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Rowe seeks school broadband, treasurer change, legal money

Special town meeting set for Wednesday

ROWE — Town officials are asking for money for legal fees, to connect high-speed fiber-optic service to the future elementary school, and for permission to keep an appointed town treasurer at a special town meeting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the fire station.

The meeting also includes re-voting on several items that were already approved at the Jan. 9 meeting, because of a technicality — that the town didn’t receive documentation of its certified “free cash” surplus until Jan. 10. Surplus cash is unspent revenues the town has from a previous fiscal year, and it’s often used for unforeseen town expenses. Had the certification been received by Jan. 9, the special town meeting vote would not have been challenged.

The first article asks to amend the general bylaws to change the town treasurer’s position from an elected to an appointed position. The change allows the town to hire a professional for the job, who may or may not be a town resident and who could be fired if not doing the job correctly.

The Finance Committee unanimously recommends passage of this article, saying the town treasurer “controls millions of dollars, is the custodian for all money that belongs to the town and must keep up with all new legislation. This position has become more complex than it used to be and it now requires a person with specific training and experience.”

Also, the town is asking for $2,500 to increase the treasurer’s stipend for the fiscal year that runs through June 30. They want to increase the part-time treasurer’s annual stipend from $7,982 per year to $12,982.

Town officials say the Rowe treasurer’s stipend is among the lowest in Franklin County, and that the responsibilities now include payment of salaries and wages as well as maintaining all payroll and personnel records.

The old Rowe Elementary School had been scheduled to receive high-speed fiber optic broadband, but it was taken off the Massachusetts Broadband Institute list after the school burned down in 2012. Although grants to help pay for broadband installation are being pursued, the town is asking for $14,000 as a “realistic maximum estimate.”

The town is seeking $15,000 for a Solar Legal Expense Fund to defend the town Planning Board’s decision to deny Seaboard Solar LLC’s special permit for a 1.5 megawatt solar farm on Tunnel Road. Seaboard Solar has filed a legal appeal of the board’s decision.

The other financial items, approved on Jan. 9, will be re-voted again, with the free-cash certification in hand:

$10,000 for legal expenses; $5,789 to expand Town Hall custodian’s hours and duties; $3,964 for Fire Department equipment; $14,357 for a new Fire Station oil tank, for flag-holders on veterans’ graves, for a Town Hall elevator contract; $1,590 for Police Department bullet proof vests; and $9,655 to cover accrued vacation and sick time of former Town Coordinator Ellen Miller.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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