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2005 - Minutes of September 12, 19, 26 Meetings

Board of Selectmen Meeting
September 12, 2005
Meeting Minutes

6:30 PM:        Open Meeting; Village School, State Line Rd.
Quorum present: Elizabeth DiGrigoli (ED), Curt Wilton (CW). Michael Kirchner absent and recovering comfortably from knee surgery. Also present: Administrative Assistant (AA). No press present.

Board reviews and approve previous meeting and executive session minutes.

Board reviews and signs weekly warrants.

Board signs building permit for Sue Brennan.

7:00 PM:        Bid openings for one-ton Highway Dept. truck and snow removal package. ED asks that bids be closed. CW seconds the motion. Vote, 2-0 in favor.

        Bid results are as follows:

                                Item                    Bidder                  Amount
2006, 1-ton cab & chassis       Marchese Ford   $19,525 + trade of existing 1-ton

                                Item                    Bidder                  Amount
Snow removal package    Howard-Fairfield        $20,739
Snow removal package    Tenco-New England       $20,242

ED makes a motion to take bids under advisement and to close the bid opening. CW seconds the motion. Vote taken, 2-0 in favor. CW notes 5 bid packages were sent to both dealers and snow removal package providers and is disappointed that the bidder response wasn't better. CW notes that the combined bid of truck and snow package exceeds the appropriation made at the Annual Town Meeting of $30,000. CW suggests that the FinCom be approached for their advice. FinCom member Bob Salerno, in attendance, agrees.

7:15 PM:        Greg Winters from Tom Scanlon Associates, CPA presents his findings for the Town's FY 2004 audit. Mr. Winters reviews the financial reports and points out the reporting requirement differences from year's past, including the newly instituted GASB requirements which are reflected in the audit.

        Present for the exit conference are: Town Treasurer Bruce Turner, Town Accountant Maryellen Brown, Town Collector Eunice Panzeri and FinCom Member Bob Salerno.

        Mr. Winters reports that the Town is in very healthy fiscal condition. The Town's reserves, debt ratio and other financial indicators exceed those of comparable communities. The Town has made steady improvements in many financial areas in recent years. Of particular note is the outstanding collection rate of Tax Collector Eunice Panzeri. She has a 97% collection rate. Mr. Winters notes that it is common to see towns with 15%-20% in back taxes outstanding.

        FinCom member Bob Salerno asks several questions about the financial statements which are addressed by Mr. Winters.

        Mr. Winters points out the distinction between fixed assets and inventory schedules. Individual lists are required under GASB. The Town has adopted a $5,000 value threshold for inventory items. Each Town Department must now provide a list of equipment and items in their possession that exceeds $5,000 in value.

        After answering all questions on the financial reports, Mr. Winters discusses the Management Report. Four items from prior years' reports have been properly addressed and remedied (Financial Reporting Model, Water Capital Deficit, Cash Management, and Fixed Assets).

        Un-remedied items from prior years are: 1) Sewer and Water Receivables. Mr. Winters explains that a reporting step in the process is missing and how to rectify it. Town Accountant Maryellen Brown asks if it would be alright to make the corrections beginning in FY '07. 2) Infrastructure Assets. Although this item is required under GASB until 2008, it is recommended that the Town begin the process now.

        New items appearing are: 1) Handling of Firearm Permits. It is recommended that a revolving fund be established at the next Town Meeting to correct this item in order to improve the accounting of fees and processing costs. 2) Timely Submission of Receipts to the Treasurer. It is noted that the Town Clerk turned in receipts in FY '04 for money received in FY '02 and '03. It is suggested that the Treasurer draft a MEMO to go to all those who receive and process fees to turn them over on a monthly basis.

        Mr. Winters is asked if he would be available to come back to give the same presentation to the Finance Committee during one of their scheduled monthly meetings. Bob Salerno notes that the FinCom meets next Tuesday. Mr. Winters gladly agrees and will confirm his availability tomorrow.

        Mr. Winters notes that his firm's current 3-year engagement agreement with the Town expires as of the 2004 audit. He leaves a new 3-year engagement letter with the Selectmen for their consideration. CW notes that he has been pleased with Scanlon's work in the past. Bob Salerno asks who executes the engagement letter. As with all contracts, the Selectmen are the approving authority. The Board thanks Mr. Winters for his presentation.

9:00 PM:        Other Items:

        ED asks whether the newly hired early morning Police Officer has been working - he was only seen a few times. ED asks that Chief Cooper attend next week's Board meeting to give an update on Department activities, including: hiring of full-time officer; putting out the speed trailer; and early morning staffing for school bus stops.

        Board approves a sign permit for Stone House Realty.

        In response to a resident's concern raised at a previous meeting, the Board discusses the licensed premises of Bill Kie's Class II auto license. The question is whether he is allowed to display vehicles at the corner of State Line Rd. and West Center Rd. AA will check the Assessor's records against his license and report back to the Board.

        The ABCC has approved the alcoholic beverage license transfer at the Card Lake Inn.

        A reminder is given of the 9/26/05 Public Hearing hosted by the Selectmen to discuss the Scenic Mt. Act.

        AA reports that a second payment has been received from Charter Communications for $9,100. The total to date for co-location revenue sharing is $18,200 in FY '06.

9:30 PM:        There being no further business to discuss, ED makes a motion to adjourn the meeting. CW seconds the motion. Vote taken, 2-0.

Minutes approved by:

________________________        _________________________   Date: _________
Elizabeth DiGrigoli, Chair              Curt Wilton

Board of Selectmen
Meeting Minutes
September 19, 2005

6:30 PM:        Open Meeting; West Stockbridge Village School
Quorum present: Elizabeth DiGrigoli (ED), Curt Wilton (CW). Michael Kirchner (MK) unable to attend. Also present: Administrative Assistant (AA). No press present.

Board reviews and approves previous meeting minutes.

Board reviews and approves weekly warrants.

Board signs a letter requesting that William Kie attend next week's meeting to discuss his Class II Auto license.

Board reviews a letter from the Elizabeth Freeman Center requesting use of the Village School for Supervised Parental Visitation on a weekly basis. Board decides to deny the request. Although they would like to help out, the building is not yet ready to accept outside groups. Board expressed concerns about safety and convenience during ongoing renovations.

Board discusses plans for re-doing sidewalks in a portion of the downtown. CW notes that he is in the engineer selection process. Chapter 90 Highway funds will pay for the engineering. It is hoped that construction can take place next week.

CW has no recent news to report on the State's schedule for the reconstruction of the Shaker Mill Bridge.

7:00 PM:        Chief Cooper that the Department work schedule was the same for September as it was for August. CW responds that whether it has changed or not, the Board still needs to see a copy of the next month's staffing schedule before the start of that month.

Chief notes that Officer Ben Towne is not going to work out. Recently hired for an early morning patrol shift to show a presence during early morning school bus routes, Officer Towne showed up for 2 days of work and hasn't been seen since.

In order to fill that gap, Chief Cooper has been in contact with retired Lee Police Officer John Farina who is interested in filling some shifts. He is radar certified and would be experienced for the early morning traffic control shift. He would be available at this point for 3 days per week. Chief notes that none of the other recent Department appointees are radar certified.

CW requests that the 6:30-8:30 shift be staffed Monday-Friday. It's up to the Chief to fill out his work schedule.

Chief states that a full-time Academy trained officer from Lee will be coming in shortly for an interview for the full-time posted position. In response to a question from CW, the Chief states that the full-time position has been posted internally and that only 1 officer is interested - Rosario Messina.  Rosario could be hired with a waiver stipulation to finish the full-time Academy training within a prescribed period. Once the Chief speaks with the new full time candidate, he will bring his recommendations to the Board.

CW asks how many hours per week are police officers scheduled in Town. Chief responds, 72 hours. CW notes that Town Meeting appropriated funds to the Police Salary account equal to 104 - 110 hours of staffing per week and that what the Townspeople are expected to see. CW notes that there seems to be a lack of police presence in Town and it seems that speeding laws are being ignored; people know that they can speed through West Stockbridge without getting caught.

Board agrees to formally appoint Robert Perin as a part-time Special Police Officer.

ED expresses her concern about safety for children - especially during the early morning bus hours.

Chief promises that he will have someone on board for the early AM shift by this week and will report back to the Board by their next meeting. He may have to shuffle his staff around.

Chief reports that the speed trailer has been moved to State Line Rd. near the Race residence.

Regarding rate of pay for a full-time officer, CW tells the Chief it us up to him as the head of the department to negotiate salaries - as long as the total stays within his appropriation. CW notes that he and the Board are not looking to micromanage the Police Dept. However, the filling out of the Department staff has been going on for several months and that there is very little sign of progress. The Board will do all it can to facilitate but isn't looking to run the Department. CW notes that the Board is obligated to give the Town the staffing that they have asked for.

                CW would like to see the October Department staffing plan before the beginning of October. Board thanks the Chief for attending the meeting.

8:00 PM:        Other Items:

WWTP Operator Mike Buffoni will present the Sewer and Water Commissioners with the Shantz sewer expansion plan at their next meeting.

The next County Selectmen's Dinner will be at the Egremont Country Club on October 20.

A Sewer and Water Commissioners meeting has been posted for Sept. 29 at 7:00 at the Village School.

The Board discusses options on securing more funding to purchase the 2006 Highway Dept. truck. CW notes that he will attend tomorrow evening's FinCom meeting to seek their input. A Special Town Meeting will likely have to be called.

AA notes that representatives from the State Library Commissioner were at the Village School to discuss the State Library grant for construction with the Library Commissioners. This is the same group approached by the AA 2 years ago to discuss possible construction grant funding. The Commissioners did not pursue that contact but seem to be interested now. Commissioner Nancy Kearns will provide a review of their meeting to the Board.

Board discusses a formal request from resident Dick Moffatt to use the new Don Johnson Antique Museum for an old car gathering during the 2nd week of October. Board thinks it would be a great idea. Notice should go to Chief Cooper to be on the lookout for slow moving autos around Town.

8:42 PM:        There being no additional business to discuss, ED makes a motion to adjourn. CW seconds the motion. Vote taken, 2-0 in favor.

Minutes approved by:

_____________________________   ______________________________
Elizabeth DiGrigoli, Chair              Curt Wilton

Board of Selectmen
Meeting Minutes
September 26, 2005

6:30 PM:        Open Meeting; Village School
Quorum present: Elizabeth DiGrigoli (ED), Curt Wilton (CW). Michael Kirchner (MK) unable to attend. Also present: Administrative Assistant (AA). No press present.

BOS approves previous meeting minutes.
BOS approves weekly warrants.

Board discusses setting a date for a Special Town Meeting for the purpose of seeking additional funds to enable the purchase of a new model year Highway Dept. truck. CW explains that bids were opened for the truck two weeks ago and the bids were approximately $9,500 higher than the Annual Town Meeting appropriation of $30,000. CW sought a recommendation from the Finance Committee on how to make up the shortfall. The FinCom recommendation was to call a Special Town Meeting and to appropriate from certified free cash. AA notes that free cash wouldn't likely be certified for at least a month or more from now. There are only a handful of communities that have their free cash certified this early in the fiscal year. CW expresses an urgency in ordering the truck. If he has to wait until free cash is certified, not only will the bids be voided but a truck wouldn't arrive until sometime in the spring. CW needs the truck for this season's snow removal.

Michael Skorput suggests that the article seek authorization for the Treasurer to borrow the Highway truck shortfall. CW says the Board will consider the suggestion.

Town Clerk Tina Skorput Cooper asks whether time will be given to see if there might be any other articles to add to the warrant. AA notes that the warrant would have to signed and posted no later than 10-3-05 and that the warrant could be held open until the Friday before (9-30-05). CW asks Tina to spread the word and to get back to the Board during the week if she was aware of anyone seeking to place an article on the warrant. Tina

7:05 PM:        ED calls a Public Hearing to order by reading the Pubic Notice as it appeared in the Berkshire Eagle. The purpose of the hearing is to hear and discuss the Conservation Commission's draft Scenic Mountain Act language and mapping.

        ConsCom member Steve Mack (SM) conducts the presentation. Steve presents and discusses the map and language associated with local adoption of the Act. The critical elevation is 1,300'. All areas above that elevation are subject to the Act. Additionally, several areas of Town - described as foothills to these peaks - would be subject to this act if the subject area exceeds a 15% slope.

        In response to a question, SM states that the Act is regulatory not advisory. There is an appeal provision to the Act.

        Bill Kie (BK) states that the map should be more clearly defined. Once approved, it would be set in stone. Several areas within the shaded slope areas do not exceed 15%. SM notes that the first 300' in from roadways would be exempt from the Act. SM adds that it would be very difficult to draw a map of the Town showing only the specific areas exceeding a 15% slope.

        BK states that the application could get very expensive. Landowners would have to hire an engineer to get a building permit. BK adds that, although the Act is good intentioned, the Act will hurt local landowners. It could inhibit their land rights.

        SM states that the ConsCom has held 8 public forums to discuss the Act and all have been very lightly attended. CW states that tonight's hearing will not be the last hosted by the Selectmen. He suggests that mailings go to all landowners who may be affected by the Act prior to the next hearing.

        An audience member states that the Act's language could be confusing. It appears that all foothills are subject to regulations. Perhaps an overlay map could be produced showing only the 15% slope areas.

        Sheila Thunfors states that, with a few exceptions, all land not shown as shaded on the map is already subject to the Wetlands Act. Adoption of this Act would, effectively, give the ConsCom regulatory authority over almost all privately owned land in the Town. Sheila states that the current membership of the ConsCom is reasonable and thoughtful, but what might happen if the membership changes? ConsCom are all volunteers. Will they be able to handle all of the work that the Act will require? Can it be fairly implemented?

        Michael Skorput states that once property rights are taken, they are gone forever. He agrees with Sheila Thunfors that an obstructionist ConsCom could make life very difficult for a landowner.

        BK states that if this map and language was presented to a Town Meeting, it would be widely defeated. When last year's Town Meeting voted to enable the ConsCom to draw up an Act, no one knew that most of the Town would be affected. The ConsCom would have tremendous power over the rights of landowners. Voters had no idea about a 15% slope overlay in addition to an elevation restriction.

        It is noted that no additional town meetings are required for adoption of the Act. The Selectmen are the adopting authority. The Board could approve or deny the Act language tonight or hold as many additional public hearings on the subject as they felt necessary. Town meeting was the enabling authority allowing the ConsCom to draw up the Act. The Selectmen must approve the Act before it is forwarded to the State Dept. on Conservation and Recreation for final approval.

        CW asks what the feedback had been at the ConsCom hearings on the Act. SM answers, positive - but lightly attended.

        Mr. Fadding notes that clearing even ¼ acre of woods for farmland would fall under the Act. Pastureland is just as scenic as woods.

        Sheila Thunfors asks where on a subject property is the 15% slope line drawn. SM answers that only disturbed areas are subject to the Act. He notes that timber harvesting - with an approved timber plan - is not subject to the Act.

        ED suggests that tonight's hearing be continued to a future date. In the meantime, Act language highlights, and a map should be prepared and sent to effected landowners. The Assessors would have to assist in providing a mailing list.

        ED asks why there is a need to add another layer to the building approval process. Landowners will now have to hire an engineer to get a simple building permit.

8:20 PM:        CW makes a motion to continue the hearing to a future date. ED seconds the motion. Vote taken, 2-0 in favor.

8:25 PM:        Bill Kie appears at the Board's request to discuss his Class II used car auto license and his licensed premises. The Board received a formal complaint about vehicles being parked and displayed for sale on the lot at the corner of Rte. 102 and State Line Road.

        BK states that the only vehicle for sale on the corner lot is a boat sitting on a currently registered trailer. All the other vehicles are being temporarily stored and will be removed in the next 15 days. BK states that the vehicles were just purchased at auction and he didn't have space on his licensed premises to store them.

        BK states that a single complaint shouldn't have prompted the Board to call him in to a meeting. CW responds that if someone takes the time to attend a Board meeting and state a concern, then it is the Board's responsibility to respond. ED adds that she has received a few informal complaints about vehicles being parked on the corner lot.

        The Board and BK agree that the currently licensed lot for used car sales is 10 West Center Road. The corner lot is # 4 West Center Road and is not licensed for sales.

        CW asks BK if all vehicles on the corner lot will be moved in 15 days. BK says yes.

Other Items:

The Board decides to set the date for a Special Town Meeting for October 17, 2005 to seek $9,000 - $10,000 from available funds to enable the immediate purchase of the Highway Dept. truck.

Richard Klein states that he would like to be nominated for lifetime membership in the Berkshire County Selectmen's Association. As he understands, nine years of service plus a nomination and a fee are required. Board instructs AA to research the requirements.

Board approves a request from Downtown Merchants Assoc. to fund this year's listing in the Berkshire Visitor's Guide for $340 from the Selectmen's Expenses line item.

AA informs the Board that a $4,000 check arrived from Charter for equipment purchases for local access TV.

Board decides to wait until a full Board is present to discuss the pending letter of engagement for auditing services.

A site visit will be held at Village School on 9-27 at 1:00 PM. Attending the meeting will be EDM Architects, State Building Inspector Gordon Bailey, Town Building Officials and other Town Officials. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss State building and handicap codes and requirements in order to avoid surprises or mistakes in the planning and construction process.

PJ Ryan has taken out a liquor license transfer application for the Williams River Country Store.

Board reviews a memo from the FinCom resulting from their recent session with the Town's auditing firm. The Board agrees with several of the memo's recommendations and will issue a reply prior to the FinCom's next meeting.

9:50 PM:        CW makes a motion to adjourn the meeting. ED seconds the motion. Vote taken, 2-0 in favor.

Minutes approved by:

____________________________    _____________________________
Elizabeth DiGrigoli, Chair              Curt Wilton

Date: ____________

Town of West Stockbridge 21 State Line Road, West Stockbridge, MA 01266
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