School items top Bernardston warrant

Marijuana moratorium also to be decided

Recorder/Peter MacDonald
The entrance to the Bernardston Elementary School, which hopes to get a security upgrade.

Recorder/Peter MacDonald The entrance to the Bernardston Elementary School, which hopes to get a security upgrade.

BERNARDSTON — Voters will decide on more than just mid-year expenses at the fall special town meeting on Monday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at Bernardston Elementary School. An additional $34,751 is sought for the Pioneer Valley Regional School District budget. The town had approved $2.3 million for the district at its annual town meeting in June, before the state issued figures setting each of the district’s four towns’ percentage of the total budget.

The figure approved at the annual meeting represented a 2.5 percent increase over the previous year’s school budget.

The School Committee later set a total district budget of $13.67 million, $7.49 million of which was assessed to the towns. Northfield, Leyden and Warwick also had to estimate their assessments before their town meetings. The figures approved at their meetings were slightly above their shares of the budget, leaving only Bernardston to ask its taxpayers for more funding.

In addition, a school security project will come back before voters, after being defeated at the June annual meeting and a March special town meeting. Voters will be asked to fund $15,000 to install a remote lock for the Bernardston Elementary School’s main entrance. The system would include security cameras and monitors so office staff could open the door from their desks after verifying visitors. The $15,000 also includes a handicapped-accessible automatic door opener.

All three selectmen have voiced their opposition to the security system, arguing that the school will never be fully protected, due to the number of glass exterior windows in each classroom.

The town will also be asked to pay a $4,500 share for a similar security system at Pioneer. Selectmen are also on record as being against the system at the high school.

The two articles were placed on the warrant at the request of PVRSD Superintendant Dayle Doiron.

A recently instituted school safety task force has been working with area schools to come up with emergency plans and security recommendations, and the full report has not been issued yet. Selectmen also said they’d hate to spend thousands on security now, just to be told in a few months that more needs to be done.

Doiron has asked that members of the task force attend the town meeting to speak in favor of the security systems.

Bernardston will also vote on a medical marijuana moratorium. Earlier this year, selectmen sought an outright ban on medical marijuana operations, but the state attorney general ruled such bans illegal. If adopted and approved by the AG, the moratorium would expire Sept. 30, 2014.

The town will be asked to raise and appropriate $10,000 to the veterans’ benefit account.

Several zoning bylaws regarding restaurants are also on the menu. One redefines a “restaurant” as a permanent structure which principally prepares and sells food and beverages. Others will separate the now-combined designations of drive-through and takeout restaurants. As it stands, neither are allowed in several zoning districts.

Drive-throughs could come to the town’s industrial zone, via special permit, if one proposed bylaw is passed. Another would allow for takeout service. Though several town restaurants and stores offer takeout food, the practice is only allowed by special permit in the town’s business and expedited permitting districts.

The Planning Board believes the intent of the original bylaw was not to bar takeout service. The confusing language was discovered when some residents voiced opposition to since-withdrawn plans to add a Dunkin’ Donuts, without a drive-through, to the town’s Sunoco station.

A vote on the membership of the Finance Committee could reaffirm a decades-old vote that slipped through the cracks, and adjust the terms of membership to better fit the budget calendar.

In 1961, the annual town meeting voted to increase the Finance Committee from three to five members. With the affirmative vote, the increase was made, but the attorney general’s office has no record of approving the increase.

The record-keeping mistake was discovered when the Finance Committee looked into adjusting terms of membership. The article asks that Finance Committee members’ three-year terms begin Nov. 1 and end Oct. 31 of the appropriate years.

The Board of Selectmen will ask the town for the authority to issue street-side parking bans. Bans would be ordered by the board to allow for emergencies or winter storm cleanup. Vehicles in violation of the ban would be towed at the owner’s expense.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m., Sept. 23, in Bernardston Elementary School.

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