Williamstown's Renewed Town Manager Search 'On Pace'

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's search for a permanent town manager is "moving on pace," the Select Board was told on Monday night.
 
Board member Hugh Daley provided an update on the process to the board during a brief public session held by videoconference.
 
"The ad went out last week," Daley said. "I got one note from our consultant. Expressions of interest are already coming in to GovHR.
 
"Hopefully, we'll be able to yield a nice pool of candidates to be vetted by the search committee and forwarded on to the Select Board."
 
It has been 11 months since then-Town Manager Jason Hoch announced he would be leaving before the end of his contract.
 
Since May, the corner office at Town Hall has been occupied by Charles Blanchard, who retired as Palmer's town manager in June 2019. Blanchard's original agreement to serve as interim town manager was extended last fall when an initial town manager search yielded two finalists, and the Select Board chose not to offer the post to either.
 
The board has tasked the same Search Committee that convened in last summer to again screen candidates and recommend finalists to the Select Board, which is the hiring authority for the town manager. The application period closes Feb. 23; Blanchard is set to leave the post at the end of April.
 
The board Monday met publicly for about half an hour before moving to executive session to review minutes from past executive sessions.
 
Its main business at the twice-monthly meeting was in its capacity as the local licensing authority for granting alcohol licenses. Wild Oats Cooperative on Main Street was before the board for approval of a change on its board of directors; the Williams Inn sought approval for a change in the manager of its alcohol license.
 
The board Monday also approved without amendment a report compiled by Chair Andrew Hogeland of steps the town has taken to respond to an August 2020 resolution passed overwhelmingly at town meeting that called on Williamstown to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
 
"I thought this is a well documented list of all the steps that have been taken," Daley said. "It's very good news how much work has been done and is being done."
 
Later in the meeting, Hogeland cited the board's Article 37 report in response to a question from a resident about what the board intends to do in response to the independent investigation of the Williamstown Police Department that the board ordered. Last week, the town released the reports from that investigation to iBerkshires.com and the Williams Record.
 
"Those [reports] are available to anyone who requests them," Hogeland said. "We decided not to publish them because we have some legal issues to worry about.
 
"We all woke up a year and a half ago to some pretty shocking and dismaying allegations [about the WPD]. The independent investigation went through those and, not surprisingly, came up with some recommendations. … There has been a lot of work done in the year and a half to fix what was a dismaying situation."
 
Jane Patton, who served as chair of the Select Board in 2020-21, encouraged people with additional questions about the material in the investigation report should come to the Select Board or individual members.
 
"I'm glad we've gotten this group of documents out there and easily accessible," Patton said. "This is not going to solve every single thing, but it's steps in the right direction. It provides all the clarity we possibly can … and if people have more questions, we can address them.
 
"It's maddening it takes as long as it does to do stuff like this. But it's out there, and I imagine there will be questions. People should feel free to come here and ask or reach out to a Select Board member individually if they want."

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Williamstown Board of Health 'Strongly Recommends' Masks at Town Meeting

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Board of Health on Monday morning strongly recommended that attendees at Tuesday's annual town meeting wear masks and relayed that masks will be available for anyone who arrives without one.
 
But a groundswell appears to be developing for that meeting to be adjourned to a new date and location in light of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The town moderator said last week that he has no intention of unilaterally postponing the meeting or adjourning it to a "date certain" at a different venue. And on Friday, the town posted a statement on the issue on its website.
 
Such an adjournment is possible if an attendee moves for one at the outset of the meeting (identifying a time and location for the meeting's resumption) and that motion passes.
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