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Rowe chair changes hands

ROWE — Citing differences with fellow board members over two crucial town issues, Selectmen’s Chairman Noel Abbott has stepped down from the chairmanship position, surprising other selectmen and the audience at the start of the board’s Wednesday meeting.

After his decision was accepted by a selectboard vote, Abbott nominated the newest selectman, Marilyn Wilson, to serve as chair.

Abbott said he wanted to step away from that leadership role because “there has been a clear ongoing difference of opinion” about how the town should go forward after the Aug. 4 Rowe School fire and about the process to replace Police Chief Henry Dandeneau after he retires this summer.

Abbott said he held a minority opinion on two issues. The first was that he wanted to hire an outside consultant to guide discussion on the controversial issue of whether to build a new Rowe school.

Abbott said either decision — to rebuild or not to rebuild a school in this town of 390 people — “will be accepted by a segment of the community who will get what they fervently believe is right,” while those on the opposing side will feel disenfranchised if the debate isn’t properly handled.

Also, Abbott said he wanted a professional review of the town’s police department, by an outside, skilled consultant before the chief’s position is filled.

In giving up chairmanship, Abbott also gave up his roles as overseer for school and fire issues, as well as being the board’s police chief liaison.

“I’m still a selectman,” Abbott said Thursday. “I feel that I could be more effective, given that I didn’t have the kind of support that I felt I should have on some of the vital issues.”

“I remain strong in my intention to be a positive force both on the board and in Rowe. I want to strongly emphasize that while there has been strong disagreement about key policy issues, there is still a clear respect for each other,” he said, referring to the selectmen, “and the ability to collaborate well on a wide range of issues.”

Abbott was elected to his first term of office in May 2011 and has served as the board’s chairman since October 2011.

Marilyn Wilson, former chair of the Finance Committee, was elected to the Board of Selectmen in May.

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

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