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Cheshire Town Meeting to Decide Administrator Job, 2022 Budget

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The annual town meeting will decide 18 articles Monday including the fiscal year 2022 budget that will decide the fate of the full-time town administrator position.
 
Article 2 represents the town's proposed $6,667,366 budget that is only a 0.4 percent increase over this year. This budget does include a $45,000 increase in the town administrator salary line item that bumps the potential pay up from $40,000 to $85,000. This would bring the position to full time instead of part time.
 
The Selectmen offered Ashfield Town Administrator Jennifer Morse the job, however, she said she would not be interested in the position if it was part time.
 
The Selectmen have said they felt a full-time administrator is needed to not only properly manage the day-to-day operations of the town, but to chase grant opportunities the town has missed out on over the years with only a part-time administrator.
 
The budget and the town meeting warrant can be found here.
 
Article 3 will see if town meeting will borrow and appropriate any additional sum or sums of money to make repairs and improvements to town roads and bridges that will be reimbursed by the state under any applicable state aid
 
• Article 4 asks town meeting to appropriate $260,000 in free cash to offset the tax rate.
 
• Article 5 will see if town meeting will allow the use of $71,000 from free cash to make needed information technology upgrades. The town's antiquated IT infrastructure is open to cyberattacks and does not properly backup town files and information
 
• Article 6 will see if town meeting will use $7,200 in free cash for the purpose of securing specialized contracted services to the Board of Assessors. The Assessors must undergo a reevaluation of utilities.
 
• Article 7 will see if town meeting will use $15,000 in free cash to purchase a used pickup truck for the Fire Department. This vehicle will be used as a brush truck.
 
• Article 8 will ask to reallocate the $60,000 town meeting approved in 2020 for design work for the renovation/construction of a community center/Town Hall and construction of a public safety complex at the former elementary school. Instead, the funds will be used to make repairs to the fire station floor.
 
• Article 9 will ask town meeting to accept the provisions of MGL Chapter 53, Section 9A for the purpose of establishing clear rules for the dates of taking out and returning town election nomination papers. This is to provide clarity and avoid future confusion to the elected officials' nomination process.
 
• Article 10 deals with the senior tax exemption program and asks town meeting to accept the provisions of Chapter 184 section 51 of the Acts of 2002 to adjust Clause 41C eligibility requirements. It reduces the applicable age from 70 to 65 and increases gross receipts for a single resident from $13,000 to $16,500. It increases married couples from $15,000 to $22,500. 
 
This is to broaden the pool of applicants.
 
• Article 11 will allow the selectmen to negotiate and enter into a payment in tax agreement for a term of 20 years with operator Harbor Road Solar 1 LLC that has developed a 1.980 MW solar photovoltaic energy facility located on half of a 20-acre parcel on the easterly side of Harbor Road. 
 
The approximate annual revenue would be $25,000. Approval of this article requires a majority vote.
 
• Article 12 will see if the town will borrow $235,000 to purchase a new Freightliner M-2 Series 4x4 wing plow and single-axle dump truck for use within the Highway Department and to dispose of a 2006 International 4x4 wing-plow dump Truck
 
This article requires a two-thirds vote for borrowing approval and a future Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion vote.
 
• Article 13 will see if town meeting will allow the transfer of $150,000 from available certified Water Operations Surplus for the purpose of conducting Route 8 water main replacement. 
 
There is currently $177,956 in the account.
 
• Article 14 will see if the town will allow the borrowing of $500,000 for the same project mentioned in Article 13. This will require a future Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion vote.
 
If approved, all associated debt service shall be offset in full by Cheshire water users.
 
• Article 15 will change the position of tax collector from elected to appointed.
 
• Article 16 will make the town clerk position an appointed position instead of an elected position. 
 
Both articles 15 and 16 will have to be followed up with a ballot vote. If approved, the change will go into effect in May 2024.
 
• Article 17 will allow the Selectmen to file a petition for legislation to provide for recall elections of town officials.
 
A lengthy outline of the process can be found on the town meeting warrant, and it is modeled after several other versions approved in other municipalities. The full reading includes different requirements and timetables to be met.
 
But in short, the act would require that the person must have more than six months remaining in their term. Any qualified voter can file an affidavit with the town clerk containing the name of the officer sought to be recalled and a statement of the grounds of recall.
 
A petition must be signed by 3 percent of or 100 registered voters, whichever is less. It must be returned and filed with the town clerk within 20 days after the filing of the affidavit.
 
If the officer does not resign within five days, the Selectmen can order an election. The officer attempted to be removed may run to succeed themselves. Their name shall be placed on the ballot without nomination.
 
The incumbent shall continue to perform their duties until the recall election. If then re-elected, they shall continue in office for the remainder of their unexpired term. If they fail to be elected, the successor will run out the remainder of the term.
 
If not re-elected in the recall election, they shall be deemed removed upon the qualification of
their successor, who shall hold office during the unexpired term. If the successor does not take the seat it will remain vacant. 
 
The removed officer shall be appointed to any Town office within three years after such removal by recall or resignation.
 
Article 18 will close the meeting.
 
Town meeting is Monday, June 14, at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium at Hoosac Valley High School. 
 

Tags: town meeting 2021,   

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Cheshire to Obtain Review of Financial Procedures

By Gregory FournieriBerkshires Staff

CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen has begun the process of cleaning up some of the town's procedures that will help the government run more smoothly.

This appears to be a result of new Town Administrator Jennifer Morse, who is a full-time employee with more time to manage the town's resources than Cheshire has had before.

At the meeting Tuesday, Morse presented some new or updated forms that were approved by the board. These included time sheets, a special permit application, and a purchasing policy.

She also presented a product from the Technical Assistance Bureau, which is part of the state's Division of Local Services. The product in question is a free financial management review, she said, which "really look[s] into the accounting, the treasurer, the collector, [and] the assessor's piece of how the town functions."

"You will find things that you're not happy about," Morse said. "But it's things that need some work."

Morse said she has worked with the bureau before in other communities, and has found it helpful. "They're great to work with," she said.

The board unanimously voted to join the waiting list for the bureau, which will come in October and issue a report to the town by the end of the year.

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