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Selectmen Joseph Nowak, left, Richard Blanchard, and James Bush, listen to Town Clerk Haley Meczywor's plans for the upcoming election season.

State Aid Numbers in Hand, Adams Eyes September Town Meeting

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Staff
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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.
Adams has been operating under a 1/12th budget scenario that requires the town to operate month by month while spending no more than 1/12th of its total expenditures from last fiscal year in any given month. Each month's budget must be approved separately by the Selectmen and also be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
Green said he received some good news from the state when it comes to fiscal 2021 state aid numbers. The Legislature last week approved a $16.5 billion spending bill to fund the government through October that includes level funding local aid. The governor signed the measure on Friday.
"The state has indicated that they are going to hold state aid allocations, or cherry sheet, and Chapter 70 for the schools at fiscal '20 numbers. What that means is we now have a solid figure to budget and plan for," Green said. "We've done some quick math ... if you recall we had thrown around a number of a 10 percent reduction in state aid. That could have been upwards of $250,000. I can tell you that I sleep a little bit better knowing that it's not going to be deep cuts. I think we can handle that without impacting the labor force or service delivery to our constituents."
Green gave an indication that annual town meeting will happen in September and said this will benefit more than just the budget process as the town has other pressing issues to address. The meeting will not resemble any one from recent memory because of gathering restrictions caused by the pandemic.
"I would anticipate at this point a town meeting in September. We will probably go back to the outdoor model, that would be my guess. It's still the only way physically to do it. We've seen some communities who have moved forward have success with that [outdoor] model. We have our 40R warrant article to discuss, we have zoning changes. I can tell you right now we have some development interest in Adams and I think it would be in our community's best interest to move forward with these items," Green said.
The board had already started the budget process prior to the pandemic shutdown so there will be minimal work involved in finalizing a spending plan but Green did say any line items affected by the level-funded state aid number would be brought back to the budget subcommittee.
Level funding, although good news considering many of the dire predictions tossed around over the past few months, is still not great news. Town expenditures rise yearly because of health insurance increases, step and cost-of-living raises, and general inflation among other factors. One dollar in FY21 stretches slightly less than the same dollar did in FY20.
Chairwoman Christine Hoyt pointed out that the board will still have to approve a September budget under the 1/12th process before finalizing a FY21 hard budget at an outdoor annual town meeting. 
In other business, the board approved an updated job description for the community development director's position. The action was necessitated by the retirement announcement of 20-year veteran of the post Donna Cesan. 
Cesan has been instrumental in securing millions in funding for a countless number of improvement projects throughout the town. This year alone will see the total refurbishment of Russell Field, Town Common, and the Route 8 corridor from Park Street to the Grove Street bridge. 
Hoyt said that while Cesan's exit is not directly imminent, she does expect it to be before the new year.
Town Clerk Haley Meczywor gave an update regarding the upcoming election season. With many citizens avoiding public gatherings she said there has been a larger than usual demand for alternative voting methods.
The town holds its elections at the Department of Public Works garage on North Summer Street and while the local elections went off without a hitch in June, a much larger turnout is expected for the Massachusetts primaries on Sept. 1 and the general election on Nov. 3. With such a large turnout expected many residents are choosing to vote by one of several remote methods.

Town Administrator Jay Green said he expects state aid numbers to be level with last year. Town Clerk Haley Meczywor can be seen projected on the wall behind him. 
"At this point we have over a thousand ballots that we will be mailing out for the September primary. Some people are just requesting the November ballot and we have received about 200 of those already in the mail," Meczywor told the board. "The state is also requiring us to do in-person early voting. Beginning on Saturday, Aug. 22, through Thursday, Aug. 27, we will be doing in-person early voting [in Town Hall]. It will be a very busy election season in September and then again in November."
Anyone interested in receiving a mail-in or absentee ballot should contact the town clerk's office at 413-743-8300, Ext. 113 or 115.
The next regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen will be Wednesday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m. and will be held virtually. Visit the town website for login instructions.

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State Commits Funds to Build Greylock Glen Outdoor Center

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The state will commit $6.5 million to fund the construction of the Greylock Glen Outdoor Center, and construction is slated to begin in August.
The Selectmen were in for a bit of a surprise Wednesday and instead of discussing the wastewater treatment plant at a scheduled workshop meeting, they got a call from the lieutenant governor's office.
"I received a call from what has been long-awaited in Adams from Gov. Charlie Baker and he was kind enough to inform me that the Baker-Polito administration is happy to fund the development of the Adams Outdoor Center," Town Administrator Jay Green said. "That will finally realize a long-waited 60-year dream."   
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who called into the workshop via Zoom, said she was happy to announce that the administration has committed funds that would mark the first development on the proposed 1,063-acre resort
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