Lanesborough Suggests School Look Elsewhere for Boiler Funds

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
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LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The town's American Rescue Plan Act Committee has discussed a $50,000 request from Lanesborough Elementary School for a boiler replacement, suggesting the school consider looking for another funding source from the town. 


Jason McCandless, the school's superintendent, attended the committee's Monday meeting via phone after working with Town Administrator Joshua Lang to get the request on the agenda. Last week, McCandless shared the boiler issue with the School Committee, which will need repairs to work through the winter. 


"It was one of those things that somebody could have foreseen it, maybe, but not necessarily ... We do have a plan that looks at all of our equipment, all of our facilities and all of our physical plans, [the boiler] was not a part of that." he told the ARPA Committee. 


Multiple committee members asked McCandless why the school did not ask for money sooner in the ARPA process, at the annual town meeting, or in the school's own budget. The boiler cost would use most, if not all, of the town's remaining non-appropriated ARPA funds.


"Our committee has met, and we've pretty much earmarked most of the money now," said committee member and Department of Public Works Director William Decelles. "And we've been modifying it here, so there isn't a lot of access at this point." 


McCandless apologized for not coming to the town sooner and said nobody involved with the school had anticipated the problem before now. A replacement boiler, he told the School Committee last week, would likely not be ready until February. 


"This is something that should have been planned for," he said. "I think we've got the right team in place to work to make sure these things don't happen again in the future." 


Lang suggested free cash as another potential funding option for the boiler. A special town meeting, where the request is on the warrant, would be needed to approve the use of the free cash. 


"It seems to me that's where something like this should come from," said committee member and Fire Chief Jeffery DeChaine said. "It's a last minute thing; we didn't plan for it for whatever reason. But that's what that money should be for." 


In other business, an all-terrain vehicle that was to be paid for with ARPA money will be purchased and donated to the Fire Department by the Fireman's Association. DeChaine said he was also able to lower the cost of several other budgeted items. 


"I think the idea [of the committee] was to take these things as they come and then reshuffle the list and come up with a new bottom line," he said. "And then, as we move forward through the months, as things come up, we adjust." 

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Lanesborough Planner Pays Penalty for Conflict-of-Interest Violation

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Lanesborough Economic Development Committee Chair and Planning Board member Barbara Davis-Hassan paid a $30,000 penalty for violating the state's conflict of interest law.
The State Ethics Commission has issued a final decision and order allowing a joint motion to dismiss and approving a disposition agreement in which Davis-Hassan admits to violating the conflict of interest law by participating as a Planning Board member in a proposal to rezone the Berkshire Mall while she privately had an exclusive marketing agreement to sell the property, by representing the mall's owner in local tax and infrastructure matters, and by participating as a Planning Board member in a proposal to rezone a second property while privately serving as its listing agent.
The commission accepted Davis-Hassan's payment of a $30,000 civil penalty and dismissed the adjudicatory proceeding against her.
Davis-Hassan, who owns and operates Barb Hassan Realty, had an exclusive marketing agreement to lease space in or sell the Berkshire Mall when she participated as a Planning Board member in a proposal to rezone the mall property to facilitate redevelopment. After Lanesborough town meeting approved the rezoning, the mall sold in July 2022 for $8 million and Davis-Hassan received a $240,000 commission on the sale.
Through these actions as a Planning Board member, Davis-Hassan violated the conflict of interest law's prohibition against public employees participating officially in matters in which they or their business have a financial interest. In addition to her actions concerning the mall property, Davis-Hassan also violated this prohibition in 2020, when she participated as a Planning Board member in discussing a proposal to rezone a Williamstown Road property for which she was the listing agent. That property later sold for $250,000, and Davis-Hassan received a $25,000 commission on the sale.
The conflict of interest law also prohibits municipal employees from acting as agent for anyone other than the municipality in connection with matters in which the municipality is a party or has a direct and substantial interest. Davis-Hassan violated this prohibition by representing Berkshire Mall owner Durga Property Holdings Inc. in Lanesborough-related matters in 2019 and 2020. 
During this time, Davis-Hassan appeared on Durga's behalf before the Baker Hill Road District (BHRD), an entity that assesses and collects taxes on properties within the district for road maintenance and municipal services. 
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