CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Selectmen saw an updated draft of the Hoosac Valley Regional School District lease agreement for the former Cheshire Elementary School.
The board members volleyed the updated agreement Tuesday to the School Committee to gauge its feelings on a possible rent increase.
"We will revisit all of this in a few weeks," Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi said.
The discussion began after the former town administrator gave the district permission to clean out the old library space to house a remote access space for teachers without a stable internet connection for remote instruction.
It was found that the room was not actually part of the central office's lease agreement and, after taking a deeper look at the agreement, it was agreed by all parties that it needed to be updated.
Superintendent Arron Dean said the district would be interested in adding the room permanently to its lease. He said the current Special Education office is quite small and the larger library would be a better fit.
"We will probably need it," Dean said. "The town has no real use for it, and I think it makes sense to add it to the footprint."
The Selectmen initially felt a $2,500 increase to include the room was fair and asked to raise the lease amount from $10,000 to $12,500.
Dean first asked if this was negotiable given that the district shares space and services with the town.
Francesconi was hesitant to totally give up use of the space especially now when town boards need more room to socially distance while meeting.
"A lot of boards and commissions have been unable to meet, and we do not have adequate space in town hall to meet socially distanced," she said.
Selectman Ronald DeAngelis agreed the town needed to be mindful of what space it gives up with the future of the building still undetermined. But he felt the town had more than enough space at the now-closed community center.
He said his main concern was covering the utility and service costs of the building and wanted to increase the rent even higher.
"We aren't looking to make money ... we are not in the business to make money," DeAngelis said. "We just want to cover our costs."
The town also leases space to the Youth Center and in the summer months often lease out the cafeteria.
If the town was adamant in increasing the rent, Dean asked if it would it be possible to do it incrementally. He said would bring the discussion up at the next School Committee meeting.
In the meantime, the Selectmen agreed to figure out what immediate use they want out of the building and what the actual costs are.
Before moving on to the next agenda item, Dean said the district is also interested in using the kitchen as a meal distribution site.
The Selectmen liked the idea but were concerned it would create a new usage. Currently, the kitchen can not be used as such. Francesconi asked if just using the refrigerators would cause an issue.
Dean said he would ask the director of food services for more input.
In other business, the Selectmen voted to change all building locks and create a key holder policy.
"There are a number of questions out there about keys," Francesconi said. "I think we need to create a key holder policy so we can start tracking these keys."
Francesconi noted that it is unknown what keys have been duplicated and who has them. She said the new keys would not be able to be duplicated.
The board also discussed future warrant articles and besides the purchase of a new brush truck, wanted to put an updated consolidated list of town bylaws before the town.
Francesconi said this project has been in the works for some time now, and the former town administrator was working on the review with town counsel.
DeAngelis said it has been about a year since town counsel started working on the project and he is hesitant to place anything on the warrant at this time.
Francesconi said the town's bylaws have been an issue for some time and that the bylaw amendments are not properly codified if included in the bylaws at all.
"There have been several times in the past few years when we have been asked if things have been in our bylaws, and we honestly don't know the answer to some of those questions," she said.
She added that some bylaws need to be updated and there was concern if some were even accepted by the attorney general.
Interim Town Administrator Mark Webber said he would follow up on the bylaw review
The Selectmen held a brief budget discussion that was truncated because of the absence of some department heads.
On the agenda was the Highway Department and the Water Department. Highway Superintendent Robert Navin was given a pass by the Board of selectmen because of extended plowing hours.
The Water Commissioners did not attend the meeting but notified Francesconi later that they did not know they had to attend. This was attributed to a break down in e-mail communication.
The Selectmen had little to say about the level-funded Council on Aging. Council on Aging board member Gene Gebarowski said there was nothing flashy in the budget and that there were no department needs with the physical Council on Aging essentially being shut down this year.
"The budget is more than adequate because it is just a funny year, and our building has been shut down but we are doing different things than anticipated," he said.
The board also had no input on the level-funded cemetery budget.
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