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Cheshire Carefully Making Progress on Budget, Shadowland Cove

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen continue to look into solutions for the receding shoreline plaguing some residents of Shadowland Cove Road.
 
Residents who once enjoyed lakefront amenities for boat docking and other activities say they're slowly losing their shorefront to runoff from nearby Lanesboro Road. 
 
In 1999, the town was granted a permanent easement to install and maintain drainage culverts and catch basins along a 20-foot swath of the private road as residents at the time were experiencing unchecked runoff through yards and even, in some cases, right under houses. The town installed the drainage system and it did indeed fix that problem but over the years silt and sediment buildup from runoff has steadily moved the shoreline further out into Cheshire Lake while rendering beach fronts unusable.
 
The town has discussed dredging the lakefront but was unsure how to proceed due to several factors: cost, jurisdiction issues, and environmental impact among others. The fact that the lake is owned by the state, the road is private with rights of ways granted, and the town has an easement and some property of its own nearby hasn't made the process any easier.
 
The town contracted with wetlands consultants Stockman Associates to investigate the history of the project and how the town and residents can move forward to ameliorate the problem.
 
"It's my understanding that Shadowland Cove is a private way, however, back in 1999, through annual town meeting an easement was granted to the town of Cheshire by unanimous vote that would allow for a permanent easement for the purpose of the installing, constructing and maintaining certain drainage culverts," said consultant Emily Stockman at Tuesday night's baord meeting.
 
"The current status is that the outcome of that drainage system ... there has been a significant amount of sedimentation into the reservoir. That area, as well as the area of the easement ... are protected under our Wetlands Protection Act and our Rivers Protection Act."
 
Stockman recommended that a good first step would be for Cheshire to find exactly where the easement lies before proceeding with any actions. She also mentioned there might be management and maintenance issues that town could adopt but that the silt and sediment issue might need to be a collaborative effort from the landowners.
 
No action was taken by the board other than agreeing to contact the original surveyors for the project, Foresight Land Services of Pittsfield, for clarification of the easement before planning a course of action.
 
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV gave the board a nugget of slightly good fiscal news in the midst of dire local aid predictions from most municipalities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. State revenue shortfalls have been projected at anywhere from 10-20 percent from the statewide shutdown of non-essential businesses for the better part of three months. St. John said that, at least for the very short term, the news for the town is preliminarily good.
 
"As [the board] approved the 1/12th budget last week, I was able to turn my attention to the FY21 budget and continue to work on a draft of that. Obviously we are still waiting for some more information on the revenue side but [Monday] the commonwealth and the administration announced that ... for July and August local aid will be kept the same as the FY20 level," he said. "At least for the summer, this is good because we're not going to see an immediate reduction in local aid. That's certainly some positive news starting the year."
 
Many municipalities have adopted the 1/12th budget process this year in lieu of finalizing a budget through the town meeting process because of uncertainties in local aid as lawmakers rebuild the state spending plan for fiscal 2021.
 
The so-called 1/12th budget process allows towns to operate essentially month by month in fiscal 2021 while spending no more than 1/12th of the prior year's budget.
 
The state itself is adopting a 1/12th budget process in a sense, as the governor's office last week filed a $5.25 billion budget for the month of July as a placeholder until revenue numbers become clearer and a FY21 budget can be finalized by the Legislature.
 
In other news, Highway Superintendent Robert Navin said new transfer station stickers will be available at the station starting this week. The prices are $150 for a sticker and 52 bags or $100 for just the sticker. Navin also said the town will begin painting road markings around town so please drive carefully.
 
St. John said the town has received about 45 responses thus far to the online survey available to residents and non-residents.  The survey is looking for input on how Town Hall might operate more efficiently. The survey is available on the town website as well as the town's Facebook page and is anonymous.
 
The next meeting of the Board of Selectmen will be Thursday, June 25, at 6:30pm. Please visit the town website for login information.
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Father Tom Tent Site Becoming a Reality in Cheshire

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Father Tom Tent Site is inching closer to its "official" opening. 
 
Named after the former pastor of St. Mary's Church, the Rev. Thomas Begley, the site will serve through-hikers of the Appalachian Trail and give them a place to regroup for a night or two while charging electronics, replenishing their water supply, and getting rid of refuse
 
Highway Superintendent Robert Navin said he hopes to have the water line completed this week, which would leave just a few loose ends to tie up before making the official announcement. One very loose end is the COVID-19 pandemic and the unique safety concerns that constantly arise from the virus. 
 
"I've liked this idea a lot and I'm glad to see everything moving forward. With that being said I guess I just have reservations in the climate we find ourselves in making sure that everything is being cleaned as often as possible," said Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV. "I think we need adequate signage saying, to some extent, campers are using these facilities at their own risk. Whether or not it's a valid concern it's just a concern that I have." 
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