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Cruiser, Backhoe, Bridge Top Clarksburg Capital Requests

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials will be considering department requests for vehicles and equipment in the fiscal 2022 budget. 
The Police Department, Highway Department and library presented their budgets and capital plans to the Finance Committee on Monday. 
Police Chief Michael Williams's budget includes a request for a new police cruiser and police clerk. 
Williams had asked for a new vehicle last year to replace the decade-old Chevrolet Tahoe but had been asked to put it off another year. 
"Last year we had put some money into it. This year hasn't been real bad, but we had a couple issues," the chief said. "We had to replace the radiator, and I think the alternator went on us. I mean it's up there in age."
The sport utility vehicle has about 87,000 miles and has been running well, he said, "but you never know." It is expected to get new brakes, pads and rotors and tires in this year. 
If a new cruiser was purchased, the Tahoe would become the backup vehicle and replace the force's old Chevy Impala. 
"We do like to have it to be able to use as a secondary at some point, you know, so I hate to just drive it into the ground," Williams said. "It's still a decent vehicle."
Finance Chairman James Stakenas said he had spoken with Select Board Chairman Ronald Boucher and Town Administrator Rebecca Stone about the possibility of a cruiser. 
"We're not making any decisions today," he said. "I needed to know the condition and I think you make a good point that ... should we be able to get a new cruiser, that would become a second vehicle, like you did with the Impala for 1,000 years."
Stakenas asked Williams to look ahead at what the Tahoe might need in repairs in the coming fiscal year, assuming the pending repairs would come out of this year's budget, and get an estimate on the cost of a new cruiser. 
Williams received more push back on the need for a police clerk, with Finance Committee member Debra Lefave sharply questioning what the clerk would do for the allotted eight hours. 
"From what I understand, the only thing that they do is bill for detail," she said. "It says we have two policemen and if we don't have details all the week, I wonder what justifies eight hours?"
She asked if someone in the Police Department could take on the billing since it didn't seem like it would take long.
The billing for details had been done by the former administrative assistant but that duty was taken out when the position was slightly revamped to align more as support for the town administrator. 
Stakenas said the decision was made by the Select Board to have a consistent person rather than a part-timer who may not be available. Stone suggested there may be other tasks that the person can do. 
"I think the justification on our end has already been dealt with by the Select Board doing it this way," said Stakenas. "So our questioning isn't going to change it."
"I think it's frivolous," said Lefave.
The clerk's wages would come out of the existing salary line but Stakenas said he wanted to be sure Williams had the resources he needs. 
Highway Foreman Kyle Hurlbut's list included expenditures for salaries, new doors for the town garage and a much-needed backhoe. 
The department's salary line has someone retiring, a retiree buyout, a new hire that will overlap the retiree's departure for training, and a 2.5 percent cost of living wage. The position for the new hire has not yet been posted. 
The capital budget has two doors that were not replaced during the garage addition. Replacing the rotted doors will cost about $6,000 installed. 
"We need to start saving money to replace the 1986 backhoe, it's on its last leg," Hurlbut said. "It's losing power, its transmission is slipping. Those are pretty costly repairs. I mean, it took me a half an hour a month ago to get from a Houghton Street water break back to the garage a mile down the road. 
"It's tired, it's done, it's time. We've gotten our life expectancy out of that machine."
Also in his top three needs is the Cross Road bridge, which has been one-lane for several years. Hurlbut said he'd asked Stone to see if there were any grants the town was eligible for. 
"It's going to be quite an expensive repair that we need to start saving money for," he said, estimating it would take 8-10 years of Chapter 90 highway funds to cover -- without doing any other work in town. 
Library Director Lynn DePaoli had no large capital needs but did require a raise in the dues and membership line to cover added services from CW MARS, the Central/Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing library consortium. 
That added about $700 to the line item, which was carried over to next year's budget. 
DePaoli reported that the library's hours have been cut back because of the pandemic but it has been doing about 30 curbside pickups a week and also home deliveries. 
She did ask for an increase of $2,000 in the materials line for new books, saying she's been weeding out a lot of books dating back to the 1980s.
Stakenas noted she'd only used about 14 percent of this year's materials budget and Lefave asked why she would need extra if she's not spending what she already has. 
DePaoli said a lot of things had been back-ordered. Stakenas said he agreed with Lefave and asked DePaoli to coordinate with Stone on what has been spent and what is encumbered.
"There's no question you need to buy materials and if you're not able to get them, we should talk about where that money can be put," he said. "We don't want to deprive you of the resources, we just want to make sure we have the right amount of money there."
No final decisions will be made until state numbers firm up but the town is in generally good fiscal condition. It has $340,748 in free cash, down from $514,892 last year, and $241,922 in the sewer enterprise fund. The town had also budgeted very conservatively this year but had been pleasantly surprised when state aid came in higher numbers than anticipated. 
Stone reported that the property tax receipts are about 62-65 percent and personal property 85. There is potential for a slight increase in unrestricted government aid, she said, but added "it's still way too early for the House and Senate to be giving out preliminary numbers."
She had plugged in a 2.5 percent increase for McCann Technical School but the town's assessment will actually drop from $371,727 to $347,942. The assessment is largely based on enrollment. 
Lefave questioned the process of filling the town clerk's position at 20 hours and if it would have benefits. A special town meeting last August had approved making the elected position an appointed one; this will have to be ratified at the annual town election.
Lefave argued that it was still an elected position that people run for until the town meeting vote was ratified; Stone countered that town counsel had said the appointment could made immediately after the vote despite it being in the middle of a term. 
The town clerk's office is not on the ballot this year despite a year being left on the three-year term. It is currently being filled by an interim appointment.
When the town had made the treasurer and tax collector appointed positions in 2011, the appointments were made at the conclusion of the respective terms. The town clerk's position had also been on the ballot for appointment that year and was defeated; two people ran for the office on the same ballot. 

Tags: clarksburg_budget,   fiscal 2022,   

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Clarksburg Mulling Restoration of Misspelled Street Name

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Joseph Pevoski with sign he installed in 1970, from the North Adams Transcript.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Fifty years ago, Joseph Pevoski made sure his friend would not be forgotten by naming a road after him.
But at some point the road's name was misspelled and Pevoski's son wants to ensure his father's memorial to his friend is restored.
Pvt. 1st Class Herbert McLagan was born in Glasgow, Scotland, but raised in Clarksburg and graduated from Drury High School. He enlisted in the Army in 1941 and was wounded at Cassino a month after landing in Italy in 1944. He died two months later from his wounds.
Pevoski, also of Clarksburg, was wounded at Anzio and told the North Adams Transcript he had seen his friend die in the hospital. Twenty-six years later, he was given town permission to name the road in front of his house McLagan Drive. The sign was installed on the Fourth of July, 1970.
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