Voters to weigh budget adjustments, new election date at Montague Special Town Meeting

  • Unexpected problems in converting the old landfill on Sandy Lane in Turners Falls into a solar farm could cost up to $82,000, which Special Town Meeting voters will be asked to approve on Tuesday. Pictured is a solar array owned by the Kearsarge Energy power company, which would essentially absorb the new solar farm. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/11/2020 3:24:02 PM

MONTAGUE — Several budget adjustments, a change in plans regarding the containment of the old landfill on Sandy Lane and a proposed new date for the annual town election are the major articles on the warrant for Special Town Meeting on Tuesday.

The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at the new Public Works building, 128 Turners Falls Road.

The 14 articles on the warrant also include routine financial actions regarding Montague Community Television (MCTV) and financing for the construction of the Public Works building, which was completed late this summer.

The date of the annual town election is proposed to change from the third Monday of May to the third Tuesday of May. Town Clerk Deb Bourbeau said that having the election on Tuesday would be easier for voters to remember, because state and federal elections are on Tuesday; and would also be easier for election workers to coordinate.

The budget adjustments proposed are offered by the Finance Committee as a way of restoring several items that had previously been delayed indefinitely, out of uncertainty over how the pandemic may have affected state revenue. While state aid is lower than it likely would have been if not for the pandemic, the shortfall is less significant than previously feared, said Finance Committee Chair Jen Audley.

“There is a shortfall projected for revenue. But I would not describe it as significant,” Audley said recently.

The proposed budget restorations are mostly yearly contributions to stabilization accounts, which are used by the town and the schools for softening unexpected spikes in expenses. The roof of the Gill-Montague Senior Center on Fifth Street is also set to be replaced, which had previously been delayed.

Another article involves appropriating $82,000 for design and legal work related to the former Montague Burn Dump on Sandy Lane.

The old landfill was set to be “capped” this year (meaning it will be sealed and contained according to environmental regulations), after having been delayed for at least 25 years. The project is estimated to be worth about $2.4 million, if the town were to put it out to bid.

Instead, the town reached an agreement with the Kearsarge Energy power company that Kearsarge will pay to cap the old landfill, and in exchange, Kearsarge is allowed to develop a solar farm on the land, with almost the entire leasing fee waived. Kearsarge has another solar farm nearby, which will essentially absorb this new one.

In preliminary site work this summer, it was discovered that the size of the landfill is about 1 acre larger than was previously understood — about 7 acres, rather than 6 — calling for modifications in the design and more legal work and oversight than was previously expected. The $82,000 is to cover these costs.

“We’ve been told by our current engineers that it’s not uncommon to find more waste outside the boundaries in these old landfills with spotty records,” noted Town Planner Walter Ramsey. “Unfortunately, we found one.”

Ramsey said the engineers have since done more site tests, and are now confident there won’t be any additional surprises.

To view the full Special Town Meeting warrant, visit bit.ly/33I9p7B.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.




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