Clarksburg Town Election, Town Meeting Set This Week

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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Voters will cast ballots for town offices on Tuesday and decide more than 20 articles at Wednesday's annual town meeting. 
There's only race on the ballot this Tuesday, between incumbent Laura Wood and Colton Andrews for a three-seat on the School Committee. Daniel Haskins is seeking a full three-year term on the Select Board (he was elected to complete an expiring term last year), and incumbents Sarah Hurlbut is running for library trustee and Joseph Bushika III for War Memorial trustee.
There are no names on the ballot for one-year terms as moderator, tree warden and on Planning Board; for a three-year term on the Board of Health and a five-year term on the Planning Board.
The election is noon to 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Community Center. 
Town meeting is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the school. The warrant can be found here.
Voters will decide on a total budget $5.1 million in spending for fiscal 2024 and transfer $231,000 out of the stabilization account to reduce the tax rate. 
Town and school officials have been struggling to bring down their respective budgets over the last several months. The school district has to cover $329,000 in out-of-district special education costs this coming year that brought its budget well over the level-funding that the town had hoped for. 
After a number of cuts and the awarding of a more than $100,000 grant, the school budget is at $2,838,417.24, up 2 percent over this year. 
The McCann Technical School budget is $383,921, up $70,875 or 18 percent over last year. The regional vocational school assessment is based on enrollment. 
The town's operating budget is $1,880,046, up $63,561 over this year but down from the initial target of $1.92 million. The difficulties this year with the school budget led town officials to cut back in some areas, including the addition of another highway laborer. 
Officials are also asking voters to nearly run out the stabilization account to cover increased school and town costs and to cover some preliminary engineering costs so as to apply for grants. 
The town hasn't had any certified free cash in nearly three years because of the chaos in its finance offices; officials are hoping that those positions are stabilized enough to get some free cash certified this coming fiscal year and replenish the stabilization fund. 
The town dipped into the stabilization account last year also to balance the budget; the last time it was able to authorize the use of free cash was at the 2021 town meeting. 
Voters will also be asked to create a special purpose stabilization fund for monies received through the state's opioid settlement and transfer $6,773.94 from stabilization into that account and to take $855 out of the stabilization to pay an invoice from last year from town counsel KP Law. 
All the transfers and the creation of the opioid fund require a two-thirds vote. 
Also requiring a two-thirds vote are changes to the town's zoning laws that include reordering, numbering and cleaning up sections so they can be place online. This was approved last year but could not be implemented because a public hearing had not been held; that was done earlier this year and the article again placed on the warrant. Voters will be asked to approve the renumbering and then the final product.
Two other zoning articles would reduced to a third of acre from a half-acre lot required for building a home in R-30 districts that have access to public sewer and water and the second would reduce the road frontage for lots from 250 feet to 125 feet in the Upland Conservation District. 
The second zoning change is to affect the way the state calculates its payment in lieu of taxes. Even though much of that land is state owned and not open to development, the Department of Revenue determines land value by lot. Reducing the frontage will double the number of "lots" and, perchance, increase the town's PILOT.
Town officials are also hoping to get more revenue by opening the former landfill and surrounding five acres to a possible solar array. Voters will be asked in Article 17 to authorize the board to enter into a 20-year lease on the property. 
Voters will also weigh in on cleaning up and updating the bylaws of the Council on Aging (last done nearly 30 years) and whether to establish an Agricultural Commission. It will be up to the Select Board to appoint and determine the scope of the commission if it is approved.
There are two articles on the sewer operations budget and capital repairs. These changes only affect sewer users and not the town or the town budget. 
Voters will also be asked to move the town election date to the second Tuesday in May to avoid Memorial Day holiday on the prior Monday and to move town meeting to the last Wednesday in May. 

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Blackinton Mill Owners: City's Delays Put $17M Hotel Project in Peril

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Mayor Jennifer Macksey speaks at Tuesday's City Council meeting as Tourists owner Ben Svenson looks on. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The $17 million expansion plans for the Blackinton Mill are tripping over a 10-foot high pile hides that has been decaying for 60 years. 
The partnership that operates Tourists resort says the whole project — including a proposed bike path — is in danger of failing before it even begins if a November grant deadline to clean up the mess isn't met. 
But the Mayor Jennifer Macksey says more testing is needed before the city takes control of the one-acre site and is positing a February closing date.
On Tuesday, the partners were pleading with the City Council to use any tools it had to make the mayor abide by an agreement to close on the parcel before the deadline.
"I really don't want to say it will go away but we will not be able to sustain any longer unless we can resolve this issue," said principal Benjamin Svenson. "And so I appeal to you tonight to please — whatever tools you have — communicate to the mayor the urgency of resolving this matter."
The matter before the council was an authorization for the mayor to purchase the property, which would be for $1. The city would be able to apply for a U.S. Environmental Protection Act brownfield grant not available to the private entity. 
"We need this to secure our financing," said Svenson. "We can't get a bank loan until we resolve this matter. ... 
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