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Dalton Will Reopen Town Hall, Continue Virtual Meetings

By Joe DurwiniBerkshires Correspondent
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DALTON, Mass. — The Select Board is looking to open Town Hall for business by the beginning of next month, but will continue to hold its meetings remotely for the time being.

With a variety of new safety features in places and consistently reassuring numbers in Dalton throughout recent weeks, town is staged to reopen access to key town offices to the public by the first week of April.

"We're in a much better situation than we were a year ago," said Jayne Smith, the town's health agent, who detailed signage, workplace barriers and other provisions put in place in the building.

The board also opted to move forward with the installation of a new glass door inside the entrance to Town Hall, separating the hallway into a more contained vestibule area.

The board also wanted to know about the possibility of resuming its own meetings in person, for which Smith outlined two options. In the first scenario, members of the Select Board could meet with each other in person while still broadcasting it as a remote meeting for the purposes of public participation. By law, no members of the public would be allowed to be present in person if it is also being conducted as a Zoom meeting.

Technological obstacles may be a factor with this as well; it was noted that some in-person/Zoom hybrid meetings attempted by the Finance Committee had been largely inaudible for remote viewers.

The second option would be to have in-person meetings that are fully open to the public, but also stay within compliance of state mandates.

"The issue that you run into there, is that we would still be looking at capacity limits, and we would also be drastically increasing the bubble of people that are meeting face to face," Smith told them.

The Select Board agreed that with current caps on capacity for the Senior Center, it could run into trouble if more members of the public showed up than the room could accommodate.

"After hearing some of these things, I'm concerned about access for our residents to hear the conversations going on, and confusion about whether or not residents can or can't come," said Select Board member Joseph Diver, "Maybe we should continue to do what we are doing now until we can truly have public meetings."

The board concurred, and will continue to host its meetings remotely until further notice.

It has not been decided yet what form Dalton's annual town meeting will take. One possibility is to hold it in the Nessacus Middle School gymnasium, with chairs spaced and doors open for ventilation, as was done in 2020.

Alternately, its auditorium could be used, but Smith expressed concerns about the lack of windows and whether it could accommodate as many safely. The third option under consideration is to hold an outdoor meeting.

The Select Board will review the information concerning each option, and take up discussion of the annual town meeting location at its next weekly meeting.


Tags: COVID-19,   town hall,   


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Berkshire Colleges Receive $12M in American Rescue Plan Funds

BOSTON. — Berkshire Community College, Williams College, and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will receive more than $12 million in American Rescue Plan Funds.
 
On Tuesday, U.S Rep. Richard Neal announced that Berkshire Community College, Williams College, and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will all receive a slice of the nearly $90 million in emergency funding for colleges, universities, and students in Massachusetts' First Congressional District under the American Rescue Plan.
 
"The success of our local colleges and universities is critical to the success of our students and to the strength of our community," said Neal in a press release. "Educational institutions here in Western and central Massachusetts and across the country have been steadfast in their mission of delivering quality education in the face of this pandemic. The American Rescue Plan makes a historic investment that will secure the future of these valued institutions and provide struggling students with urgent relief that will allow them to stay on track and complete their education." 
 
BCC will receive $3,969,913, Williams College will receive $4,200,741, and MCLA will receive $3,942,592.
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