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Adams Board of Health Addresses Open Meeting Law Issue

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — Because of a possible Open Meeting Law violation, the Board of Health will repeat its tobacco permit cap public hearing. 
The board voted Wednesday to repeat the hearing after being informed that there was the potential of a complaint.
"I think the main purpose of a public hearing is to make sure we hear public comment before we make a decision," board member Laura Grandchamp said. "There is a potential that that didn't happen for everybody at that meeting." 
On Aug. 13, the Board of Health adopted the new tobacco permit cap that would tie the number of permits allowed in town to the town's population.
Although many residents were able to attend the hearing remotely, some were unable to access the meeting through the Zoom platform. Also, the posting stated that the meeting would be held at Town Hall, which was locked up during the time of the hearing.
The board did not know any details surrounding the complaint and Town Counsel Edmund St. John III was hesitant to share any information during the meeting. He did note that no complaint had been filed but was confident it would be.
"It is preferable to deal with it in house rather than deal with someone filing a formal complaint. Then you have to deal with the Attorney General's Office," he said. "... I am pretty sure it will be filed in a timely manner unless the board takes certain action."
Chairman David Rhoads felt the board had essentially two options: repeat the meeting or see if the complaint is actually filed within the 30-day window, that would end Friday, and be prepared to act on its merits.
Rhoads said he was reluctant to repeat the hearing without knowing what the complaint entailed.
"I don't like making decisions without information or ... without solid evidence," he said. "It is kind of an issue to say 'I have evidence against you but you can't see it' you just have to plead guilty."
St. John said there was evidence that people had difficulties entering the virtual meeting and although no one showed up at Town Hall, the posting was still incorrect.
More importantly, not taking action could create vulnerability within the regulation, St. John said. He said enforcement could be challenged down the line if the proper process was not adhered to.
The board voted to repeat the hearing and will reconvene Sept. 30 after a new corrected posting is advertised.
Board member Peter Hoyt acknowledged that they have had issues running their meetings on their own without town staff. He was specifically unsure about using the Zoom platform.
"Technology and myself don't get along. I am running these meetings, and that is dangerous," Hoyt said. "We need some help then hopefully we can avoid these problems."
He went as far to suggest that the board refuse to meet unless they have town staff support.
Rhoads agreed and noted even the Code Enforcement Officer Mark Blaisdell has not been present at past meetings.
"It makes it difficult. Our last meeting, half the agenda was based on material that Mark Blaisdell was supposed to bring to the meeting," he said. "We don't seem to be able to communicate effectively and get the information we need to make appropriate decisions."  
The Sept. 30 meeting will take place 4:30 p.m. instead of the usual 4 p.m. time slot.

Tags: board of health,   open meeting complaint,   

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Adams Residential Tax Rate Up 3 Percent

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen set a fiscal 2021 residential tax rate of $22.62 and a commercial tax rate of $26.89 per $1,000 valuation. Both figures are up 3 percent over last year.
The board members approved a 115 percent split that represents a 74 cent increase on the residential side and a 90 increase on the commercial side of the tax rate at Wednesday's tax classification hearing.
"Everybody has to pay taxes, and I think we do very well in this community making our elderly feel at home," Selectman Joseph Nowak said. "I think we do well for our children, and this is a matter of everybody pitching in."
Last year, the Selectmen approved the same 115 percent shift that created a residential tax rate of $21.88 and a commercial rate of $25.99, or 
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