Charlemont approves interim chief, talks tubing regulations

  • A group of people with tubes wait for the water release at Zoar Picnic Area on the Deerfield River in Charlemont in 2020. During a Charlemont Selectboard meeting this week, Town Administrator Sarah Reynolds outlined commercial tubing regulations announced by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 4/29/2022 3:41:58 PM
Modified: 4/29/2022 3:40:31 PM

CHARLEMONT — The Selectboard approved an interim police chief this week following the resignation of Chief Jared Bellows.

Capt. Jason Pelletier, at Bellows’ recommendation, will serve as interim police chief when Bellows leaves the position in late June.

“If I don’t do it, I’m not entirely sure that we’ll end up with someone we do want doing it,” Pelletier said of his new position. “I’m up for the challenge.”

Typically, Bellows said, interim chiefs are appointed for a set period of time, often six months, and evaluated at the end of their tenure to determine the next steps, which could include filling the role permanently.

Bellows will train Pelletier through his last day on June 30. Pelletier will serve as interim chief starting July 1, though training will begin immediately. He will face the Selectboard again for an evaluation in early January.

In a phone interview, Selectboard Chair Marguerite Willis said Bellows, who owns a sawmill in town, and others in the Police Department are leaving because they are unable to take time off to complete the state’s Bridge Academy training, which is about 200 additional hours.

“He made a business decision. … I’m happy for him, but sad for us,” Willis told the Greenfield Recorder. “This is what happens sometimes when the Legislature writes one law for the entire state.”

Efforts to reach Bellows for further comment have been unsuccessful.

Tubing regulations

Also during this week’s meeting, Town Administrator Sarah Reynolds outlined commercial tubing regulations announced by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs this month.

The regulations are “intended to promote the protection of public safety and welfare by establishing rules of conduct and operation governing commercial uses of the Deerfield River,” the Code of Massachusetts Regulations reads.

Tubes must be multi-chamber, meaning there is more than one airtight pocket, and cannot carry more than one passenger. Commercial tube providers must provide instruction to each passenger about the hazards and appropriate safety procedures, and the director must approve personal floatation devices to be worn by each passenger.

Tubers must be at least 10 years old, and all tubers under 15 years old must be “accompanied by and directly supervised by” an adult.

These regulations apply only to commercial tube providers, not individuals who bring their own tubes to use on the Deerfield River.

“This is good news for everyone,” Willis said.

Speaking by phone, Willis said the initial push for regulations began several years ago after about 5,000 people went to Charlemont for a weekend on the river.

“We were just overwhelmed. … That really got the state’s attention,” she said, adding that the new regulations reflect “all the time and effort” that stakeholders put in.

In 2020, state and local agencies worked to address residents’ concerns about overcrowding in and along the Deerfield River. By the end of the summer, Frank Mooney, co-owner of Crab Apple Whitewater Inc., said the town was “on the right track,” regarding crowding and behavior.

“Commercial tube providers will not be required to obtain a permit for the year 2022,” an email from the EEA office to the town reads. Providers must submit a letter of intent to apply for a 2023 permit by Nov. 1.

This delay provides time to “give everyone a heads up,” Willis said, and allows businesses to replace their tubes if necessary.

Limited staffing

The Selectboard also denied a proposal to move forward with a hiking trail through Charlemont, Heath and Rowe, and a request for Selectboard meeting documents to be posted on the town website.

During both discussions, the board cited existing responsibilities and limited staffing for its inability to take on new projects.

Heath and Rowe plan to apply for a grant through the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership to extend the existing Mohican-Mohawk Trail. The first step is to conduct a feasibility study, which the Charlemont Selectboard declined to participate in.

“We have enough to take care of right now,” Selectboard member Bill Harker said.

Janice Boudreau, executive secretary to the Rowe Selectboard, said it is her understanding that Rowe and Heath will move forward with the grant proposal without Charlemont.

In response to the document request made by newly appointed interim Hawlemont Regional School District School Committee member Cheryl Handsaker, Willis again cited the existing demands on the board.

“Anyone who’s really interested can call and ask,” Willis said. “It’s a generational shift. … We are overwhelmed with paperwork.” She added that the town does not have the staff required to scan and post all documents.

Woodlands Partnership

Jay Healy provided an update on the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership, a 17-town partnership focused on conserving forestland and providing economic development for rural communities.

“I think a lot of the grants are worthwhile,” Healy said, referring to the partnership’s work. “Overall, I think it’s nice if we have a consortium,” adding that a short letter of support from the Selectboard would be beneficial.

Healy also discussed his desire to prioritize economic development within the partnership. He expressed interest in developing apprenticeships with local schools for students to learn about wood production and the industry.

“It’s education, that’s what you’re doing,” Healy said, calling the partnership the “right way to move forward.”

“I think this is exciting,” Willis said. The Selectboard agreed to write a letter of support of the partnership.


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