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Adams Aiming for Summer Reopening of Public Buildings

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — The town is hoping to fully reopen by July, depending on public health data.
Town Administrator Jay Green told the Select Board on Wednesday that although he does not foresee completely opening until the summer, he thought it was time to start planning.
Green said currently the town is in the yellow level of the state's COVID-19 categories and that he would not be comfortable opening until the town is consistently in the green or, even better, gray. The levels run from red for high transmission and positive cases to gray at the lowest level.
"As long as we are in the red or yellow, that indicates the presence of COVID-19 at a level that could promote community spread," Green said. "As you can see there are a lot of communities opening up, but we are a little behind. Is it conservative? Yes but I think we are almost there."
Green said he would have to confer with the Board of Health but felt two weeks in the gray or green would be a clean enough bill of health to reopen more broadly. The town dropped to yellow last week after four weeks in the red.
"I do not think this will continue beyond the summer into May and June," he said. "I think by July 1 we will be able to open fully."
Green said the opening would begin gradually. He said there would likely be continued limitations such as temperature checks, sign-in sheets, and of course mask-wearing.
"We just want to be able to control it so we can protect the staff," he said.
Green said he thought it was OK for boards to begin meeting in person once again. He said he would still prefer to limit public attendance and, at first, only allow residents who have business with whatever public body is meeting.
He said throughout the process, he thought it was important to offer remote access to the public. He said the town has already invested in the needed infrastructure for video conferencing, and he thought it was a worthwhile practice to continue, perhaps beyond the pandemic.
"I think no matter what we do I think it is important to let people know that we will always have remote access," Green said. "We just want to be smart about it and go from there."
Selectman Joseph Nowak said he had enough of remote meetings and was ready to meet in person. He suggested using the Memorial Building as the town did for the joint budget hearings.
"There is plenty of room for people who want to come in," he said. "I think this by Zoom is cumbersome, and I am raring to get back to regular order."
Selectwoman Christine Hoyt said although the town was able to hold these meetings at the former middle school they were logistically challenging. Specifically, the town was unable to broadcast the meeting at all. She said there was not a strong enough internet signal to allow remote access and Northern Berkshire Community Television was unable to broadcast the meetings. Only those who wanted to attend in person could participate in the meeting.
"We could not provide access ... and there were a lot of logistical nightmares to complicate things even further," Hoyt said.
Nowak said he did not think the town was obliged to broadcast the meetings.
Green said he thought the Selectmen could optimize their own meeting space to allow better access remotely for the time being. He said the video conference equipment is pretty portable.
Green said the town does plan to move the Council on Aging to the Memorial Building from the Visitors Center. Not only does this align with the town's long-term goal, but it will allow seniors to spread out.
In other business, the board reorganized. John Duval, re-elected Monday, will serve as chairman and Hoyt stepped down to vice chairman.
"I wanted to say thank you to my colleagues for allowing me to serve as chair for the past two years," Hoyt said. "It is something that I have enjoyed."
The board also welcomed newly elected member Howard Rosenberg, who said he was excited to be part of the group.
"I am happy to be serving with you folks, and I look forward to working with you all," Rosenberg said. "There is a lot to learn."
Members were notified that some boards were not filled during the election, and there are open seats on both the Board of Health and the Parks Commission.
The Selectmen said they would accept letters from those interested in being appointed to the boards.
The Board of Health is still able to meet, but the Parks Commission no longer has a quorum. 
Green said the select board can handle Parks Commission duties while consulting with remaining commission members in the interim.
Parks Commissioner James Fassell said some members had a difficult time gaining the needed number of signatures to be able to run. He said it was difficult to approach people during a pandemic.
He suggested moving the commission to an appointed board.
Green thought this was a good idea but noted that it would require a charter change.
"It would be far easier than to have those interested mount an old-fashioned election for a volunteer public service," he said.
The Parks Commission is only a recommending body.

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Adams Town Meeting OKs $16.2M Budget, Cannabis Zoning Amendment

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Town Moderator Myra Wilk conducts the annual town meeting.
ADAMS, Mass. — The annual town meeting accepted 29 articles on Monday, including a $16.2 million fiscal 2022 budget and a zoning bylaw amendment that allows cannabis cultivators and manufacturers in the industrial park district.
There were 102 town meeting members in attendance outside at Bowe Field, or nearly two-thirds of the members. An overflow tent was set up beside the pavilion to accommodate additional people.
The meeting adjourned well before sundown, around 7:15 p.m. 
The FY22 budget of $16,228,113 is a minus 0.76 percent decrease from fiscal 2021, which had a bottom line of $16,348,818. The budget increases personnel costs by 1.25 percent and operational costs have decreased by 0.24 percent.
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