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Clarksburg prepares for its outside town meeting.
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Voters signal approval for the purchase of a new DPW truck.
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Police Chief Michael Williams explains the reasoning behind adopting an animal control bylaw.

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

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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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. 
 
All of the articles passed with little or no discussion by the 28 registered voters who attended. The entire meeting took less than 45 minutes. 
 
It did require some shifting in roles as there is currently no town moderator and the town clerk was unable to attend. Town Administrator Rebecca Stone swore in Select Board Chairman Ronald Boucher as moderator for the meeting and then Jeanne Moulthrop as temporary town clerk after she was elected by the meeting. 
 
Moulthrop then swore in the town's new member of the Select Board, Allen M. Arnold, who won in a write-in bid in the June 11 election. The seat had been vacated by Jeffrey Levanos. 
 
Changes were made to the budget on the floor with motions by Select Board member Danielle Luchi to reflect new information regarding the purchase of the truck. Boucher said at the meeting that he had been reluctant to recommend the purchase, which was expected to put 40 cents on the tax rate, but finding the first payment could be put off until 2022 changed his mind. 
 
The town's debt will be reduced at that point with the last payment on Horrigan Road and the library loan falling off this year. 
 
In all, Luchi motioned to reduce the debt service line by $53,121, bringing it down to $290,046; to increase Finance line by $2,232 to cover audit-related expenses; and reduce the health and life insurance by $2,232 to offset the Finance increase.
 
Voter Robert Norcross questioned why the Finance line was already going up by $20,265 even before the audit expenses were added. Boucher said it was a proactive move if the accountant needs to be replaced.
 
"There's anticipation that the accountant will be retiring at some point this year," said Boucher. "So we're going to have to go out and either find a private entity or hire a new person. And we've gotten quite a deal over the years with Donna Estes doing what she does for what we pay her."
 
Estes had indicated her intention to retire but Boucher said he had spoken to her and she was willing to stay a little longer -- but not forever. She did, however, decline the offer of more hours.
 
Norcross asked if this meant that amount might not be spent and Boucher acknowledged that was possible. 
 
Someone else asked what would happen if state aid to the town was cut, considering the state's financial crisis because of COVID-19.
 
Boucher and Luchi said they had anticipated that in the budget proposal. 
 
"We're not so reliant on state aid. Financially, we're in very good shape," Boucher said. "And Danielle brings up a good point. We've already taken consideration of a 15 percent reduction anticipated. But we're in good shape in Clarksburg: our debt is very low and we got some things happening in the near future that are really going to be good for Clarksburg, so I'm very excited."
 
The budget was passed without further discussion. 
 
Town meeting also adopted a state law regarding animal control and kenneling. Police Chief Michael Williams said the laws had been in affect since 2002 but because it was not also a bylaw, any violations have to be taken through the court system. By making it a bylaw, the animal control officer would be able to write citations and impose fines. 
 
"If we take and adopt these into a bylaw, we can issue fines on them," he said. "So we can just write a citation with a fine for enforcement."
 
He said the main problem was nuisances such as barking dogs.
 
The meeting also authorized payments from the sewer enterprise account, including $73,300 its free cash to comply with a state Department of Environmental Protection Administrative Consent Order.
 
Road Foreman Kyle Hurlbut said this was basically an unfunded mandate to document all the lateral pipes, mains and manholes into a software program so Boston has access to the information.  
 
Norcross, under other business, asked about reopening the Senior Center and reinstalling the basketball hoops. He was concerned that the town would go overboard with the coronavirus containment. 
 
Boucher said town buildings will be reopened on July 6 and that he, too, wanted to get back to normalcy.
 
"I think the Select Board has been proactive from the very get go," he said. "As we open the town on July 6, we'll do it with precautions. We're getting guidance from the Board of Health ... It's something you need to take seriously ... in a lot of states they've gone crazy and you're seeing it rise again."

Tags: fiscal 2021,   town meeting 2020,   

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Clarksburg Sets Special Town Meeting for PILOT Authorization

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The town hopes to come to an agreement with two solar installations for payment in lieu of taxes.
 
The Select Board will need authorization to enter into any PILOT and a special town meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 6 p.m. at the Senior Center for that vote.
 
"The town has to say, yes, you have permission to enter into an agreement," Town Assessor Ross Vivori told the Select Board on Wednesday. "Once that's in place, it should be good for future stuff that comes up as well."
 
There are two large commercial arrays off River Road and a third off Gravel Bank Road. Only one, Clean Energy Collective on River Road, has already agreed to a PILOT. 
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