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Most of the votes in Tuesday's Williamstown town election were cast by mail.

Beck Wins Seat on Williamstown Planning Board

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — By a margin of 100 votes, Peter Beck on Tuesday earned a five-year seat on the Planning Board.
 
Beck, a newcomer to town politics, took the seat from incumbent Alex Carlisle by a vote of 407-307 399-299, unofficially, in the only contested race on the town election ballot.
 
"I got a sense that there were people who were really supportive of what I was talking about," Beck said Tuesday evening. "I definitely heard from them, especially online.
 
"You don't know what proportion of the town that represents, but I do know I was hearing positive feedback from people who care about these issues in town."
 
Beck was at Williamstown Elementary School for a while on Tuesday with Carlisle to wave to voters and thank them for their participation in the process, though, given the uniqueness of this election season, there was no pressing the flesh.
 
"Mostly it was communicating gratitude with the eyes," Beck said. "Just waving hello."
 
The majority of votes in the election were cast by mail.
 
Out of 720 total ballots cast (including blanks and write-ins), 476 were mail-in ballots, according to Town Clerk Nicole Pedercini, who ran her first election on Tuesday after the retirement of longtime clerk Mary Kennedy.
 
Pedercini said she sent out 523 mail-in ballots to voters who applied for them, giving the mail-in vote a return rate of 91 percent.
 
Last year, 953 votes were cast in the town election.
 
Each of the unopposed candidates on the ballot won his or her contest with ease, including the two incumbent Select Board members up for re-election, Andrew Hogeland and Hugh Daley.
 
Beck said Tuesday he did not know when the Planning Board will next meet, but he wants to get going soon. The panel has not met since March; its last three meetings were canceled. It does have a meeting on the town calendar for July 2, but as of Tuesday evening, there was no agenda posted.
 
Beck, who talked at length during the campaign about the need to engage with voters and build broad consensus for Planning Board initiatives, said he believes those conversations can begin in a virtual environment.
 
"I sure hope so," he said. "I say that also from my perspective as an educator and a school administrator. Who knows how long we'll have to work like this or whether we'll be able to go in person and then go back online again and then in person again.
 
"I hope we can develop really positive ways to engage this way because we have to. I don't think it's an option. I'm someone who vastly prefers being face to face, and I know a lot of people feel that way. ...  But I think it's urgent and necessary that we figure out the best ways to have a community conversation."

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Mount Greylock Committee Member Pushes to Reopen Schools

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff

Steven Miller participates in a recent meeting of the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee via Zoom.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The chair of the Mount Greylock School Committee's Education Subcommittee on Tuesday repeatedly pressed the district's interim superintendent to develop benchmarks that could be met in order to allow a return to full in-person instruction.
 
For now, school officials are planning to begin school in mid-September in a hybrid model that sees half the students in preK through ninth grade attending classes in person two days a week with the rest of their time on learning spent remotely; sophomores through seniors in high school would attend school one day a week under the current plan.
 
Several times during a more than two-hour virtual meeting, Steven Miller reiterated his contention that the Lanesborough-Williamstown district is uniquely situated to move to full, in-person instruction.
 
"We are in a wonderful situation where we are in a rural setting with people who are responsible, who are socially distancing and wearing masks," said Miller, who also referred to the county's low incidence of COVID-19 positive tests.
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