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The failed order of a fire truck has the Water Commissioners and the Select Board at odds.

Fire Truck Vote Sparks OML Complaint, Dalton Board Rejection

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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DALTON, Mass. — The decision by the Board of Water Commissioners to renegotiate the ladder truck contract is at risk of being invalidated as a result of an Open Meeting Law violation filed against it. 
 
The complaint was filed by Select Board Chair Joseph Diver following the Jan. 23 meeting, when the Water Commissioners discussed and voted on the matter. The topic of the ladder truck was not included on the agenda. 
 
"Over the last year multiple requests have been made to the board to improve the agenda to make the topics sufficiently specific to reasonably inform the public of the issues to be discussed at the meeting." the complaint reads. 
 
"Residents have complained directly to me and I have shared those concerns, and my own concerns directly to Mr. Driscoll, Dalton Fire District Water Commission Board Chair."
 
During a brief commissioners meeting on Monday, the board said it will be writing a letter to address the Open Meeting Law complaint. 
 
During the three-minute meeting, commissioners did not read or comment on the complaint but said a response letter will be written and sent to the complainant and the state within the week. iBerkshires.com requested they share the letter with them when it becomes public. 
 
The OML complaint requests not only that their decision from Jan. 23 become null and void, but that the topic be reposted clearly on a future agenda so the public can comment on it. 
 
It also requests that the commissioners and district clerk complete Open Meeting Law training and file those training certifications with the Dalton town clerk and attorney general's office.
 
The board had voted on Jan. 23 to renegotiate a contract with Northern Fire Equipment for the ladder truck that has been delayed for two years. 
 
The fire truck was ordered in late 2022 but its delivery date has been changed at least four times. Northern Fire Equipment has said staffing shortages, change orders and unexpected mechanical malfunctions have contributed to the delay. 
 
The board, which oversees the Fire District, said the new contract would include the stipulation that the ladder truck must be done by April or May, and monthly reports with photos must be submitted to the Fire District. 
 
Although the board was not "thrilled" with the decision it seemed like the most feasible and quickest option. The commissioners had three options to consider: go to court to attempt to reclaim the $77,000, take the truck, or do nothing. More information on that meeting here.
 
Following the decision, the Select Board voted to send a letter to the commissioners indicating that it does not support the decision because of the significant delivery delay of the apparatus and since the intended use of the funds does not appear to be possible. 
 
This decision passed unanimously with one board member, Vice Chair Dan Esko, absent. More information on that meeting here
 
An amended version of this letter was approved during the Select Board meeting on Monday night. 
 
The letter states that the board withdraws its support of the ladder truck purchase and does not back the district's efforts to renegotiate the contract with Northern Fire Equipment. 
 
"The board members believe that the purpose of the expenditure is very unlikely to be realized as the delay has been over one year," the letter says. 
 
"Leadership from the Fire Department and Water Commission provided updates through 2023 that the truck was on its way. Based on the photographic evidence and lack of progress so far, the vehicle in question may never be a well functioning tower truck for the district." 
 
Select Board member John Boyle said during Monday's meeting that he does not agree with the letter at all as there are talks of recent developments on the truck but is unsure what they are. 
 
During the previous meeting, Boyle voted in favor of sending the letter withdrawing support and did not raise concerns aside requesting to hear input from the fire chief. 
 
The question before the board on Monday was not to approve sending a letter, Diver said. That decision was made during the previous meeting. The objective is to now approve or amend the wording of the letter. 
 
Esko requested that the wording be amended because the claims in the previous phrasing cannot be substantiated. 
 
The previous wording said, "based on the photographic evidence and the lack of progress so far, the vehicle in question is simply never going to be a well functioning tower truck for the District and more likely than not, be a safety issue for the Fire Department staff." 

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Pittsfield ConCom OKs Zebra Mussel Treatment

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Conservation Commission has OKed a zebra mussel pesticide treatment in Onota Lake if the invasive species are confirmed.

On Thursday, the panel approved a notice of intent application for the use of EarthTec QZ within a specified treatment area of the lake.  

"We're not entirely 100 percent sure that there is an infestation of zebra mussels at Onota Lake. Last September, a water sample was taken and the DNA of zebra mussel was detected in that water sample. This was a water sample taken near the boat ramp at Burbank Park. Subsequent water samples were taken later in the fall and very early this spring, there were still non-detects in those water samples for DNA showing the presence of zebra mussels," Park, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.

"We continue to, most recently as this Tuesday, we are sampling for zebra mussel EDNA and we should know the results of those samples certainly by early next week."

McGrath addressed the commission with a sense of urgency, as the lake is currently around 52 degrees Fahrenheit and the zebra mussels begin to activate around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  He described it as "an opportunity to take what could be a potential massively serious ecological issue at Onota Lake and nip it in the bud."

"What we're proposing here is a collaborative approach where there are many stakeholders involved," he said. "This is not Jim McGrath proposing the use of EarthTec QZ at the lake. This is something we have been very deliberative about."

The application was continued from the previous meeting so that it could be filed as a state Ecological Restoration Limited Project.

"Really what it means is that it's eligible, which I think this project meets the eligibility requirements, it affords the right to not have to comply with general performance standards for the resource area that's being impacted," Conservation Agent Robert Van Der Kar said.

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