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Cheshire Could Face Budget Hurdles in Town Administrator Search

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Selectmen are concerned that budgetary limitations could delay the hiring of a new town administrator. 
Interim Town Administrator Mark Webber gave an update on the search process last week and said he was at a bit of a crossroads between the job description and the salary.
"You won't have the budget until town meeting approves it in the second week in June," Webber said. "You certainly can't wait for them to approve it before you move forward so there is a dilemma there ... you can assume you are going to get it, but I rather have the money in place." 
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV resigned late last year and town officials have been unsure if they wanted to bump the part-time position up to full time. This would come with an increased salary that at the moment is not in the budget.
Webber said the Selectmen have to make this decision sooner than later because this would have to be in the job description. 
Selectman Ronald DeAngelis said he was disappointed and agreed that the town could not wait until the summer to post the job description.
"That is two years gone nowhere and now we are going to add six more months on top of that," he said.
Webber said if the Selectmen agree to increase the salary they could post the position and hope town meeting follows through. Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi said they could indicate in the job description that the position is pending town meeting approval.
Webber advised against this.
"I would not leave a job without a guarantee that the town appropriated a place for me," he said. 
Selectman Jason Levesque agreed.
"We would be selling them on an empty promise," he said.
If they decided to post the position without having the funds allocated, DeAngelis feared the town would find the perfect candidate and quickly lose them.
Webber said they could hold a special town meeting but even this could not be done immediately.
Firstly the selectmen have to determine the job description and solidify if they want the position to be full-time or part-time.  After this, they can really determine their next steps.
Webber added that he did not think it was worthwhile to hire a third-party consultant to help with the town administrator search process.
"I don't think there is a need … and they aren't going to do anything different than what I would do," Webber said. 
He said it would likely cost the town $12,000 to $15,000, money they do not have allocated.
The Selectmen also heard budget requests from the Highway Department, Water Department, Council on Aging and Cemetery Department.
Highway Superintendent Robert Navin said his budget is essentially level with only contractual salary increases programmed in. 
"We are level-funded except for the salary increase ... it is working right now and there are no major areas where I have concerns," he said. 
As for the capital budget, Navin said he would like to replace a 2006 plow truck that has outlived its useful life.
"It is one of the big Internationals with the wing ... it is beyond its life expectancy and we already revived it once before last season," he said. "That is more than we anticipated originally when it was parked in the weeds. It is tired, old and it is starting to cost a lot." 
He said he would like to purchase a smaller, cheaper truck. He felt it would still meet the town's needs for a lesser price tag of $235,000.
Navin also requested that the town purchase a replacement backhoe. He felt instead of spending $130,000 on a new one, the town could get away with a used machine. 
"I don't see the need to buy a new one," he said. "There is some quality used equipment out there that would suit our needs."
He estimated a used machine would cost between $75,000 and $80,000.
He said the current machine is nearly 20 years old and no longer works properly. He said it is often used to dig graves and is "sloppy." he said it often leaks hydraulic fluid on gravestones.
Navin said he would prioritize the truck but noted delaying the purchase of the backhoe would delay other purchases in his seven-year capitol plan. He said they would also have to figure out a plan b for grave digging.
The water commissioners said they reorganized parts of their essentially level budget. They did ask for a 10 percent increase to their stipends. 
The Council on Aging budget was also essentially level. This was also the case for the cemetery budget that requested a small increase in labor and in commissioner stipends.

Tags: cheshire_budget,   fiscal 2022,   search committee,   

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Cheshire Looking for Pickleball Court Options

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Selectmen are looking for different locations to install a permanent pickleball court in town.

"There is a group of residents that have been playing pickleball, and they have been playing at the school," Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi said. "But there are a lot of kids who use that court so they are looking for a permanent location to play."
Francesconi said the area around the new Appalachian Trail campground was considered as well as the former ice skating rink, however, these weren't seen as viable options.
"I think we need to look beyond those," she said. 
Francesconi felt the rear of the community center was the best location. She said currently there is a shuffleboard court there
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