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Hawley annual meeting starts outdoors

HAWLEY — Annual town meeting started 90 minutes late this year — and in the starry outdoors — because annual election vote-counting in the one-room municipal building ran until 9:30 p.m. Monday.

Some residents left after an hour or so, then Moderator Kirby “Lark” Thwing gathered remaining residents around the back porch light to address the first few warrant articles before the doors opened and the public could move into Town Office.

Votes are hand-counted in Hawley, the turnout was high and the main contest, between incumbent Selectman John F. Sears and challenger Hussain A. Hamdan, was only six votes apart. After a 77-71 vote in favor of Sears, Hamdan called for a recount. Also, there were several write-ins nominated by one or two votes for vacant posts. Voter turnout in this town of 337 residents was fairly high: Town Clerk Pamela Shrimpton said 148 voters out of 254 registered (58 percent) cast ballots.

“We want to change our bylaws, so that annual town meeting and annual town election are on separate days, Shrimpton said Tuesday, a day after the meeting and election. Shrimpton could not participate in the vote-counting, because she was on the ballot for re-election. But she feels that trying to hold both the election and town meeting in the same space in one day wasn’t fair to either the poll workers or to the town meeting voters. Polls closed at 6:30 and the town meeting was to have started at 8.

Also, Shrimpton confirmed that Hamdan took out a petition form for a recount and is to return it with the signatures of at least 10 voters, to start the process.

Residents approved spending $150,000 for a new Highway Department truck in the annual meeting, and OK’d most of the spending requests on the warrant.

The money for the new truck is to be borrowed, then repaid over five years by way of a debt exclusion, a temporary tax hike above the 2 1/ 2 percent property tax levy limit. A related debt exclusion question passed earlier in the election.

This year’s town operating budget request totaled $232,580, which is about $6,000 more than this year’s operating costs, an amount less than 1 percent.

Hawley’s share of the Hawlemont Regional School District budget is $165,042, and its share of the Mohawk Trail Regional School District budget is $149,745 — about $6,000 more than this year’s capital and operating costs.

Townspeople gave Mohawk the third vote needed to borrow up to $542,778 for repairs and deferred maintenance at the Mohawk Trail Regional School. Ashfield and Plainfield also voted in favor of this measure Saturday — but Mohawk needs approval by all eight member towns to secure borrowing for the school improvements.

The cost to Hawley for the repairs comes to $17,651, which comes to payments of $3,765 per year over five years.

The biggest increase in educational costs is for vocational education, since the number of vocational education students for next year will double from three students to six. This means the town will spend $135,000 for vocational tuition and $40,000 for their transportation.

Voters tabled four warrant articles: to add an unspecified sum to cover upgrades and repairs to the Town Computer Account; to add a sum for Town Building maintenance and renovation: to transfer $10,000 from the “free cash” reserves to the Fire Equipment Stabilization Account; and to transfer an undetermined amount from the Highway Department Equipment Stabilization Fund to buy a new Highway Department truck.

Appropriations OK’d by voters include:

∎ $1,200 for the Tyler Memorial Library in Charlemont, which is also used by Hawley.

∎ $4,500 for legal fees.

∎ $47,000 for machinery maintenance.

∎ $1,800 for Internet service expenses and $1,000 for WiredWest.

∎ $3,567 for FRCOG’s emergency planning services.

∎ $3,500 for building inspector services.

∎ $5,000 for landfill maintenance.

From the town’s “free cash” reserves, voters agreed to spend $12,000 to cover interest on a storm damage loan, and $10,000 to make a loan payment; $10,308 to go into the 2014 Snow Roads account; and $2,000 to replace the propane heater in Town Hall.

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

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