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Buckland’s plate is full Wednesday

Recorder Staff

BUCKLAND — Residents have a second chance at buying land with a building for a town garage at Wednesday’s annual town meeting, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Mohawk Trail Regional School.

According to the town Finance Committee, the combined town and schools budget request of $4.1 million is dropping by an overall $64,231 (1.5 percent). However, that potential savings is offset by a drop in the town’s “free cash” reserves by nearly $108,000, compared to last year. If all the budget requests on the warrant are approved, the town’s General Stabilization Fund will drop by $131,952, leaving a $53,742 balance.

New budget line items include $20,000, to be set aside annually for Town Hall repairs and deferred maintenance; $30,000 to be set aside for salary adjustments. If approved, the town operating budget will go up by about $142,000, but the capital budget will decrease by $123,440.

The Finance Committee is recommending against authorizing the Mohawk Trail Regional School District’s borrowing of $542,778 for repairs at the high school. This borrowing would cost Buckland about $32,000 per year for five years, beginning in 2015. The Finance Committee is also recommending the town pass over an article for Mohawk to borrow $783,900 for repairs of the Buckland Shelburne School at this time.

Since Rowe is leaving the three-district school administration arrangement, the cost of services from the superintendent’s “Central Office” will now be shared by Mohawk and Hawlemont. As a result, Mohawk towns will pay about 89 percent of those costs, instead of 82 percent. Also, Central Office expenses are expected to drop by 4 percent, reflecting a drop in staffing and salary reductions agreed to by the superintendent, in response to Rowe’s departure.

The town’s Mohawk assessment has increased by about 2 percent.

A petitioned article asks the town to appropriate $10,000 for the operation and maintenance of the VFW Post at 10 Water St., Shelburne. The Finance Committee is not recommending the expenditure because “We do not support using taxpayer funds to support the operating budget of a private business.”

Earlier this spring, a special town meeting article to buy Charlemont land and transform a former bus building into a highway garage, failed by two votes to get the two-thirds majority needed. After that narrow defeat, three articles were returned to the annual town meeting through a citizens’ petition.

The first article seeks special “Home Rule Amendment” legislation to let the town acquire property outside its borders for municipal purposes, including a highway garage. The site proposed is the 12.23-acre parcel that was formerly a drive-in theater, and an adjoining 5.8-acre back lot, with access off North River Road, both in Charlemont. The price is $675,000.

The second article asks to authorize selectmen to buy the property. A third article asks voters to appropriate money to make improvements on the property, which would include bringing an old garage on the premises up to code.

The old town garage on Conway Street was closed in 2008 by the building inspector, who determined the crumbling concrete building was unsafe to keep vehicles in. The town has looked at several sites in town before looking at the Charlemont property.

According to the Finance Committee, the purchase would have no financial impact this year, but the debt service for the purchase and building modifications are expected to cost roughly $90,000 per year for 20 years ($1.8 million).

Other items requested on the warrant include:

∎  $45,000 for a new steel drum roller and trailer for the Highway Department. $35,000 would come from the Highway Stabilization account.

∎  $8,000 for new voting equipment.

∎  $10,500 for new phones, routers, cabling, switching, and other technology upgrades for the Police Department and Town Hall.

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

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