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In The Arena

In the Arena: Another snag for Lunt

Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin’s efforts to purchase the former Lunt property on Federal Street may have hit another snag.

The Greenfield Town Council learned this week that the town’s bond counsel has demanded that the funding vote be retaken and that it pass by a two-thirds majority of the entire council, not just those who happen to be there on the night of the vote.

“The last time we voted, it was eight to one in favor of the members there,” Council President David Singer explained. “But bond counsel feels that to ensure that in order to make this a perfect “belt and suspenders” vote, that it should be two-thirds of the councilors elected to office, which is nine members.”

But getting those votes may be easier said than done, because a lot of contaminated water has flown under the bridge since the last time the council took this up. The town is now barred from the premises and new testing is being done to determine whether the level of contamination drifting off of that site is more extensive than previously thought.

To make matters worse for Martin, the key to getting the nine votes may be Councilor Dalton Athey, who voted no last time after he didn’t get what he felt was a straight answer regarding the “covenant not to sue,” arguments.

“I asked a question about whether we would go forward with the covenant, and had we been given a direct straight ‘yes,’ I would have voted to go along with it, but we didn’t get that, so I’m voting ‘no,’” Athey said at the time.

He may feel differently now, but if he doesn’t, Athey could really upset the apple cart if he votes “no” again and gets a few others to go with him. That vote could happen as soon as Wednesday night, during the annual council budget meeting.

Time to pay?

In other council news, a motion has been referred to subcommittee to study whether it is time to start paying stipends to councilors and school committee members.

The plan, as explained by council Vice President Mark Wisnewski, would see councilors and school board members receive an annual stipend of $1,000, but would not be eligible to receive health benefits through the town. That is different from how things are done in other cities, like Northampton, which pays $3,000 a year. There, councilors can choose the cash or use it to buy into the city’s health plan.

According to Singer, the current council would not be eligible for the stipend if they vote to impose it, because of conflict-of-interest laws. But one person who has long favored the idea is School Committee Chairman John Lunt, who thinks the idea of paying people may be the town’s best hope to encourage new people to get involved in the process.

“It’s a lot of work, if you want to do it right, but civic responsibility, which I am old-fashioned enough to believe in, only gets you so far,” Lunt said. “People serve to fill some need they have, but if there isn’t some kind of return, you tend to end up with ideologues who get off on the wonkiness and conflict.”

I’m not sure offering a grand a year is going to do the trick, but I suppose it is a start, assuming the council decides to go along with it.

‘You’ve got a friend’

I’m not sure an event could have better personified the spirit of the “new Greenfield” than Democratic Senate candidate Ed Markey’s campaign stop this past weekend at The Brass Buckle.

The senator-in-waiting and his lead in the polls rode into town on Mother’s Day alongside famed songwriter and long-time environmental activist Carole King as part of Markey’s ongoing effort to play the “green card” in his race against Republican newcomer Gabriel Gomez.

“When I decided to run for the Senate, Carole called me on day one and said ‘winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do it call and I’ll be there,’” Markey joked, an obvious reference to one of King’s more famous song lyrics.

Those who were there lapped up what the congressman and King were dishing out with their biodegradable spoons. And while Markey’s speech delighted the crowd, I noticed that those in attendance did not include a single member of what I would call the Franklin County Democratic “old guard.”

“He likes to joke about my lyric, but what I said was simply, ‘I’m in,’” King said. “I was talking about ecosystems when very few people knew what they were, but Ed did.”

“I love how smart he is and how much he cares about this state and our country,” King added. “He’s going to make a great senator.”

And he’s not “so far away” from getting there, unless Gomez begins showing a lot more than he has since winning the nomination.

Chris Collins is the Franklin County News Bureau Chief for WHAI, WPVQ and WHMP Radio. He is a former staff reporter for The Recorder, and is a Greenfield native.

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