CHESHIRE, Mass. — Town meeting rejected two bylaw changes on Monday night, including one that would have created a stormwater management bylaw, and increased three line items from the floor.
Article 25, the stormwater bylaw, did not obtain the two-thirds majority needed to pass. It would have regulated the town's storm drain system and prohibited illicit discharges, connections and obstructions.
Several voters were upset that they did not get the chance to read the bylaw sooner. It must be voted on again at the next annual town meeting.
"I'm just a little bit concerned that we haven't done a good job, not because we haven't been trying to get this done, but because the calendar may have run out in terms of getting it on the warrant, where you could have a large public meeting to publicize it and to advertise it," said Planning Board member E. Richard Scholz. "I think some of the people that are going to be most severely impacted by this possibly aren't even here to be able to vote."
The bylaw would have made the Conservation Commission, or any agent it authorizes, the town's stormwater authority. The commission would have been able to enforce penalties for violations, including fines, injunctions and orders for remediation.
Article 22 would have changed the annual town meeting date from the second Monday in June to the last Monday of April and the start time from 7 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Voters expressed concerns about the new date being too early, specifically for school district budgets.
"What happens if the state numbers come in significantly lower than what you put in that budget? You put us in a bind. Why are we moving this to a position where we don't have all of the financials that we need?" asked William Craig, a member of the McCann School Committee.
The 102 voters who attended the nearly three-hour meeting at Hoosac Valley High School passed all other articles, including appropriating $1,238,110 for the general government budget, $2,943,366 for Hoosac Valley Regional School District, $438,574 for McCann Technical School and $30,000 for out-of-district placements.
They also passed a question to transfer $240,555.23 of free cash to lower the town's tax rate and to put another $125,800 into the capital stabilization fund. That also means $7,500 will also go toward Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) compliance and reporting even though the stormwater bylaw failed.
Board of Selectmen Chair Michelle Francesconi said significant work went into managing funds as effectively as possible. She said the general government budget will also fund many technological upgrades across town.
"Throughout the budget, there are numerous times where we did condense line items to allow us to better utilize the funds during the year," she said.
One topic discussed was the salaries of certain town employees, such as the town clerk, that are lower compared to other communities. Francesconi said town employee salaries have been discussed continuously during budget discussions and they will be looked at in the future.
Voters approved a motion by Library Association President Mary Ellen Baker to raise the $38,480 Cheshire Library Association line item by $4,860. Baker said the library plans to use this money to cover some costs of the director position.
Another motion to increase Cemetery Department wages from $28,886 to $37,822 to fund a fourth employee was also approved. These brought the total amount for Article 13 to $130,376 from $116,580.
The Council on Aging revolving fund was increased on the floor from $5,000 to $10,000.
Article 23 would have amended the town's marijuana bylaw to only allow two non-retail cannabis establisments, down from six, was withdrawn. This article was proposed by the Selectmen and required a two-thirds vote to pass.
Francesconi said town counsel informed her the Planning Board would be required to vote on the article, which it did not, meaning it had to be withdrawn.
The town also honored Police Chief Timothy Garner, who will retire as of June 30.
"There's two kinds of people in this world: there's givers and takers. And I can say without hesitation that Chief Timothy Garner is a giver," said state Rep. John Barrett III, who was present to give Garner a proclamation from the House of Representatives recognizing his service.
Garner received a standing ovation from the crowd after getting the honor.
State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli was also in attendance.
"Chief, I would not miss this for the world. You've done some incredible things ... You've really left a huge mark here and whoever replaces you has got some very big shoes to fill," he said.
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