Wastewater borrowing tops Deerfield Town Meeting warrant

  • The Deerfield Selectboard laid out the warrant Wednesday night in anticipation of next week’s Annual Town Meeting. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 4/21/2022 3:48:14 PM

DEERFIELD — As voters gather at Frontier Regional School Monday night for Annual Town Meeting, they will be asked to approve borrowing $3 million to round out the money needed for the South Deerfield Wastewater Treatment Plant’s reconstruction project.

The meeting will start at 7 p.m. in Frontier’s auditorium. Masks are not required, although residents are encouraged to wear them if they wish. The 23-article warrant, with brief explanations, can be found at bit.ly/3OrUR1b.

Town officials will present fiscal year 2023’s proposed $16.71 million, which is a 5% increase from fiscal year 2022’s $15.91 million budget. Finance Committee Chair Julie Chalfant said the town is adding several services to the town’s budget with cost increases coming from new Board of Health expenses, the potential split of the town clerk/treasurer/tax collector position and a higher Franklin County Technical School assessment as the number of Deerfield students attending school there has risen. An overview of the budget is available at bit.ly/3xJ8G5n.

The town is asking residents in Article 11 to approve borrowing $3 million to address upgrades needed to ensure the wastewater treatment plant is permit-compliant. The upgrades would involve installing upgraded aeration filters to increase the plant’s efficiency. Voters initially approved the borrowing of $19 million in 2019, but the cost for the project has risen due to the pandemic.

“It’s been brutal,” said Selectboard member Trevor McDaniel of the rising pandemic costs that have been exacerbated by inflation. He noted that the original bid of $19.73 million would have been “34% higher” if the project had gone out to bid today.

McDaniel said the town will seek grants to offset the costs, but now is the time to borrow the money because Deerfield has built up a successful working relationship with DPC Engineering, the contractor undertaking the project.

“We felt it was important to hang onto the contractor we have now,” he said. “We’re hoping to get our hands (on a grant) … but we don’t want to lose the contractor we have.”

If the borrowing is approved at Town Meeting, voters will also have to approve a debt-exclusion vote during the town election on May 2.

“We’re just trying to tackle as much as we can with the funds that we have, without breaking the bank,” McDaniel said. “We’re trying to be as efficient as we can.”

Article 14 concerns the upcoming fiscal year’s capital projects, totaling $152,700. The town plans to address several Deerfield Elementary School projects, including the replacement of floors, bathroom renovations, air conditioning in the skills and music room, and a new commercial dishwasher. The Department of Public Works also requested a new wood chipper for $59,000 because the current machine has several safety issues.

Article 17 asks voters to approve Community Preservation Fund project requests totaling $866,800. Topping the list of requests are the first phase of rehabilitating the South County Senior Center and the town common rehabilitation and restoration project, which aim to kick off the years-long process of revitalizing South Deerfield.

The town seeks to appropriate $475,000 to begin rehabilitating the South County Senior Center, which has been closed for two years due to the pandemic and the discovery of mold and asbestos in the building. Following the base rehabilitation, the town will conduct an engineering study as it seeks to turn the building into a multi-use Town Hall and senior center.

Voters are also asked to approve $350,000 to kick off the town common rehabilitation project, which will increase accessibility and safety.

Following the resignation of longtime Town Clerk/Treasurer/Tax Collector Barbara Hancock in December, the town is seeking resident approval to send a request to the Legislature to allow the split of the position into a town clerk and a treasurer/collector.

“Deerfield is one of two communities in the commonwealth in which this position exists,” said Town Administrator Kayce Warren. The other town is Southwick. “With only one other municipality having a position of this nature, it’s going to be difficult to hire to fill that position.”

Other articles on the warrant involve:

■Giving the Selectboard the authority to reduce the speed limit to 25 miles per hour for town areas defined as “thickly settled” or in the business zoning district.

■Creating a revolving fund for foster care transportation with a spending limit of $200,000. The following article would give the School Committee the authority to negotiate transportation agreements. Warren noted that Deerfield currently does not have a student that would require these funds, but the superintendent’s office requested all four towns have the article on their warrants.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.

An earlier version of this article quoted Deerfield Finance Committee Chair Julie Chalfant out of context.


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