Charlemont voters OK secretary for boards, reject change to highway super’s role

  • Charlemont Town Moderator Charlotte Dewey speaks during Saturday’s Annual Town Meeting, which was held under the pavilion at the Charlemont Fairgrounds. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 6/13/2021 7:17:25 PM

CHARLEMONT — Voters at Saturday’s Annual Town Meeting opted in favor of hiring a secretary to the boards for 20 hours a week with benefits, taking heed to an appeal from the woman tasked with virtually the entire workload.

Carlene Hayden penned a plea for townspeople, stating the burden of serving as secretary to the Board of Assessors, Board of Health, Conservation Commission, Planning Board, Finance Committee and Zoning Board of Appeals has taken a toll on her health.

“I work hard and go out of my way to help people. I don’t take breaks or a lunch, and most days I still leave late because I have to finish something that’s due,” Hayden wrote in her appeal that was handed out to voters under the pavilion at the Charlemont Fairgrounds. “I’m years behind in backed-up filing and there are tasks I have had to put on the back burner but that need to be done or face reprimand from the state. I just can’t find the time to get to them.”

The appeal states Hayden wrote it at 2:40 a.m. after being awoken in a panic that she had forgotten something important.

The salary for this position will be $15,600.

Voters also approved a roughly $3.97 million town budget for fiscal year 2022, up 7.88 percent from the current fiscal year’s $3.68 million.

The only article voters rejected concerned transferring the tree warden’s responsibilities to the highway superintendent.

Town Administrator Sarah Reynolds previously explained many smaller towns are having challenges getting volunteers for such positions, making it necessary to 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.

Selectboard Chair Marguerite Willis had explained the lack of part-time volunteers for smaller jobs in town, and the lack of efficiency this presents in the system, has prompted discussion about replacing the Highway Department with a Department of Public Works that could absorb smaller, unpaid jobs that would otherwise go undone. Willis cited jobs such as mowing the lawn of the town cemetery, as well as cleaning Town Hall, the Fire Station and the Highway Garage as duties that would fall in that category.

However, voters who spoke on Saturday seemed unwilling to combine the two positions, with some emphasizing the specific know-how a tree warden’s job requires.

In the final article on the warrant, voters chose to amend the non-criminal disposition bylaw. The article’s main objective was to create specificity about the town’s enforcement of such bylaws. One recurring issue has been a disruptive rooster in the village. Charlemont’s zoning officer had explained to town officials the only way to address the issue is to establish a bylaw implementing fines to discourage such activity.

There are issues with illegal parking all over town, especially by the river. The town has been handling the problem by writing tickets, though Willis said this isn’t enough and she thinks towing would be more effective.

Fifty of the town’s 919 registered voters showed up on Saturday.

The town report for the year ending Dec. 31, 2020, is dedicated to the people of Charlemont “for your cooperation, understanding, compassion, neighborliness and resourcefulness” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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