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Town Administrator Jay Green and new Police Chief Troy Bacon do their best social distancing at Wednesday night's Selectmen's meeting.

Adams Selectmen Hear Updates On Town Buildings, Schools, Drought

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Staff
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Library Director Holli Jayko, right, said the library takeout service has been brisk. With her is new hire Eleanore Goerlach.
 
ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen heard updates from multiple department heads Wednesday night regarding current COVID-19 restrictions and how it's affecting their ability to serve the public. 
 
Council on Aging Director Erica Girgenti, Library Director Holli Jayko, Code Enforcement Officer Mark Blaisdell, and Department of Public Works Director Robert Tober all spent time in front of the board to essentially say the same thing: They are all dealing with the current restrictions in the safest way possible while continuing to provide services to residents.
 
All town buildings have been closed to walk-in traffic since the governor ordered them shuttered as of March 17 because of the novel coronavirus. There has been a slight loosening of those restrictions but for the most part residents have been encouraged to carry out business remotely when at all possible.
 
Jayko said the programs the library has been able to offer have been highly successful given the restrictions and she expects it to grow from here on out.
 
"We began to offer our library takeout service on June 24. For that last part of the month, we checked out 145 items. We had 33 people on Friday pick up items and 34 people [Wednesday] pick up items. We're able to take precautions and still, at the same time, get one of our vital services going again," she said.
 
The library's hours are Wednesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, for the time being and although that most likely won't be changing soon, Jayko said they are working hard to expand services that she feels are essential.
 
"We are working on Step 2, which is adding public computer access by appointment. We are also looking into providing more wifi hotspots for those members of our community who don't have access to the internet. There is a digital divide, there are those people in the community that just don't have access to a computer or to wifi and we're one of the facilities that helps those citizens."
 
Jayko said she is working closely with Building Inspector Gerry Garner and Blaisdell to ensure the library has enough personal protective equipment to keep staff and customers safe. She also added that they are looking into expanding hours but that wouldn't happen until August at the earliest.
 
Girgenti highlighted a few changes happening at the Adams Visitors Center but one of those is still not walk-in services for  senior citizens. Although she and her staff are back in the office, an appointment is necessary to get inside the Hoosac Street building as it is still mostly closed to the public.
 
"We have some new signage [on the windows] asking anybody to not approach the door without a mask on. We are only seeing people by pre-arranged appointment so we encourage people to call first. We also have a doorbell downstairs at the Visitors Center for those who haven't made an appointment. But The restrooms, the Visitors Center materials, all of those things unfortunately are closed to the public right now," she explained.
 
Girgenti did highlight some programs the COA has been able to reintroduce safely to local seniors.
 
"You may have noticed outside of the Visitors Center there is a beautiful tent. Berkshire Tents gave an incredibly generous rental deal to the town of Adams for that tent. We have that for July and August. We've welcomed back chair yoga, bingo, which gives some of our elders an opportunity to scream and holler, so it gets people excited and gets them back together."
 
She said they will only be taking groups of 10 or fewer for these programs under the tent after consulting with the Board of Health. The COA has continued to run one van during the pandemic but has restricted it to one rider at a time unless the passengers share a living space. They are also still doing senior lunches but it is takeout only. Visit the website for all information regarding the COA or call 413-743-8333.
 
Town Hall is still operating on an appointment-only basis. Tober was keen on reinforcing the sign-in procedure upon entering the building.
 
"Right at the front door the first thing you'll see is the sign in. If it should come out that someone has contracted the virus, we will have everybody who was here," he said.
 
The board reinforced that any Adams town building that is accessible to the public is equipped with sign-in sheets to facilitate contact tracing and undergo daily cleanings. 
 

Water District Superintendent John Barrett reinforced the drought restrictions at the televised meeting.
COVID-19 might be affecting the way the town conducts business but it's Mother Nature impacting residents' lawns and gardens. Water District Superintendent John Barrett gave an update to the board regarding current drought conditions just a week after Prudential Committee member Tom Satko informed the board about it. Residents have either been lax in adhering to state guidelines or weren't aware they were in effect when it comes to conserving water. Either way the board felt it was time for a reminder. 
 
The Level 2 drought condition regulations imposed by the state prohibit any watering of lawns or gardens except for a few pre-dawn and postdusk hours on Monday, forbids at-home washing of cars or any filling of pools or saunas among many other restrictions. The Adams website lists the full restriction list under the water district link. 
 
"Essentially we are under state mandate to do this right now. We didn't have a big winter, not a lot of snowfall, so there are a lot of things I have to implement in correlation with our Water Management Act permit. They tightened up restrictions, everybody all over the United States is tightening up restrictions on water, it's just not as bountiful as it used to be," Barrett said. 
 
Adams gets its water from underground sources which are much more tightly regulated than surface water and reservoirs. Barrett spelled out what it might mean should residents continue to ignore the restrictions in what has been a nearly rain free Summer. 
 
"What happens is, when the water gets lower in the wells, and we're using the same amount of water, the wells will tend to pull water from areas they don't normally pull water from. That's when you run into trouble. That water could be contaminated as you're pulling farther from the wells than where it usually comes from. We're not really in that situation now, but it doesn't mean that we can't be in a situation later."
 
Barrett also said that should over usage persist the state could impose stricter limits on water usage when the town's permit is up for renewal in 2028. Right now residents are allowed to top out at 65 gallons per day per person on average. Barrett said final numbers for last year's usage was about 59 gallons. The entirety of the state west of Worcester is currently under Level 2 drought restrictions.
 

Chairwoman Christine Hoyt said no update on the reopening of district schools for the fall will be heard before August.

Anxious parents wanting to know if they will be putting their kids on buses off to school this Fall will have to wait a little longer to find out. Superintendent Aaron Dean of the Hoosac Valley School District and his counterpart from McCann James Brosnan wrote to the board saying the state's commissioner of education has advised districts not to make any decisions before August.

They are however planning for three separate scenarios come September. Both Dean and Brosnan said they are considering full in person attendance, full home instruction, and a hybrid model of the two. Whichever model they choose won't be announced for at least another two weeks. 

Girgenti also shared an update regarding the 2020 Census. She said Adams right now is running about 5-10 percent behind its usual response rate and hopes that it picks up soon. Door knockers will begin circulating through town Aug. 11 to any households that haven't responded. Accurate population numbers are vital to municipalities as they affect everything  from grant money allocation, local aid dollars, and infrastructure improvement funds among many other federally and state funded programs. Information for the 2020 Census can be found on the town's website.

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State Aid Numbers in Hand, Adams Eyes September Town Meeting

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Staff

Chairwoman Christine Hoyt says retiring Community Development Director Donna Cesan will be recognized for her work at an upcoming meeting.
 
ADAMS, Mass. — Recent clarification on state aid numbers will likely lead to holding the annual town meeting in September, according to Town Administrator Jay Green. 
 
Some municipalities have postponed town meetings and budget votes because of the state's uncertain financial picture caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Without a clear indication of what the state might be providing in unrestricted local aid and Chapter 70 education aid funds, detailed on what's commonly known as the cherry sheets, Green and the Selectmen have been hesitant to schedule a town meeting and approve a budget the town might be unable to afford should state aid numbers be slashed because of the global pandemic's effect on the economy.
 
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