Northfield TM to vote on budget, Selectboard increase, truck ban on Gulf Road

  • Town meeting voters are considering banning large trucks from Gulf Road. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • The Field Library at 243 Millers Falls Road in Northfield. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • The Field Library at 243 Millers Falls Road in Northfield. Staff Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 5/3/2019 5:52:41 PM

NORTHFIELD — Annual Town Meeting is Monday at 7 p.m. at Pioneer Valley Regional School. A handful of the warrant articles are especially notable, including a question on increasing the size of the Selectboard from three members to five, a re-try at changing the name of Columbus Day and a proposal to ban large trucks from Gulf Road.

The warrant can be found on the front page of northfieldma.gov.

■The budget recommended by the Finance Committee is $8,415,385 — a 2-percent decrease from this year’s $8,433,537 budget. But that number is expected to decrease even further in the next month as the Pioneer Valley Regional School District ties up the loose ends of its recent decision to close Leyden’s Pearl Rhodes Elementary School.

In all four towns of the district, the finance committees and selectboards are recommending that their Town Meeting voters pass over or vote down the school district’s proposed budget. The plan is that they would then return to the question at a specially scheduled Town Meeting in June, by which point the School Committee will have finalized the Pearl Rhodes closure and ironed out its impacts on the budget. At a recent joint meeting, town finance committees and selectboards were confident that any further school budget revisions would give decreases to the towns’ assessed costs.

■A question on increasing the Selectboard from three members to five is already provoking discussion in Northfield. This proposal comes from the Town Governance Study Committee, which supports the change on the grounds that it would bring a greater diversity of ideas to the Selectboard, would decrease the workload on each member, and would make it easier for the board to gather a quorum (the number of members necessary for a meeting to be legal).

If passed, the town would petition the state Legislature fo allow it to increase the size of the board before the measure could be approved in a town election. The two new Selectboard members could be elected at that same election or at a later annual town election.

■If last year’s Annual Town Meeting can be any indication, a proposal to change the name of Columbus Day to “Indigenous People’s Day” will drum up a lively debate on the Town Meeting floor. The same question was posed last year, appearing toward the end of the warrant. After a number of residents had presented a diversity of opinions for voters’ consideration, it was rejected 77-79.

In practice, the change would be reflected in official town communications and documents — letters, announcements, meeting minutes, websites and so on.

■Perhaps in response to complaints, the Selectboard is proposing to ban large trucks from Gulf Road. For about a year now, residents have been telling the Selectboard that it’s unsafe for commercial trucks to use Gulf Road, a rough, winding route along a steep cliff.

The problem seems to have increased in the last 10 years, Police Chief Robert Leighton said when the issue first came up last April. He guessed that it could be linked to the advent of GPS systems, which could be using Gulf Road as a shortcut from Route 2A to 63 and 10.

The ban would apply to commercial vehicles with carrying capacity over 2 ½ tons. But vehicles making deliveries on the road would be exempt. The town of Gill, at its town meeting on Tuesday, approved the same restriction for its parts of the road, called North Street and Church Street.

■The Community Preservation Committee has two warrant articles, requesting authorization to pay for two projects from the Community Preservation fund or from the town’s undesignated funds: $4,000 to replace the Field Library's front doors, and $4,100 for a new steel equipment shed for the Recreation Commission.

The Field Library, at 243 Millers Falls Road, has historically been used by people in the Northfield Farms area. The building is privately owned, but qualifies for Community Preservation Act money on the grounds that it is 110 years old and has historic significance for the town, said Community Preservation Committee Chairwoman Lara Dubin. The doors that are to be replaced are original to the building.

■Northfield is one of many Franklin County towns this year considering a resolution on changing the state’s seal and motto. A yes vote would voice the town’s support for the creation of a special commission to review the seal and motto, and would formally request that State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and State Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, back the creation of the commission.

■Also on the warrant are requests to authorize purchases, notably including a police cruiser, a Highway Department truck, police and fire equipment, sewer line repairs, and maintenance for Northfield Elementary School and Pioneer Valley Regional School.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or  413-772-0261 ex 261.


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