Ashfield Lake dam repair tops Town Meeting warrant

  • The spillway and dam at Ashfield Lake. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 6/25/2020 3:44:23 PM

ASHFIELD — Voters will be asked at Saturday’s Annual Town Meeting to approve a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion to help the town pay for its share of costs pertaining to dam repair and maintenance projects at Ashfield Lake.

Specifically, Article 22 on the warrant asks voters to authorize borrowing up $250,000 for if the town was to receive grants for funding the maintenance and repair work needed at the dam located on South River. Often the town is required to pay a portion of the grant total.

Voters in the town election, also to be held Saturday, will also be asked on the ballot to approve the debt exclusion.

Town Meeting will start at 10 a.m. on the town common. Residents will be asked to wear masks and to maintain proper social distancing.

The 23-article warrant also seeks to approve a general operating budget of roughly $5.4 million, which represents about a 2 percent decrease over fiscal year 2020. The general government, education, and culture and recreation budgets saw decreases.

The Department of Public Works budget, however, saw an increase of $65,331, which is driven by increased recycling costs and additional laborer costs from making a part-time position into a full-time one, according to Interim Town Administrator Jennifer Morse.

The need for dam maintenance noted in Article 22 follows an inspection in 2018 by Tighe & Bond, an engineering, design and environmental consulting firm. The consulting firm downgraded the dam from satisfactory to fair, according to the report. The company listed 21 reasons for the downgrade, citing primarily the trees and brush located near the downstream side of the dam and the deteriorated mortar of the stone masonry spillway.

According to Town Clerk Bridget Rodrigue, if the dam were to downgrade even further — to poor — the town could see an increase in costs associated with more frequent inspections.

The town aims to address these issues and a number of others largely through securing grants. However, as was the case with the $34,400 grant provided through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program — which the town applied to and received funding from for the project — many grants could require the town to provide a match or other contribution.

“It would be the town’s share of that grant,” she said. “Often the town has to come up with 25 percent.”

Morse said the money authorized in the article would only be expended if a grant was awarded for the maintenance of the dam.

A full copy of the Annual Town Meeting warrant can be accessed on the town website under “News and Announcements.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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