Shutesbury votes for budget hike, school board post

Published: 5/8/2017 10:19:10 AM


For The Recorder

SHUTESBURY — Voters gave a green light to a budget increase for 2018 Saturday morning at the annual town meeting, boosted salaries for elected officials in town, and approved necessary repairs to the school, fire station and Town Hall.

School Committee incumbents Daniel Hayes and Stephen Sullivan both held their positions during the election.

The budget debate revealed some differences of opinion between the Selectboard and Finance Committee.

“I’ve been a resident for years, and I wasn’t comfortable with what the budget was spent on. There is a feeling we still aren’t looking at the big picture with our finances, and we feel the Financial Committee isn’t handling it the way we want,” Selectboard member Mike Vinskey said.

“This budget is like a house budget. You don’t plan on a broken toilet or window to fix. You plan on groceries or bills. So we want to save this money for a rainy day,” Finance Committee member Elaine Pako said to a room full of voters.

Voters approved allocating money from free cash to help renovate the roof and four classroom floors at Shutesbury Elementary School, as well as repaving the Fire Department’s parking lot and fixing leaks in Town Hall. Both the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District and the Shutesbury Elementary School District will receive budget increases as well.

Article 14, which allocates $125,000 to the Other Post-Employment Benefits fund, was passed unanimously. The majority of the money will go to health insurance for the retired.

Article 15, which calls for a swap of land between the town and a private landowner in order to build a new well, passed unanimously. Salt from the highway garage had contaminated the drinking water of the initial well, so the town aims to compensate the aggrieved landowner.

“The issue I care about most is Article 15,” resident Gordon Kimball said. “I have friends with an issue with their water, and they’ve been talking to the town for a long time. They live near Town Hall and now salt is in their water.”

Articles 7 and 21 were both skipped. Article 7 dealt with a Shutesbury Right to Farm bylaw, which would elevate the importance of local agriculture, but was pushed off for next year’s vote as more members are joining the Farm and Forestry Committee. Article 21, which was to approve a zoning bylaw proposition, was bypassed as the town had no upcoming projects that the bylaw could address.

Committee announcements

The Broadband Committee announced that a state grant was approved which would provide the funds and resources to build infrastructures to bring broadband to Shutesbury by 2019.

“Some people have DSL, but it is inadequate… But this means we are moving forwards as fast as possible. Broadband is necessary for a quality of life,” said Gayle Huntress, chairwoman of the Shutesbury Broadband Committee.

The Water Resources Committee announced that Shutesbury wells have replenished following the yearlong drought, with no long-term damage done to the land.

School Committee election

Jennifer Malcolm-Brown came up short in her bid for a position on the school committee. Incumbents Hayes and Sullivan received 175 and 161 votes, respectively, while Malcolm-Brown received 146 votes. Malcolm-Brown said she plans to run again.

Citizen petitions

Voters rejected Article 22, a citizen petition, aimed to preserve Native American historical sites and ceremonial stone landscapes. The petition aimed to add an extra layer of conservation and protection over about 60 Native American historical landscapes, which would total no more than 10 square miles. All of the sites are either in the Shutesbury state forest or on the Quabbin Reservation and are already subject to a level of protection.

While many were in support of Article 22, seeing it as a means to protect a piece of history that predated Shutesbury itself, the article was shot down by a 54-52 paper ballot.

Voters were concerned with the initial proposition, which was deemed by town officials as too “particular” and restrictive. The initial petition was long and poorly worded, and called for the involvement of too many agencies. There was also concern that there was not enough consultation with professional archaeologists and that the validity of these sites could be argued.

An amendment addressing these issues was introduced to voters the morning of the vote, and while many voters expressed their support for the changes, they felt that the amendment was proposed last minute and could come back around at the town meeting next year.

Article 23, a resolution to limit the influence of money in politics, passed unanimously. The resolution calls for more transparency in political donations, a concern that has grown since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010.

Voters also approved Article 24, a nonbinding resolution supporting a carbon fee and dividend on carbon-based fuels.

The town meeting concluded with a unanimous vote accepting Article 25, proclaiming Shutesbury a safe community. The article suggests that immigration status, ethnicity and race will have no influence on how a person will be treated by the Shutesbury Police Department.

Election results

Besides the three-way School Committee race, Shutesbury residents also filled a number of uncontested seats. They include the following (vote totals in parenthesis):

Board of Health two seats for three years, Norene F. Pease (240) and Kenneth S. Rotondi (245); Cemetery Commission one seat for three years, Walter R. Tibbetts (256); Library trustee two seats for three years, Jaime M. Donta (232) and Patricia S. Ouellette (233); Planning Board three seats for three years, Deacon Bonnar (237) and Steve Bressler (233); pme seat, two years remaining, Robert S. Raymond (220); School Committee two seats for three years, Danile Hayes (175), Stephen T. Sullivan (161) and Jennifer Malcolm-Brown (146); Selectboard one seat for three years (242); Town clerk, three-year-term, Susan F. Mosher (254).

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