Leyden voters: Yes to broadband, no to drones

  • Leyden residents stand to be counted in an annual town meeting vote Saturday in the Town Hall, one resident risking standing on a chair to exercise her franchise. RECORDER STAFF/CHRIS CURTIS Chris Curtis—Recorder staff

  • Amy St. Clair of the Leyden Finance Committee makes a point during Saturday’s annual town meeting. RECORDER STAFF/CHRIS CURTIS Chris Curtis—Recorder staff

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/14/2016 5:37:17 PM

LEYDEN — The town is now, symbolically, a drone-restricted zone.

Voters approved a resolution affirming residents’ property rights to the air up to 500 feet above their land, a move aimed at curtailing the potential intrusion of drone aircraft.

Planning Board Chairman Peter Tusinski said the resolution, put forward by his board, is based on others intended to protect privacy against the expansion of drone use. Tusinski said corporations are lobbying for free use of airspace from the ground to the Federal Aviation Administration’s 500-foot ceiling, and invoked fears of camera-equipped drones hovering outside bedroom windows and over backyard pools. Toothless in itself, Tusinski said the resolution is intended to serve as a first step toward passage of an ordinance by the Board of Selectmen.

Some spoke against the article as unnecessary or potentially limiting. One resident asked whether the move might hinder search and rescue operations employing drones. Tusinski said the federal and state laws would trump the local rule in that situation.

The item passed on a voice vote with some opposition.

The town’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget passed unanimously as presented, in the amount of $1,586,988, down $71,622 from the current year’s budget. Decreases include school costs and debt service. The $63,911 anticipated for an annual bond payment for a Pioneer Valley Regional School building project was cut to $1,000, with the bond already paid off.

The $62,911 balance reappeared later in the meeting, with a request to set it aside as savings for the effort to bring broadband Internet to town.

Broadband came up three times.

First, Article 12 asked to set aside the $62,911 as savings toward bringing broadband to town. Opponents argued that any money that can be taken out of the budget should be, in order to lower taxes. Those for it argued the town needs high-speed Internet more than it needs a momentary dip in taxes as Internet becomes a prerequisite for businesses and home sales. Bob Ryan of the Broadband Committee said that money in the bank will show commitment and move the town up in the queue for sate help. After extended discussion, the motion passed 57-9 on a standing count.

Next up was an article to allocate $1,000 to the Wired West broadband wiring effort, one of several the town is now considering, alongside partnerships with Greenfield or Colrain. That request passed by a majority as well. Finally, the assembly approved a resolution affirming their belief in the importance of high-speed Internet, which passed unanimously.

Residents were also asked to change the town’s mandatory police retirement age from 65 to 70 to allow Police Chief Daniel Galvis to keep the position longer.

Galvis supported his request with a list of ways he has saved money for the town in his 18 years as chief through aggressive pursuit of grants and other outside funding.

“I’ve been here 24 years. I’d like to stay on if you’ll keep me,” Galvis said.

Residents were effusive in their testimonials, and backed up their public praise with an secret ballot vote to keep him, 53-16.

A request from the Historical Commission for $3,000 toward the eventual acquisition of space for a town museum proved divisive. Selectman Jeffrey Neipp pushed for a reduction to $1,000, saying this year’s request is too high. Virginia Rockwood of the Historical Commission said the request is up $1,000 to recoup the money cut from the usual $2,000 request last year. Several asked that the commission join forces with other town entities seeking space, such as the library. The article passed at $3,000 after a failed amendment.

Purchase of a highway grader to replace the 38-year-old machine that maintains the town’s dirt roads proved still more contentious, with Tusinski foremost in arguing against it. Tusinski asked that the town postpone spending to replace the grader, and roadwork on Greenfield Road, until next year to save more state road aid toward the purchase. The eventual vote to spend the $265,000 originally requested was nearly unanimous.

All items on the warrant passed, save $51,484 passed over. Of those requests, $40,000 for town building and highway savings accounts are to be reconsidered later in the year and $11,484 for a PVRS office project is no longer necessary.

The ding of the town’s old-fashioned ballot box punctuated the proceedings, with the annual election held in conjunction with the meeting. Results were to be available later Saturday.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com


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