Charlemont Town Meeting voters to consider expanding highway super’s role, bolstering bylaw enforcement

  • Workers install “no parking” signs at the Shunpike Rest Area on Route 2 in Charlemont in July 2020. Illegal parking all over town, and especially by the river, is creating an issue among visitors and residents, which town officials hope to address by changing the bylaws addressing parking enforcement at Annual Town Meeting on Saturday. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 6/10/2021 3:52:51 PM

CHARLEMONT — Articles concerning transferring the tree warden’s responsibilities to the highway superintendent and amending bylaws with specific enforcement measures will be discussed among funding decisions at Annual Town Meeting on Saturday.

The meeting will be held at the Charlemont Fairgrounds on Park Street starting at 1 p.m., and will focus on the yearly budgetary needs for Charlemont. Per the Town Meeting warrant, the town will establish spending limits for several funds for fiscal year 2022, including its dog fund, recycling program, flags and banners, fire inspection, Planning Board, and Park and Recreation Commission.

Other financial items include voting to allow Mohawk Trail Regional School District to borrow upwards of $600,000 for repairs at Mohawk Trail Regional School in Buckland, as well as cemetery maintenance, and bridge and infrastructure repairs.

A possible discussion point among the 17 articles, according to Town Administrator Sarah Reynolds, is Article 16 — transferring the duties of the tree warden to the highway superintendent. She said many smaller towns are seeing challenges in getting volunteers for such positions, tree warden being one of them, so it’s necessary that they meld its duties with the highway superintendent’s.

“It’s more with the Highway Department because they’re out doing the roads and such and trees and such, so it would kind of make sense that they went there,” Reynolds said of the tree warden’s responsibilities, noting that it would be sensible “to have a paid employee to also take on that responsibility.”

Selectboard Chair Marguerite Willis said the article has a larger context with regard to the town of Charlemont. The lack of part-time volunteers for smaller jobs in town, as well as the lack of efficiency that said issue presents in the system, has prompted conversation about replacing the Highway Department with a Department of Public Works that would absorb smaller, unpaid jobs that would otherwise go undone.

Willis cites jobs such as mowing the lawn of the town cemetery, as well as cleaning Town Hall, the Fire Station and the Highway Garage as items that would fall under that category. Some of the department’s duties would deal with maintenance of town property, including the Transfer Station.

“It’s a matter of all the small part-time jobs becoming one full-time job,” Willis said, noting that town officials are in the middle of a succession study plan using a grant the town received from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG). “Right now, we’re just handing it over to the highway superintendent, but when we have the study in, we will make a decision whether we’re going forward creating a Department of Public Works, and that would probably be at next year’s Town Meeting.”

Charlemont is also hoping to address issues related to non-criminal disposition bylaws mentioned in Article 17.

“We want to be able to enforce some of what we already have on the books, and we did not make it so that we could do so originally, so they’re being more specific about the process,” Reynolds explained.

Creating specificity about the town’s enforcement of such bylaws is the main goal of the article, and the town has two issues in particular it is working to address.

“You would think that people might know that you don’t have a rooster in the village where all the houses are close together,” Willis said, addressing one of the reasons for the change in town bylaws. “People are not opposed to having chickens and other animals as long as you keep your barnyard clean and you consider your neighbors. But the rooster kind of tipped people over the edge.”

Charlemont’s zoning officer explained to town officials that the only way to address the problem head-on would be to create a bylaw that would implement fines to discourage such activity. They plan to do just that, as Willis explained the bylaw change will allow the town to continue to fine the owner of the rooster until the issue is taken care of.

The disruptive rooster is not the only item ruffling feathers; Illegal parking all over town, and especially by the river, is creating an issue among visitors and residents. The town has been handling the problem by writing tickets, though Willis said that option isn’t enough and she thinks towing will be more effective.

“We have had some neighborhoods overwhelmed with illegal parkers blocking their driveway, parking on their front lawn, and then trash-mouthing the owners who asked them to move,” she said. A possible challenge regarding the lack of tow trucks in the western part of Franklin County is expected to arise, but will be discussed to address Charlemont’s illegal parking issue.

Willis said that through these articles, the town is “reacting to problems that common sense could not handle.”

The proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 is about $3.97 million, up 7.88 percent from the current fiscal year’s $3.68 million. To view the full Annual Town Meeting warrant, visit bit.ly/2Tjllts.




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