|Lanesborough Hoping to Reopen Recycling Process Soon |
|By Jeff Snoonian, iBerkshires Staff |
06:17AM / Saturday, June 27, 2020
Newly elected Selectman Michael Murphy, center, participates in his first meeting on Thursday night.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Selectman welcomed new member Michael Murphy, elected last week, to the board with a fairly light load Thursday evening.
Cable TV contracts, Gulf Road and recycling were on the agenda among other items.
At their last meeting, the board had decided to keep Gulf Road closed until Dalton was comfortable opening the seasonal dirt byway. It serves as a shortcut between Lanesborough and Dalton and allows drivers to avoid shopping related traffic at Allendale Plaza and Berkshire Crossing in Pittsfield. It also could serve as an emergency detour should Route 8 be closed for any reason.
On Thursday, the board again voted but this time to reopen the road. But Murphy said he had spoken to a resident of Gulf Road who had wanted to advocate for the road to stay closed. This led into a discussion of why there is no public comment portion of the meeting since participation is now limited because of Town Hall being closed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The reason public comment has been waylaid is because when all this first started we were advised by town counsel and the governor's office that public comment was going to be exceedingly difficult," explained Town Manager Kelli Robbins. "There are issues with the software (Zoom, Go to Meeting, etc.) that is being used where, when it's open to everyone, people can bomb in and there have been some very graphic and even pornographic [content] sent out into the public. Because we can livestream, we are not required to do remote access."
Members of the public can, however, request to be put on the agenda for certain topics where they can then participate remotely.
The contract for Spectrum to remain the town's cable television provider has been up for renewal since 2018 and the board took action Thursday. The attorney negotiating for the town, William Hewig III, explained the delay when asked by Murphy, who had a hand in drafting the document, why it took so long.
"The vast majority of that was the fact that while it was still Charter [Communications, which was acquired by Spectrum] they either didn't have a representative who was handling our town or the representative they did have was not responding to any questions or emails," he said.
Hewig recommended a 10-year term while Murphy said he preferred eight considering the two parties have been operating without a contract for the past two years. Ultimately, the board voted 2-1 to approve a new 10-year contract with Spectrum with Murphy dissenting.
Lanesborough is still required to monitor wells and surrounding areas around the long-closed landfill. The town solicited bids for a three-year contract to perform all necessary testing.
Robbins reminded the board of the bidding process for good measure.
"We are required to take the lowest bid unless we can come up with a legitimate reason to reject a lower bid," she said.
The town received five bids ranging from $33,970 to $58,500. Low bidder was ATC, which Robbins said was good news as she had reached out to her colleagues at the Small Town Administrators of Massachusetts and heard only good things.
"ATC has a very good reputation ... so there is no reason not to take the quote," she said.
The town redemption center has not been open because of regulations imposed by the state because of the pandemic but the board and Robbins are hoping to change that soon.
"Currently the way the recycling system is set up is that it's manned by senior citizens who are on a special program and they gain a tax benefit for doing the work. Currently the seniors don't want to come back and do the job because they're nervous, they don't want to handle other people's things," Robbins said. "The next issue is that when it first opens, we are anticipating a very large volume of people to show up which may exceed the amount of time allotted.
'We've been working with Northern Berkshire Solid Waste to see if they can assist us in opening. We're going to see if maybe they can handle the first few weeks. We may have to put feelers out for volunteers. If NBSWMD does this are they going to be volunteering? Are we going to have to pay them?"
Robbins said Town Secretary Diane Stevens has been working with waste district on the project and that she hopes to have it open by mid-July.
Selectman John Goerlach brought up the possibility of having employees of the Highway Department man the station.
"I'd like to see it open sooner than that and if the board was OK with it to have a member of the Highway Department to man and to help with all the garments he needs to protect himself: face mask, shield, gloves for those that can't put their own stuff in," he said.
Robbins pointed out that they would have to pay someone time and a half to work Saturdays at the recycling center and that might affect the budget. Robbins said the position now is not funded in the budget as it is staffed by two volunteers. She did put a small amount of money aside to hire a high school student if needed but the amount for a Highway Department employee would be much higher.
"I'm not saying that's not something we should do, I'm just saying that there are maybe other options. I'd like to see what NBSWMD has got in mind before we just do that," she said.
The board decided to open the recycling center on July 11 and will work on staffing issues to make that happen.
The board also reorganized at the outset of the meeting as it was the first after the most recent election. Gordon Hubbard was named chairman, taking over for Goerlach, while Murphy is the designated signatory for all warrants.
The next meeting of the Board of Selectmen will be Monday, July 13, at 6 p.m.