Frustration builds in Deerfield as legislative act stalls

  • Deerfield’s Municipal Offices and Police Station on Conway Street. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 10/14/2022 1:51:39 PM

DEERFIELD — With the town awaiting a legislative act to split its town clerk/treasurer/collector position, the Selectboard expressed its frustration this week with the lack of progress as work piles up in Town Hall.

On Wednesday, Selectboard Chair Trevor McDaniel criticized the state Legislature for its slow movement on approving a split of the three positions, which voters approved at Town Meeting in April. The act has been approved by the House, but is still waiting for Senate approval. The next Senate session is set for Oct. 17, according to the Legislature’s website.

“People in Boston have multiple staff, all kinds of help and tons of money coming from the federal government. … It’s all sitting out in Boston and there’s no help coming back to western Massachusetts,” McDaniel said, audibly frustrated. “Our staff are in tears because they can’t get any help because our Senate can’t get to work and our House can’t get to work and our government can’t sign the paper to get us back to work.”

Following the resignation of longtime Town Clerk/Treasurer/Collector Barbara Hancock at the beginning of the year, the town opted to send a request to the Legislature through a Town Meeting article to split the position into a town clerk and treasurer/collector. Town Administrator Kayce Warren explained the three-fold position was created by a special act of the Legislature in 1972, which means a Legislative act is needed to split the role. The only other town in Massachusetts that has this combined role is Southwick.

“This wasn’t unusual in 1972,” Warren commented. “We have to follow the rules we created by getting a special legislative act.”

Speaking by phone Thursday, Warren said the combination of election reform laws, the responsibilities of treasurers/collectors and the need to submit a piece of special legislation have made this a difficult process for Deerfield.

“It’s the perfect storm,” Warren said. “In municipal government, and I have to say with state government, nothing ever happens at the speed we would like it to be. We’re subject to the law.”

Warren said legislative acts are slow processes and Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield, and Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, have been helpful, but as weeks pass by, work continues to mount.

“I see this struggle on a daily basis. We do everything we can from a staff perspective, but Deerfield is a busy place,” Warren said. “It’s time-consuming and the Legislature has its own process.”

Although the House has approved the split, Warren said it is now in the Senate’s hands. While the town awaits the splitting of the position, it cannot hire anybody in a permanent role, but Warren said the town can work around it for now with interim positions.

She added that she understands the state government is “wicked busy,” but splitting this position is a “critical need for the town of Deerfield.”

Adding to the stress are both the upcoming general election, which has much stricter rules following the VOTES Act, and the mounting work employees must take on throughout a day-to-day basis.

“The election’s requirements are onerous now,” Warren said Wednesday evening. “We’re going to have to figure out how to deploy and redeploy people.”

In regards to the general workload town employees are seeing, Selectboard member Tim Hilchey said the number of people leaving Town Hall could be because of attrition caused by taking on so many responsibilities. He noted that onboarding new staff is also a long process that can slow down the town’s operations.

“The recent departures indicate to me that the staff here are overworked and this problem can’t be solved by continually hiring new people,” Hilchey said. “The town can’t function with people leaving every year and a half because then you have a six-month get-up-to-speed kind of thing.”

On Wednesday evening, another town employee stepped down from their role, as the Selectboard accepted Assistant Town Clerk Jennifer Wallace’s resignation letter. Wallace also served as interim town clerk for an extended period of time this year.

Discussions about workloads are not new for Deerfield. Warren has said in the past that, beyond normal responsibilities, the town’s reliance on grant money to fund projects has added additional grant writing and reporting responsibilities to town staff.

“This is a very busy small town that’s hitting the ceiling of what we can do unless we make a significant change,” Warren said at the meeting. “If there’s too many things going on, we need to pare back.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy