Charlemont completes about half of its Town Meeting

  • Charlemont town sign. PAUL FRANZ

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/23/2018 9:12:30 PM

CHARLEMONT — Roughly half the Annual Town Meeting articles were addressed in a 3½-hour session this week. The second part of the meeting has been continued to Wednesday, May 30, at 7 p.m. in the Hawlemont Regional School.

Voters OK’d a $3.45 million operating budget for the fiscal year that begins in July, but said “no” to about $424,000 worth of tax-hiking debt exclusions that would have bought the Highway Department a $150,000 loader, one-ton dump truck ($85,000) a new Highway truck ($185,000) and an SUV police cruiser ($39,500).

The request for so many new trucks did not come directly from Highway Superintendent Gordon Hathaway, but from the newly formed Capital Planning Committee. Committee members said the town has gotten behind in timely repair and replacement of its vehicles, and that the town may be facing a more expensive purchase — a new ambulance — in coming years. They wanted to get the less costly vehicles replaced this year and the estimated $250,000 ambulance next year.

The new budget represents a 1.9 percent increase, or $65,293.

On the annual town election ballot, all four vehicle debt exclusions failed, and a single debt exclusion, for $17,000 to buy a generator and propane tank for the Emergency Management office in Town Hall, was approved. The Finance Committee later said the town would not levy a tax above the tax levy limit for such a sum, but would use the town’s stabilization funds instead.

After voters defeated an amendment to take out a five-year loan to borrow all the new vehicle money, without a temporary debt-exclusion tax hike, Police Chief Jared Bellows agreed to withdraw his police cruiser request for another year.

Hathaway was passionate in defending the department’s need for a new loader, however. “The loader is the backbone of this department,” he said. “It’s not just a highway tool,” rather it’s a “public safety matter.” Hathaway said the current loader has 10,000 hours on it and was used to free stranded residents from flooded roads during Tropical Storm Irene seven years ago. In the event of another such storm, he said, the town needs a reliable loader to do the necessary work.

Voters eventually agreed to buy the new Volvo loader — but not with a debt-exclusion, temporary tax hike. They passed over the other vehicle purchases, and agreed to transfer $124,983 from the town’s “free cash” revenues into the Town Stabilization Account.

Still ahead

At Wednesday’s continued Annual Town Meeting, voters will consider state requirements for fire departments, changing “Board of Selectmen” in the town’s bylaws to “Select Board.” Also they’ll consider whether to charge a 3 percent retail excise tax on recreational marijuana, adopt the state’s “Stretch Energy Code” for a Green Communities designation, and impose a temporary moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments.

A proposed solar overlay district will help the town in its pursuit of a Green Energy designation and related energy grants. The bylaw includes revised definitions for “Temporary Dwelling” and requires anyone wanting to live in such a temporary dwelling to get a temporary occupancy permit through the town Board of Health.

Also, Charlemont will be the last Mohawk member town of vote on proposed Mohawk regional district agreement changes that have been addressed by other member towns. These include: a vocational school transportation arrangement, removing Rowe’s tuition agreement from the eight-town contract and asking whether Mohawk should send its sixth-graders (from Mohawk elementary schools only) to the Mohawk middle school.


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