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Towns thank Murray for western Mass. focus

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray arrives at the Buckland Town Hall on Thursday.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray arrives at the Buckland Town Hall on Thursday.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray at the Buckland Town Hall on Thursday.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray at the Buckland Town Hall on Thursday.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray at the Buckland Town Hall on Thursday flanked by Bob Dean at left and Robert Nunes.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray at the Buckland Town Hall on Thursday flanked by Bob Dean at left and Robert Nunes.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray arrives at the Buckland Town Hall on Thursday.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray at the Buckland Town Hall on Thursday.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray at the Buckland Town Hall on Thursday flanked by Bob Dean at left and Robert Nunes.

BUCKLAND — A day after announcing his resignation from state office, Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray met with Franklin County officials who thanked him for his western Mass. focus during his years in office.

He and the heads of six state agencies were in the Buckland Town Hall to talk about state resources to help town governments. But Murray himself was thanked for being part of an administration that didn’t overlook western Massachusetts.

“Thank you, Tim Murray, for your response to Buckland after (Tropical Storm) Irene,” Buckland Selectmen’s Chairman Robert Dean told him. “You were here right here after Irene. We’re almost recovered from that.”

“Lt. Governor, you saddened me yesterday,” Franklin Regional Council of Governments Executive Director Linda Dunlavy told him. “You have been such a friend to towns and cities.”

Referring to his plans to accept a new position as head of the Worcester Chamber of Commerce with 18 months left in his term, she added, “Worcester’s gain is our loss.”

“For the first time, I’ve felt we really had a genuine partnership between our towns and (the state’s) administration,” said Deerfield Town Administrator Bernie Kubiak.

Town officials and town administrators from several towns came to hear about state help for town governance, ranging from a 2-year-old Commitment Innovation Challenge Grant program, which offers one-time startup grants for communities that develop innovative ways to make town government more efficient, to learning more about the Local Services division of the Department of Revenue. It was Murray’s fifth and final Municipal Affairs Coordinating Cabinet meeting.

But town leaders wanted more information on how to make the increasingly complicated choices they have to make regarding information technology and alternative energy proposals.

For instance, Deerfield is looking at building a 2.2-megawatt solar array on an old landfill, but the potential interconnectivity costs, to get the energy on the grid, could be a “deal-breaker,” according to Kubiak.

“The problem is pricing,” he said. “If you could look at the pricing, and model it, we would have a better idea of what the interconnect costs will be.”

Eric Weiss, sustainability director for the Hampshire Council of Governments, said small town part-time governments don’t always have the expertise to evaluate alternative energy options. “A lot of people have come through the state with great solar offers, but only a few have gone through,” he said.

Buckland Selectman Cheryl Dukes said the communities are getting alternative energy generation proposals from new technologies, such as wind turbines or solar arrays. But “the people who are providing us with technical assistance are trying to sell us something: How do we know who to trust?”

Buckland Town Coordinator Andrea Llamas added state broadband initiatives as another example of an area beyond the expertise of most town officials, in considering a town website or interconnectivity within their own town government.

“We don’t have technical expertise, and we have offers,” she said. “They want to offer us the moon and we don’t have the technical expertise.”

For instance, she said, without an IT coordinator, how do town leaders assess what the town really needs, or doesn’t need. How does one evaluate whether new hardware is a good investment?

Llamas asked Tim Sullivan from the state Information Technologies Division if that agency could take on initiatives “that can help us to understand what we’re being offered. We don’t understand what we can even use.”

Michael Hoberman of Buckland’s Energy Advisory Committee and Planning Board pointed out that Buckland had a one-year moratorium on wind turbines and large-scale solar arrays, and that the town just extended the moratorium by another year.

“The committee did its work,” he said, “but wasn’t able to make a recommendation. There are very stirring, vociferous voices in opposition,” Hoberman added. “We would really appreciate credibility coming from your office, so we don’t push one view over another. So far, one view has dominated.

Dunlavy pointed out many FRCOG initiatives that have helped small towns to develop collaborative resources not possible within individual towns acting alone.

With its Community Innovation Challenge grant, FRCOG started a Franklin County Regional Dog Kennel, that opened in Montague in October. She said 13 towns are participants and, out of 150 stray dogs that ended up there, 80 have been adopted.

Other FRCOG initiatives include: implementing a cooperative public health service, and hosting a Selectboard Essentials Series of workshops about public management, financial nuts and bolts, and open meeting law.

Murray noted that FRCOG has been a statewide leader in developing regional services for its communities, and serving as a model for other parts of Massachusetts.

Just before leaving, Murray was asked what advice he would give for improving the state’s economy over the remaining 18 months of the governor’s administration.

“I think it’s continuing to make strategic investments,” he said. “By investing more in education and transportation, you create jobs that are located where the people want to be.”

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

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