Annual Town Meeting May 12, 2015

Alford Town Hall

Alford Town Hall

The Annual Town Meeting will be held at the Alford Town Hall on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 7:00 P.M. and voters will be presented with the following Articles:

ARTICLE 1. To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Health to appoint any member of the Board of Selectmen, or Board of Health, respectively, to another office or position for the term provided by law, if any, otherwise for a term not to exceed one year, in accordance with Section 4A of Chapter 41 of the General Laws.

ARTICLE 2. To see if the Town will vote to approve the following departmental revolving funds account, as provided for by Section 53 ½ of Chapter 44 of the General Laws. The receipts from plumbing inspections are to be credited to the Plumbing Inspector who is to be paid from this account to a maximum of Five Thousand and 00/100 dollars ($5,000.00). The receipts from oil burner inspections are to be credited to the Oil Burner Inspector who is to be paid from this account to a maximum of Five Thousand and 00/100 dollars ($5,000.00). The receipts from electrical inspections are to be credited to the Electrical Inspector who is to be paid from this account to a maximum of Five Thousand and 00/100 dollars ($5,000.00).The receipts from Sanitation inspector are to be credited to the Sanitation Inspector who is to be paid from this account to a maximum of Five Thousand and 00/100 dollars ($5,000.00). The receipts from fire inspections are to be credited to the Fire Inspector who is to be paid from this account to a maximum of Five Thousand and 00/100 dollars ($5,000.00). The Board of Selectmen shall be authorized to expend monies from these funds.

ARTICLE 3. To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate, the sum of Ten Thousand and 00/100 Dollars ($10,000.00), to increase the Stabilization Fund in accordance with the provisions of Section 5B of Chapter 40 of the General Laws.

ARTICLE 4. To see if the Town will vote to accept any and all funds being provided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Division of Transportation (Mass DOT), under the provisions of Chapter 90 of the General Laws, to pay for such costs as allowed by appropriate legislation in connection with the maintenance, repair, and construction of Town ways and bridges, or to take any other action relative thereto.

ARTICLE 5. To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of One Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty Six Dollars, ($1,736.00) for the FY 2016 operating budget of the Southern Berkshire Elderly Transportation Corporation (S.B.E.T.C.) for the transportation of the seniors and disabled population of our community or take any other action thereon.

ARTICLE 6. To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate to defray the charges and Expenses of the Town describes in the Feature Accounts on these Pages, including the salaries of the Town Officers and Employees for FY 2016

FY 2016 FY2015
SBRSD-Operating/Transp. 412,091.00 388,763.00
SBRSD-Capital 13,630.00 13,434.00
Insurance 38,910.00 35,910.00
Children’s Health Program 1,000.00 1,000.00
Berkshire Mental Health 177.00 177.00
Visiting Nurse Association 586.00 586.00
Loan Principal 0.00 0.00
Interest on Loans 0.00 0.00
Veteran’s Service 1,624.00 1,661.00
So. Berkshire Solid Waste 1,750.00 1,655.00
Berkshire Regional Retirement 32,676.00 31,993.00
Berkshire Regional Planning 856.00 850.00
Veteran’s Benefits 100.00 100.00
Insect Pest Control 1,000.00 1,000.00
Emergency Reserve 15,000.00 11,000.00
Town Buildings 65,000.00 60,000.00
Street Lighting 350.00 350.00
Sanitation 53,000.00 53,000.00
Snow & Ice Overtime Fund 9,000.00 8,000.00
Public Works Highway 60,000.00 55,500.00
Rd. Superintendent Salary 63,027.00 61,192.00
Employee Benefits 45,000.00 40,000.00
Public Works Employee 52,450.00 50,923.00
Part Time Employee 13,000.00 11,000.00
Public Works Snow & Ice 55,000.00 50,000.00
Interest on Temporary Loans 0.00 0.00
Machinery & Maintenance 15,500.00 15,500.00
Fire Department 15,500.00 15,500.00
Alford firefighter stipends 17,200.00 14,200.00
Fire Chief Expense 300.00 300.00
Police Department 31,000.00 31,000.00
911 7,957.00 7,725.00
Reverse 911 2,500.00 2,500.00
Medicare 4,500.00 4,000.00
Division of Employment 1,200.00 1,000.00
Eagle Fund 2,000.00 2,000.00
TOTAL 1,032,884.00 971,819.00
GENERAL GOVERNMENT
Assessor’s Expense 15,750.00 15,650.00
Assessor’s Clerk Salary 9,008.00 8,746.00
Selectmen’s Expense 5,000.00 5,000.00
Secretary Salary 30,285.00 29,403.00
Accountant’s Salary 7,341.00 7,128.00
Accountant’s Expense 4,693.00 4,574.00
Tax Collector’s Expense 3,150.00 2,800.00
Town Clerk’s Expense 1,650.00 1,650.00
Treasurer Expense 6,500.00 6,000.00
Board of Registration Expense 900.00 900.00
Board of Appeals Expense 250.00 250.00
Planning Board Expense 2,000.00 2,000.00
Moderator’s Expense 20.00 20.00
SBRSD-Rep Expense 800.00 739.00
Council on Aging Expense 920.00 920.00
Building Inspector Expense 1,500.00 1,500.00
Conservation Commission expense 1,500.00 1,500.00
Library Trustee’s Expense 400.00 400.00
Hazardous Waste Commission 663.00 663.00
Hazardous Waste Center 1,000.00 1,000.00
Town Counsel Expense 1,000.00 1,000.00
Town Counsel Salary 7,341.00 7,128.00
Animal Control Officer Salary 1,931.00 1,875.00
Animal Control Officer Expense 500.00 500.00
Alford news Letter 1,200.00 1,200.00
Finance Committee 150.00 150.00
Tree Warden’s Expense 6,000.00 6,000.00
Historic Commission 250.00 0.00
GB-Library 1,100.00 1,000.00
TOTAL 112,802.00 109,696.00
TOWN OFFICER’S SALARY
Assessor, Chairman 3,800.00 3,800.00
Assessor 2,000.00 2,000.00
Assessor 2,000.00 2,000.00
Animal Inspector 712.00 692.00
Building Inspector Salary 13,440.00 13,049.00
Constable 712.00 692.00
Librarian Salary 712.00 692.00
Moderator’s Salary 116.00 113.00
Clerk of Registrars Salary 116.00 113.00
Selectmen. Chairman 3,800.00 3,800.00
Selectmen 2,000.00 2,000.00
Selectmen 2,000.00 2,000.00
Tax Collector 7,341.00 7,128.00
Treasurer 7,341.00 7,128.00
Town Clerk 7,341.00 7,128.00
Police Chief 2,652.00 2,575.00
TOTAL 56,083.00 54,910.00
TOTALS 1,201,769.00 1,136,425.00

ARTICLE 7. To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of One Hundred Fifty Thousand and 00/100 Dollars ($150,000.00 and to transfer from free cash One Hundred Thousand and 00/00 Dollars ($100,000.00), for a culvert on West Road and for reclaiming and blacktopping such roads as may be determined by the Road Superintendent, or to take any other action relative thereto.

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Solar and Home Energy Efficiency Workshop

SolarThere will be a workshop/presentation on solar and home energy efficiency for residents from Sheffield, Alford, Ashley Falls and Egremont. The presentation will be open to the public and held on Friday, May 8th at 6:30 PM at the Sheffield Library. Speakers will include representatives from from CET, from Community Energy Solar, as well as Jim Barry, the regional coordinator for Green Communities Division. Residents who have solar panels or have participated in community solar will also talk about their experience. See the Solar Workshop Flier for more information.

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Broadband Update

Broadband Update from the Alford Broadband Committee

Revised March 18, 2015

The Alford Broadband Committee would like to update the town on the status of the broadband project, whose studies continue to proceed under the guidance of the Select Board. This is part of our continuing effort to keep the town apprised of our progress.

We have had extensive meetings with MBI, the State government entity that will allocate $40 million to regional networks and towns to facilitate the creation of fiber networks. We have become increasingly confident that Alford will qualify for and receive its share of the funds, and we are planning our strategy around that goal.

The Committee identified four distinct fiber-to-the-home options, and after significant study and research, have concluded that two are best for our town. Below are brief descriptions of both, including the advantages and disadvantages of each:

PATH 1 – Public Option (Alford/MBI Partnership)

Under this option, the Town of Alford, through the newly formed MLP, the Alford Broadband Committee and the Select Board would work closely with MBI to design and build a complete fiber-to-the-home network. The Alford network could ultimately serve as the basis of a regional solution, in conjunction with or outside the WiredWest group. We would benefit from of all technical, financial, legal and other resources that MBI can provide. All essential services, such as maintenance, insurance and management would be provided by vendors hired by the MLP. The total cost, still estimated to be in the $1.3 million area (which was validated by the Design Study completed last month), would be partially offset by MBI grants. The balance would be financed by a municipal bond offering whose debt service requirement would be met by a tax increase. As we stated in previous Information Sessions, we believe that the average tax increase would be modest, and would fall most heavily on a minority of taxpayers currently paying in excess of $5,000 per year in real estate taxes. Should we follow this path, we would present extensive information on the effect of the tax increase, prior to any vote.

Advantages

  • We build it, we own it, we control it.
  • No private entity takes out a profit, so the subscription costs would be lower.

Disadvantages

  • Tax increase for everyone, even though some residents won’t use it.
  • Alford would be responsible for management and maintenance of the system.
  • Timing would be uncertain, and could be delayed by the need to coordinate with a government entity and/or other towns, probably well into 2017.

PATH 2 – Public/Private Option

The Alford Broadband Committee has been approached by two private companies that would propose to build, operate, and maintain the network in the town, largely at their expense. Much of the remaining expense would likely be covered by MBI grants, meaning that the upfront cost to the Alford taxpayers would be modest. One company proposes to allow Alford an option to take over ownership of the network after 20 years, while the other company would permanently own the network.

Advantages

  • There would be no need for a bond issue.
  • Taxpayer burden would be substantially lower, and the cost would be predominantly borne by the subscribers to the service.
  • The private companies have substantial know-how and experience in this field, relieving the Alford participants (MLP/Committee/Select Board) of the burden of managing the process, or being responsible for maintenance or upgrades.
  • Construction would likely be faster under this option, with a possible completion by year-end 2016.

Disadvantages

  • Both companies would require that the Town of Alford guarantee a minimum number of subscribers. The Committee is very confident that many Alford residents will join, and the minimum (to be negotiated) could be achieved. We will closely analyze this risk, to include circulating another town survey very soon.
  • Since the companies would need to earn back their investment and record a profit, monthly subscription fees would be modestly higher than for the public option above.

Where do we go from here? There is a lot going on….

The final vote to create the MLP, which will manage the fiber network, was held on March 12th and passed overwhelmingly. The Select Board has engaged special legal counsel to help in the process. You will be receiving a survey in the mail in the coming days, which will help us gauge the measure of support and subscription that we might have in the town. Please fill it out promptly and return it to us. We can’t stress enough how important this information is.

No final decisions or recommendations have yet been made to the Select Board. We continue to study all relevant factors and in due course expect to recommend that the Select Board request a vote to authorize expenditures for establishing a fiber-to-the-home network in Alford, to appear on the Warrant at a Town Meeting on a date to be determined. We will be hosting Information Sessions in April to further clarify our conclusions and recommendations to the Select Board, and to answer all your questions. We’re on the home stretch, and we believe that our efforts have put Alford in an enviable position, in control of our fiber destiny.

Alford Broadband Committee

Tom Doyle
John Littlechild
Bruce Forster
Julie Scott
Jim Hall
Jay Weintraub
Bob Lichter

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Selectmen’s Meeting Notice

The Selectmen’s meeting that was scheduled for the 23rd of March at 12:00 noon has been cancelled.

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Special Town Meeting on March 12

Alford Town Hall

Alford Town Hall

A Special Town Meeting will be held at the Alford Town Hall on Thursday March 12, 2015 at 7:00 pm to vote on the following Articles:

ARTICLE 1. To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to take all necessary and appropriate action to establish and to maintain, in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 164 of the General Laws and in accordance with the rules, regulations and orders of the Department of Utilities and the Department of Telecommunications & Cable, a municipal lighting plant for all purposes allowable under the laws of the Commonwealth, including without limitation the operation of a telecommunications system and any related services, or to take any other action relative thereto. (Written ballot required)

ARTICLE 2. To see if the Town will vote to transfer from available funds the sum of Twenty Five Thousand Dollars 00/100 ($25,000.00)to cover cost over-runs related to the renovations to the Town Hall and the Town Office Buildings.

ARTICLE 3. To see if the Town will vote to approve the $7,741,000.00 borrowing authorized by the Southern Berkshire Regional School District (“SBRSD”), for the purpose of paying costs of SBRSD Roof/Boiler Project at Mt. Everett/Undermountain School, 491 Berkshire School Road, Sheffield, MA 01257 consisting of replacing the entire roof and three boilers, including the payment of all costs incidental or related thereto (the “Project”), which proposed repair project would materially extend the useful life of the school and preserve an asset that otherwise is capable of supporting the required educational program, and for which the District may be eligible for a school construction grant from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (“MSBA”), said amount to be expended at the direction of SBRSD the School Building Committee; the Town acknowledges that the MSBA’s grant program is a non-entitlement, discretionary program based on need, as determined by the MSBA, and any Project costs the District incurs in excess of any grant approved by and received from the MSBA shall be the sole responsibility of the District and its member municipalities; provided that any grant that the District may receive from the MSBA for the Project shall not exceed the lesser of (1) thirty-nine and twenty-one one hundredths percent (39.21%) of eligible, approved project costs, as determined by the MSBA, or (2) the total maximum grant amount determined by the MSBA; and provided that the amount of borrowing authorized by the District shall be reduced by any grant amount set forth in the Project Funding Agreement that may be executed between the District and the MSBA and any additional grant funding received for this project by the District.

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