Town Hall will function a little different as the town uses some of its CARES Act funds to make the building safer and improve remote access for employees.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV told the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday that he's planning to have the request for proposals ready soon for the former Cheshire Elementary School.
The board decided to keep the former school building under town ownership with a goal in mind of making it the central hub for all town services. Board members also have an eye on constructing an emergency services complex on the 10-acre site in the future. St. John said he hopes to have a cost estimate for architectural and engineering services to present to town meeting next month.
"I did finish the first draft of the RFP and forwarded it for [the board's] approval. If the board approves the draft we can publish this to start the process to move forward so town meeting has the information it needs to act on the request to fund the project," he said.
"This will provide a schedule and a timeline for this to go out and do a site tour, ask questions, and allow for the board to interview prospective firms. The two agencies who reached out to us in our initial request (for re-use studies) are very interested in this. These are two agencies that have long histories with these kinds of projects. I'm pretty encouraged that once we put this out we'll really receive a good response."
The town decided to adopt the 1/12th option in June when the Legislature delayed its local aid numbers because of revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Instead of adopting a hard budget it may not be able to fund because of eventual state cutbacks, the town will work off of its FY 2020 budget and spend no more than 1/12th of that budget each month.
The first order of business at Tuesday's meeting was setting the town's operations budget for August. This will be Cheshire's second month operating under the 1/12th budget.
The August budget was approved by the board at $496,316.32, which is down from the July number of just under $600,000. In the 1/12th process, the first month of the fiscal year is often higher due to one-time or quarterly payments such as insurance, debt service, retirement obligations, etc.
The town must approve a number each month and send that to Boston for the final blessing from the Department of Revenue. The board has indicated prior that it hopes to go no longer than next month under the 1/12th process and hold the annual town meeting in August to set the FY 2021 budget.
The town received about $120,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act funding recently and is starting to see some safety products rolling in for town staff. The CARES Act was created at the federal level in part to ease the COVID-19-related fiscal impact to cities and towns.
Town Hall will undergo some minor changes all aimed at protecting residents and employees from contracting the virus once town buildings reopen. Also, remote access will be greatly improved with technology upgrades throughout the building. Right now, it starts with simply keeping things as sanitized as possible.
"We continue to implement the plan regarding our CARES Act funding. More equipment is coming in. We are starting to distribute that among Town Hall employees. Mostly wipes which came in today," St. John said.
The town administrator had some more good news regarding the Council on Aging's transportation van. Without proper protection, the van has been parked since March but that will soon change St. John said.
"[Berkshire Regional Transportation Authority] installed Plexiglas in the COA van so we're looking to get that up and running fairly soon to resume transportation for necessary appointments, i.e, medical. As of right now, the van will be able to accommodate two passengers and a driver so it's not going to be chock full," St. John said. "There are safety precautions put in place in the van as well as cleaning measures. There are also measures to screen people who are coming on, a series of questions that they'll be asked, as well as a contactless thermometer. We want to make sure we're not spreading anything and that riders and drivers are as safe as possible."
The next regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen will be Tuesday, July 21, at 6:30 p.m. and will be held virtually. Visit the town website for login information.
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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
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