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Clarksburg Holds Off on Budget Review, Police Chief Salary

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials are hoping to have more clarity in two weeks about where the annual town meeting can held. 
Select Board Chairman Ronald Boucher said at Wednesday's meeting that he and Town Administrator Rebecca Stone had spoken with Norman Rolnick of the Board of Health. The closure of town buildings "will remain status quo," he said.
"Hopefully, by the June 10 meeting, we'll have a pretty clear vision of where we can hold our town meeting," Boucher said.  "Our original choice was  maybe the Senior Center. I know its been held for years at the school. We talked about that this morning maybe reaching out to the superintendent, and to see if that was a possibility."
The board has also broached the idea of holding town meeting at the Cook Veterans Memorial Field but Boucher did not believe that this year's meeting would have a very big turnout because there was nothing new or controversial on the warrant. And he anticipated concerns about the pandemic would reduce attendance. Recent town meetings have seen between 30 and 60 voters depending on what's on the warrant. 
Like other communities, Clarksburg has been seeking a way to hold town meeting in a way that abides by the state guidelines set out to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most of that is ensuring that participants can keep a 6-foot distance and remain masked inside. 
The town's buildings have been closed or limited in use to essential personnel only since the early March when the first Berkshire County case of the novel coronavirus appeared in Clarksburg. The town already postponed the election and annual town meeting about a month to June 11 and 24, respectively and officials have been meeting remotely.
"We should have a pretty clear vision of where we're going to be at on the 10th," Boucher said. 
The board also put off a review of the budget recommended by the Finance Committee until June 10. And it put off until after the election a request for raise by Police Chief Michael Williams.
Williams has been operating without a contract for the past year but will be getting a 2.5 percent raise this coming fiscal year along with all other employees of the town. In a letter to the town, he asked for 4.5 percent for this coming year, 3.5 percent for year two and 2.5 percent in year three, for what Boucher described as essentially a three-year contract. 
Finance Committee member James Stakenas said there should be funds in the budget to cover any increase because the police salary line has historically ended the year with excess funds because of the difficulty in retaining part-time officers.
However, he said, the letter didn't mention a contract and he did not think it was a Finance Committee decision but a rather a determination by the Select Board. 
"My feeling on this, and you guys can tell me how you feel, but we'll have a new board in place after the 11th and maybe this is something the new board should take up," Boucher said. "I was hoping that he came in at the beginning of the process and not at the very end and that's the frustrating part for me."
Select Board member Jeffrey Levanos said he'd like to get it over with. 
Boucher said the chief's salary will be $58,466 and the new board could negotiate a contract to take effect in fiscal 2022 since he's getting a 2.5 percent increase this coming year. 
Williams said his proposal was to ensure there were enough funds in the budget to cover any salary negotiations for a new contract. 
"It's just having funds available for fair bargaining so when we decide what the salary is going to be and the increase, that we would have the funding to do that," he said. 
Stakenas said he understood what Williams' position but "it was awfully late in the game." It was up to the Select Board, he reiterated, to determine the salary.
Stone also said she didn't want to put decisions off for too long because it would be getting close to the annual town meeting. 
In the end, the board voted unanimously to postpone any negotiations until the new Select Board was seated and presumably base those negotiations on next year's budget. 
In other business:
The board voted to participate in the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership. The group includes 21 communities in the state's northwest corner encompassing nearly 400,000 acres and is designed to promote land conservation, sustainable forestry practices, natural resource-based economic development and tourism. 
"One of the things we found out with the partnership is that it has given us a little more clout with the state agencies. We were able to get a number of different grants because the small towns are working together,"  Berkshire Regional Planning Commission's Executive Director Thomas Matuszko, said. I think this is going to be a benefit to the town in the long run."
• Boucher reminded voters there are open seats for write-in candidates for a five-year seat on the Planning Board and for Board of Health, moderator and tree warden. He also noted that Mark Denault would be stepping down from the Finance Committee and thanked him for his service to the town. The Finance Committee is appointed by the town moderator. 
• Boucher also welcomed AnnaMaria Sebastino, who has been hired to replace retired Administrative Assistant Deb Choquette. 

Tags: COVID-19,   town meeting 2020,   

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Clarksburg Town Meeting Passes $4.6M Budget, OKs Truck Purchase

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Select Board member Allen M. Arnold is sworn into office by Jeanne Moulthrop, voted temporary town clerk for the meeting.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — A sparse town meeting burned through a 19-article warrant on Wednesday night under sunny skies. 
The meeting, held on the lawn of the Senior Center because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, swiftly approved a town budget of $4,565,710 and the purchase of a new Department of Public Works truck for $250,000.
Based on the financial articles passed on Wednesday, including a transfer of $98,000 from free cash to reduce the tax rate, the property tax rate is estimated at $17.86 per $1,000 valuation, three cents lower than this year.
The town has a current free cash fund of $518,892; town meeting also approved transferring $250,000 in free cash to the stabilization account and using $64,138.20 to pay off the library loan. 
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