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Conway to vote on $4,757,924 budget Monday

CONWAY — Monday, townspeople will be asked to approve a $4,757,924 budget for next year, which covers projects for Frontier school improvements, engineering plans for a new highway garage and senior housing review slated for the Rose property.

The number reflects the amount recommended by the Selectboard and Finance Committee, which is $27,179 short of the amount requested by different town boards.

The proposed budget is $261,322 over the current year’s budget.

The annual town meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Conway Grammar School.

Likely to be at issue will be the Frontier Regional School budget and capital requests.

Conway will be the last town to vote on the $9,465,693 Frontier Regional School operating budget.

The Selectboard and Finance Committee have recommended $989,074 as the town’s share of the school budget, while the Frontier School Committee asked for $1,008,832.

The town leaders have asked the School Committee for a 2.5 percent overall budget increase rather than the proposed 4.92 percent increase.

The grammar school budget would also come up short of the requested amount. The school asked for $1,551,638, but the Selectboard and Finance Committee recommended $1,544,217.

From the start, Conway residents will be asked to weigh in on the Frontier Regional School capital projects, a request that has monopolized the budget debate across southern Franklin County this year.

The total proposed capital budget for the four towns — Conway, Deerfield, Whately and Sunderland — is $133,250 — of which $67,500 is for safety and security improvements, $5,750 for electrical improvements, $30,000 for the replacement of a pick-up and $30,000 for a student transport van.

The School Committee has asked Conway to pay $17,242 for its share.

The Selectboard and Finance Committee have supported the $8,734 safety and security improvements and the $744 electrical fixes, but they have rejected paying their $3,882 share of the pickup. And the vote was split over the $3,882 student transport van with two selectmen and two finance committee members against the request.

This is the first year the School Committee has requested capital money, and towns have treated it separately from the operating budget.

Towns have picked which projects they would fund, raising the questions of whether the School Committee will get enough money for one project and whether it’d have to return the cash if it doesn’t get all the towns’ shares.

CPA increase

The town will also be asked to amend the Community Preservation Act surcharge from 1.5 percent to 3 percent, with the first $100,000 of property value exempted. The rate change would assure that Conway receives a 100 percent match from the state.

According to CPA Chairman Janey Chayes, projections based on FY2013 values show a $15,000 total CPA increase for all Conway taxpayers. But the state match would have grown by $38,000.

The town will be asked to approve $11,588 in Community Preservation money for three projects. For $4,900, the Historical Commission could do a cemetery headstone inventory. For $3,000, the Housing Committee could do a site analysis of the Rose property off Shelburne Falls Road for use of senior housing. The money would be on top of $6,500, the housing group received in 2007. At the time, the Housing Committee hired a surveyor to analyze the property, but when the recession hit, the Housing Committee held off on the plans. The Housing Committee is hoping to build six to 12 colonial-style dwellings 900 to 1,000 square feet each on the 11-acre cornfield.

The Highway Department consumes a big portion of the budget.

Plans for a new highway garage would finally get under way after a several year hiatus if townspeople approve $175,000 for working plans and construction and $90,000 to develop designs. The design money would come from available funds and be transferred to the garage stabilization fund. The proposed site is behind the salt shed on the property near the Conway Grammar School.

Currently, the Highway Department shares a building on Route 116 with the Fire Department. The Police Department is run out of the Town Office building.

The roads crew is requesting money for big ticket equipment, including $80,000 for a mini-excavator with a trailer and $24,200 for a new tractor with a snow blower and sweeper.

Tech enhancements

Town leaders are hoping to update the town’s computer technology.

For $5,500, the town could pay for improved website services to improve town records. With western Massachusetts hooked up to broadband service, for $15,000, the town could pay for improved computer technology and networking in town hall. The town is currently researching which method is best for upgrading its network.

Conway could follow in the wake of other Franklin County towns if the townspeople give the Selectboard the authority to enter into renewable energy power purchase and/or net metering credit purchase agreements for solar energy projects. To date, the town does not have a municipal solar farm.

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Conway could be put on hold until June 30, 2014. The Planning Board requested the town place a moratorium on the coming dispensaries to give the town time to review state Department of Health regulations and propose zoning bylaws.

The town will be asked to pay $10,000 for the coming 250th-year anniversary celebration.

The ambulance department is requesting $4,995 for a masimo oximeter, a device that reads blood oxygen levels and pulse. For $24,000 the town could purchase and install a paper compactor at the transfer station that would reduce trash loads.

The Planning Board is asking for $17,000 to purchase and install a remote digital LED bulletin board, but the Selectboard and Finance Committee have recommended against the request.

The town will also consider $25,000 for the Grammar School Stabilization Fund for the future use of maintenance and repair work at the Conway Grammar School.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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