Senior services district, solar bylaw top 33-article warrant in Ashfield

  • Ashfield Town Hall. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

For the Recorder
Published: 5/4/2022 4:24:07 PM
Modified: 5/4/2022 4:22:35 PM

ASHFIELD — Creation of a three-town legal district to oversee the shared Senior Center in Shelburne Falls and a proposed bylaw change to regulate ground-mounted solar arrays are among the 33 articles to come before Town Meeting voters on Saturday.

The meeting will start at 10 a.m. at Town Hall. Polls for the annual town election will be open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Town Hall’s first floor, while the Annual Town Meeting is in session upstairs.

Senior services

Proponents say that forming a new West County Senior Services District among Shelburne, Buckland and Ashfield will give the three-town consortium more leverage in securing state grants. It will also give the towns equal ownership and an equal voice in how elder services are run.

Instead of Shelburne serving as the lease-holder for the rented Senior Center in the Masonic building at 7 Main St., a six-member board of managers would become the legal entity managing the facility and senior services. Two members would be appointed from each town, and any board vote would require a 4-2 majority to pass.

For the past several years, study groups have explored new sites for a possible Senior Center expansion. But the new district will not have the authority to rent, buy or build any future Senior Center building unless it has Town Meeting approval from all three member towns.

The town Finance Committee unanimously supports Article 6, which outlines the West County Senior Services District agreement.


The $7.4 million budget proposal for fiscal year 2023 represents a 16% increase over this year’s $6.4 million spending plan. However, the net amount to be raised from taxes is slightly less than 5%, as capital project costs have dropped, and the town can use some of its undesignated free cash balance of $209,991.

Finance Committee member Ben Markens said during a Zoom meeting on Monday that $100,000 of that free cash will be put into the town’s stabilization funds, raising that “rainy day” funding total to $614,926. He said the town is preparing for future purchases, such as a new fire engine to replace Engine 3, and possibly a fire station or public safety building large enough to house a modern fire truck.

Also, if all warrant articles are approved, the tax rate is expected to drop by 2 cents, to $17.95 per $1,000 valuation.

If approved, next year’s overall spending on education will go up by about $11,000 — less than 1% over this year’s $2.8 million costs.

For the Mohawk Trail Regional School District, the overall $20.7 million school budget represents a 3.6% hike, but Ashfield’s assessment will go down by about $340,047. This decrease is partly due to an enrollment decline. Enrollment has been dropping over the last three years. Ashfield had 110 students attending Mohawk Trail Regional School last October, but expects to have 99 students this fall. Town assessments are based on a student enrollment average over a five-year period.

The town is seeking a 7.5% pay raise for town employees. One reason for this boost, Markens explained, is that employees are working harder now than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, if town employees leave for better paying jobs, he said training new hires could be more costly in the long run.

For future town equipment, the town is requesting $25,000 be budgeted for a police cruiser and $175,000 be put aside for a fire truck. If voters support spending $120,000 this year for a Highway Department truck, that truck could be purchased and ready for use by next year. The town also wants $10,000 to replace the roof of the Ashfield Lake bath house, and $9,000 for basic personal protective equipment for firefighters.

Other warrant articles

The proposed solar bylaw amendment, outlined in Article 33, would set building permit, setback and dimensional requirements for ground-mounted solar arrays that take up between 1.5 acres and 10 acres of land. It does not affect solar panels attached to rooftops on homes or barns.

Medium- and large-scale ground-mounted structures would go through expanded application processes, with larger setbacks, minimal lighting and a sign identifying the owner or operator, along with a 24-hour telephone contact. The amendment includes a decommissioning procedure and surety to be set by the Planning Board to cover costs of removal and site restoration in the event that a facility is decommissioned.

Two non-binding resolutions on the warrant came from citizen’s petitions. The first is a show of support for the Massachusetts Fair Share Amendment, which would levy an additional 4% tax on residents with an annual income above $1 million. These tax dollars would specifically go toward public education and for repair of roads, bridges and public transportation.

The second, “Pollinator Resolution,” calls for minimizing the use of insecticides to protect honey bees, butterflies, moths and other insect pollinators. The “pollinator-friendly” practices suggested include adopting chemical-free lawns and emphasizing native plant species, avoiding insecticide use and not planting flowering plants treated with insecticides.

An earlier Special Town Meeting at 9:30 a.m. asks residents to move $35,000 into an account for Transfer Station improvements and to move $3,000 into a new Riverfront Planting Account. There are also small requests to transfer $285 to the Green Communities Grant Account and a $222 transfer into the Wetlands Protection Account.

To see a copy of the full warrant online, go to


Voters will see a full slate of candidates — but no contests — at the polls on Saturday.

Three candidates are running for seats in which the incumbents have stepped down or are not seeking re-election.

Karen Jones is running to fill an two-year unexpired term on the Parks Commission that had been held by Helen Leue.

Mark Burton is running for a three-year term on the Finance Committee; current member Melinda Gougeon is not seeking re-election.

Kenneth Miller is running for the unexpired four-year term of Ariel Brooks, who recently resigned from the Planning Board.

And, since longtime Belding Memorial Library Trustee Marcine Eisenberg is not running for re-election, Nicole Williams is vying for the five-year term on that board.

The following incumbents are all seeking re-election to three-year terms, unless otherwise noted: moderator (one year), Stewart “Buz” Eisenberg; tree warden (one year), Thomas Poissant; Parks Commission, Judy Haupt; Finance Committee, Bennett Markens; Sewer Commission, Richard Taylor; constable, Elizabeth Lesure; Selectboard, Thomas Carter; Board of Assessors, Faye Whitney-Lussier; Board of Health, Evelyn Resh; and Planning Board (five years), Richard Chandler.


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