Adams Fire District Rejects Bylaw Change Prompted by Lawsuit

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — Members of the Fire District voted 13-11 to oppose a proposed bylaw amendment that would have made customers pay some fees directly to the town. 
The district voted down Article 11, which would have enacted changes to the fees and other bylaws, at its annual meeting on Tuesday. Thirteen of the remaining 14 articles were approved, with one, for special committee reports, tabled because there were not reports. 
The proposed change to the fire protection and street lighting fees resulted from a class-action lawsuit last year against the district. A Superior Court judge found that the district did not have the authority to charge for anything other than water, according to an 1873 act by the Legislature. The suit, filed by Catherine Foster, is asking for refunds of fees for services. 
Voters did approve Articles 13 and 14 that authorized and agreement to a settlement and to appropriate $600,000 from surplus revenue to pay as part of the settlement. 
"The wording [in the bylaw] has changed. Fire protection and street lighting will be collected by the town of Adams and not the fire district," Prudential Committee Chairman Thomas Satko said.
The change in the bylaws read: "All bills for fire protection and street lighting shall be paid semi-annually at Town Hall. See the Town of Adams for their collection policies."
Fire Chief John Pansecchi said the fees would be a separate line item from the rest of the town's tax bill. While $30,000 is in the district's budget for a town collection fee, Satko said there was not currently an agreement on what a collection fee could be. 
Other proposed bylaw changes included updates to the annual meeting article and the addition of stipends for department staff. 
Foster, who attended the meeting, voiced concern over proposed changes to the annual meeting, saying it legally had to be posted in Cheshire because the district has customers there. The Prudential Committee said they would discuss the matter and make corrections if needed in the future. 
"I can tell you I have an email from the assistant attorney general saying that this meeting had to be posted there," Foster said. 
Article 8 authorized the treasurer to borrow $625,000 for a new fire engine. Satko said the truck will not be ready until fiscal 2024.
"The Fire Department had a committee, they researched trucks, they came up with a truck and what they're doing is basically it's getting in line to get a truck in there," he said. 
Pansecchi said, if the district waited, the truck would likely go up in price. 
"We're probably looking at $700,000-plus next year coming in asking for it," he said. 
The annual meeting also approved $100,000 to replace a radio read meter; appropriating $503,193.20 for the general fund; appropriating $1,526,177.86 for the district enterprise fund and appropriating $40,000 to its reserve fund. 
Article 12 allowed members of the Prudential Committee to sell timber.
About half the members left partway through the meeting to respond to a fire. 

Tags: annual meeting,   fire district,   

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Adams General Government Review Committee Creates Working Plan

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff

ADAMS, Mass. — The General Government Review Committee has created a working plan for the next several months as it continues working on updating the town charter.

Community Paradigm Associates consultant Bernard Lynch created the plan, which will guide the group in future meetings, based on discussions the group has had previously. Topics include town meeting structure, executive and personnel functions, modes of appointment for town officials, financial management and other issues.

Lynch said he hopes the committee is able to complete discussion of one topic per meeting but noted some discussions might take more or less time than others.

"We don't have to make a decision [on a given topic] that night," he said. "I think we should try, if we can, to make decisions as we go on. But if somebody has to be held over for additional information, we can."

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