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Lanesborough Officials Consider Mount Greylock Stabilization Fund

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
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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]."
Town Accountant Amy Lane, who had attended the school district meeting with Robbins, said the town appropriates about $6 million to the district so the stabilization figure could go as high as $300,000.
"If you were inclined to want to do this we would want to consider, when we write the article, putting in language so that it can't exceed a certain amount. If that's possible. If they asked for $200,000, that's approximately $1.50-$1.90 on the tax rate," Robbins said.
If the stabilization fund is approved by the town, it would have no say in how much is deposited year to year as the district submits a lump sum request to town meeting and does not have to break out a line item for a specific amount. 
The fund would, however, create a bit of a revenue stream by accruing interest while sitting in the account unused. Should the district have to borrow for a project in absence of a stabilization fund, the town would then be paying interest on that amount.
"We had discussed with the group that was at this meeting putting in limiting language. They have all the best intentions right now but we don't know who will be there in 15 years or what their mindset will be as far as what they're going to charge the town," Robbins said. "I don't know yet if we can implement limiting language but that might be something you want to consider."
The issue has been brought up several times before and has not passed.
While Lane was there, Robbins and the board addressed her contract status with the town. Or more accurately lack thereof.
"Amy as the CFO/accountant is seeking a contract. Under the Municipal Modernization Act contracts are encouraged between accountants and the towns. When she started here, she was told that contracts weren't actually something that were offered," Robbins said. "In the contract being proposed, there is nothing in there that she isn't already getting. It's just basically putting it on paper."
The Board unanimously approved Lane's contract.
The next Board of Selectmen meeting will be Monday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m.

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Lanesborough Fills Out Search Committee For New Chief

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Selectmen on Tuesday finalized the search committee for the soon to be vacant police chief position by appointing Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn. 
He will be the fifth and final member of the committee that also includes Selectman Gordon Hubbard, Sgt. Brad Lepicier, Tom Voisin, and William Keating.
Chief Timothy Sorrell announced his retirement in January after 33 years on the force and five as chief. The town hopes to fill the position by June. Town Manager Kelli Robbins told the board that upwards of two dozen candidates have already applied.
Robbins said she was very pleased with the response thus far but was slightly concerned that one of the requirements might hamper the committee in its search.
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