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In The Arena

In the Arena: Erring on side of caution

Greenfield residents concerned about the potential impact of proposed new ordinances regulating noise and nuisances and vacant properties shouldn’t get into a lather just yet.

A pair of Greenfield Town Council subcommittees held separate public hearings on the two proposals, gatherings that are typically followed by a vote to recommend it the full council. Not only didn’t that happen, but both the Appointments and Ordinances and Economic Development committees made it pretty clear they plan to take their time in reviewing these proposals before sending them to the floor.

“I think we’re more near the beginning of this discussion than the end,” council Vice President Hillary Hoffmann told the roughly 25 people who turned out for the noise ordinance hearing. “We’re not going to do nothing. The level of feedback and civic engagement we’ve seen shows us that it’s important to people in this town to have a noise ordinance.”

That was certainly evident at the noise hearing, where it was revealed that, though demographically a small city, Greenfield is still a small town in many ways, especially when talk turns to tales of early-morning snowblowers and slamming dumpsters. Such quality-of-life issues are a fact of life in any small community, which is one of the reasons the council is taking the time it needs to properly vet these ordinances — which, if they aren’t carefully written, could create a nightmare for the police, Board of Health and other town officials charged with enforcing them.

No promise to the numbers

I don’t think Gov. Deval Patrick should expect to receive any “thank you” cards from Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin regarding next year’s state budget.

Martin didn’t mince any words recently when he briefed the Town Council on Patrick’s proposed fiscal 2015 budget, that he called “sparse, and inattentive to the needs” of Greenfield.

“Our projected increase in Chapter 70 education aid is $50,000, with no increase for special education, transportation or charter school reimbursement,” Martin said. “In addition, our unrestricted aid, also known as our local aid account, saw no increase in the governor’s budget.”

The House and Senate are working on their own versions, but if their numbers are anything close to Patrick’s, Martin’s going to have a tough time matching last year’s budget performance, where Greenfield managed to come in $670,000 below the Proposition 21/2 levy limit.

Greenfield’s election

Unless something changed by 5 p.m. Thursday, Greenfield will be having a preliminary election next month at a cost of just under $4,000.

Precinct 5 Town Council candidates John Lyford, Penny Ricketts and Rob Wainstein had until that deadline to withdraw from the race, in writing. Assuming that hasn’t happened, Town Clerk Deb Tuttle said there will an April 15 primary election for Precinct 5 voters to choose two finalists for the June council election.

“We have to do everything the same as any other election,” Tuttle said. “We have a voter registration, and we have to have a police officer at the polls — all of the usual elements, even though it’s just one precinct voting.”

Speaking of the election, former Councilor Barbara Tillmanns is spearheading yet another pre-election candidate’s forum, that will once again be open to everyone on the ballot, whether or not they have an opponent.

“All I’m looking to do is give the voters the opportunity to hear what these candidates think about the issues,” Tillmanns said.

Tillmanns said this year’s forum will run from 6 to 8 p.m. May 15 at Greenfield Community Television and she is working on the format and panelists for the event. The last time she did this, Tillmanns managed to put together an eclectic mix of community leaders and newsmakers that I thought worked pretty well. The challenge this year may be finding the right mix of participants, given the level of political division in town.

Anyone who may be interested in taking part in this year’s forum or may have suggestions for potential panelists is encouraged to give Barbara a call at 773-3065.

Chris Collins is the Franklin County News Bureau Chief for WHAI, WPVQ and WHMP Radio. He is a former staff reporter for The Recorder, and is a Greenfield native.

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