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After several years debate on how best to use the former school building, including as a revenue generator, the Board of Selectmen are considering how it could become a hub for town activities.

Cheshire Wants To Keep Elementary School For Town Offices

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — Town officials have been discussing possible reuses for the former Cheshire Elementary School since its closure in 2017. 
 
It had even recently issued a request for proposal for reuse for the building that dates back a century in some sections. But on Tuesday night, the Board of Selectmen voted to reject those proposals and work toward keeping the building under town ownership and develop it into a "town hub."
 
The school has still been home to the Hoosac Valley Regional School District offices; for Youth Center Inc., which relocated there from Adams in 2019; and a private excercise classes in the cafeteria.
 
Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi hopes to utilize the building as a municipal centerpiece for the community as well as looking at a possible expansion of the footprint for emergency services in the future.
 
"We had a public meeting [last Thursday] where we discussed the reuse, the potential of the Cheshire School building and the future of that possibly becoming the hub of the town. A joint complex that would allow the Town Hall, Council on Aging, Community Center, and Youth Center to all coexist and really utilize a great piece of property in the center of town," she explained.
 
"Somehow incorporate ... the future emergency services complex that could potentially be situated on that property. It would be a phased approach to the actual project."
 
She said the town will be issuing a request for design and architecture services proposal and plans to request funds from town meeting.
 
"Our stance as a board ... everybody is in agreement with this process and we're excited about it," Francesconi said before calling for the vote that was unanimous at 4-0 with Robert Ciskowski absent from the night's meeting.
 
The town has been conducting an online survey pertaining to Town Hall services and how they might be improved and is likely to conduct another to gauge the public's interest in changing transfer station hours. The town will be hiring a new fully dedicated attendant in the near future and the board feels the time is right to add more user-friendly hours to the schedule.
 
"I'm all for expanding the hours," said Board of Health member CJ Garner. "The windows of operation right now ... are very narrow and don't really conform to most people's work schedules. Obviously a transfer station open until 5 o'clock does not fit the person who works a 9-5. I'm all for doing a study ... and see what hours people would like the transfer station open."
 
Recently elected Board of Health member Michael Kruszyna agrees.
 
"I was down there last Wednesday selling stickers and bags and I couldn't believe how many people ... there were people waiting in line to throw their stuff away. I think we do need to change the hours, mix it up a little bit."
 
The board will be putting a survey on the town's website to hear residents' suggestions.
 
The next meeting of the Board of Selectmen will be Tuesday, July 7, at 6:30 p.m. and will be held virtually. See the town's website for login information. 

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Cheshire Selectmen Eye Salary Increases in FY21 Budget

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The fiscal 2021 budget preparation dominated at Tuesday night's Selectmen's meeting.
 
Aside from reviewing the Board of Health and Council on Aging operating budgets, the board discussed at length what some members see as stagnant salaries for many town positions.
 
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV recently undertook a salary study with input from the Massachusetts Municipal Association's Human Resources department. Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi feels Cheshire has fallen behind other similar communities in compensating it's employees.
 
"Based on feedback that we received at the town meeting last year, a concerted effort has been made by the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee towards improving the overall salary structure of our town. We have been undercompensating our employees, we do recognize that, and it's something we are looking to address," she said to the virtual attendees.
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