 200-year-old Cheshire Inn, was demolished by the town nearly a decade ago.
The smaller Mach house, in the narrow point between South Street and Ingalls Road, had been the home and office of the now retired veterinarian Dr. Frederick Mach.
Selectman Mark Biagini, who is also a retired firefighter for the town, said the department is aware of the buildings and that it has a "defensive" protocol only and would not go in to either in the event of a fire.
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV said the taxes on the properties are current but that he would look further into the town's options.
The next meeting of the Cheshire Board of Selectmen will be Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 6:30 p.m.
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Hoosac Valley Considering Phased-In, Hybrid Model for Schools
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley Regional School District is expected to eliminate the full in-person education model from its plans for reopening.
Superintendent Aaron Dean said on Tuesday morning that the School Committee next week will decide what school will look like in the fall and that it is leaning toward a hybrid model.
"In next Monday's committee meeting, I am planning on sharing the timeline and framework of instruction for the coming school year," Dean said. "Still many questions to answer, but I'm confident we'll get there."
School districts throughout the commonwealth have been asked to design three education models in preparation for the next school year. Plans have included a fully remote plan, a hybrid plan, and the state preferred full in-person model that requires students to be spaced out.