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Residents plan informational meeting about Chickley fine

HAWLEY — Residents have organized an informational meeting with the town’s lawyer for townspeople to discuss the impact of the recent Chickley River repair settlement on taxpayers and on the town in general.

That meeting is set for Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Hawlemont Regional School.

According to Margaret Fitzpatrick of Hawley, the meeting is to ask Town Counsel Donna MacNicol questions about how the town’s recent settlement with the Department of Environmental Protection regarding Chickley River repairs, will affect local taxpayers.

She said a group of residents are paying out of their own pockets for the municipal lawyer’s time. The meeting will be run by Ashfield Town Moderator Buz Eisenberg. The reason for asking Eisenberg to run the meeting was that organizers wanted an impartial person, she said.

“We’re trying to keep the meeting as fair and as neutral as possible,” she said. “The purpose of this meeting is for residents to be able to get their questions answered. We’re trying to get this last meeting, to air (this issue) out, and put this to bed.”

According to Fitzpatrick, the selectmen had been asked earlier if they would set up a meeting for residents with the lawyer, but the board declined because the town has spent so much already on legal fees for the Chickley River issue.

Tropical Storm Irene flooded the Chickley River in August 2011, and the town secured an emergency work order from the state DEP for storm-related repairs. But a few months later, the DEP charged that the town and its contractor, ET & L Corp., had dredged and straightened the river in repairs that exceeded the conditions of the emergency permit.

In the settlement for that Wetlands Act violation, ET & L agreed to take corrective actions in the river, removing high berms and restoring boulders in the stream, to restore fish habitat.

The town of Hawley, with only 334 residents, is required to pay somewhere between $184,000 to $259,000 for corrective river repair and for an escrow account to monitor the health of the river.

The agenda for the meeting includes: an explanation of the legal settlement by MacNicol; discussion of the financial impact on the town and its taxpayers by the Finance Committee; and an audience question-and-answer period.

Residents can find the settlement documents at the Town Office or on the town’s website, at:

www.townofhawley.com and click on the “Hawley news” link

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

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