© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dalton Town Manager details $21.5 million budget approved at annual meeting

Town of Dalton, Massachusetts

Monday night, residents of Dalton, Massachusetts assembled at Wahconah Regional High School for the annual town meeting. All 26 warrant articles were approved, including the $21.5 million budget that represents an increase of over a million dollars over last year. Voters also approved moving $67,500 from free cash to fund the creation of a Climate Change Roadmap for Dalton as the community works to meet state standards for lowering greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a slate of capital investments. This week, Thomas Hutcheson is entering his third year as Dalton’s town manager. WAMC spoke with him to find out more about Monday’s meeting.

HUTCHESON: The biggest item on the warrant is, of course, the annual town operating budget. And I'm pleased to say that that passed without any trouble at all, in fact, unanimously. And it was a relatively high increase for the town operating budget. We're just catching up on some delayed expenses to get us back into where we ought to be, and we hope that it's not going to go up as much in future years. It went up about 5% this year, though. Again, though, it did pass unanimously. So, I'm very pleased about that, very happy that the town agrees that we need to invest the money we are planning to invest.

WAMC: Now tell us about those investments- Where is some of this increase going toward?

A good deal of it is in terms of salary, because we have instituted a very progressive salary schedule now in order to make up for many years of rather low increases in expenses. Of course, a lot of it comes from some of the items that the town does not have control over necessarily. Our insurance was a big factor in that. We pay the city of Pittsfield for wastewater treatment, that was a big portion of it as well. And there are continuing issues regarding the POST requirements, the Peace Officer Standards and Training requirements that we're having to undergo with our police department. We've gotten them body the cameras and are paying for those and the, some of the impacts those have on the police officers themselves. We've been trying to keep ahead of the curve on that. So, we actually implemented that before we were required to, but everyone will be required to, so, we got to jump on that as part of a grant obtained by our police department, which we're very pleased with.

Now, I know that Dalton is also investing in a Climate Change Roadmap, tell me about that. What does that mean for the community?

I hope it means great things. It's a very serious move to try to come to grips with what the community is going to have to do in order to reach the state's climate change targets. We hope to, by producing this roadmap, provide an example for other towns in the area who might be considering going the same route. Ours was inspired by the town of Concord, which has taken tremendous strides in grappling with climate change and the municipality’s response to it. We're hoping to provide the same kind of example here in the Berkshires as we move toward, of relatively aggressive schedule for necessary changes in order to meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets set by the state, and similarly, the federal government and of course, the United Nations. We're trying to do our bit locally, and hope that the lessons that we learn, including lessons from our mistakes, can be considered by other towns as they move forward as well.

Now, obviously, it's early days to speculate about the next fiscal year and about what might be in the town warrant in 2024. But did anything from this meeting forecast what the future might hold for Dalton as the community continues to make decisions democratically moving forward?

I don't think there's anything of that nature in this town warrant. I think we're on a good steady track. I do expect there to be more proposals for expenditures related to, either expenditures or bylaws, related to climate change and addressing the effects of that locally and further decarbonization, as well as mitigation of expected effects.

Is there anything about this year's town meeting I have not thought to ask you that you think bears mentioning?

Not particularly, it was very straightforward. None of the capital items had any controversy surrounding them at all. And all in all, it went extraordinarily smoothly.

Looking at the capital investments, what were the headlines there?

The main item was a request for borrowing that included three items. The first was $188,888 for a loader for the Department of Public Works. This would replace a route rather old vehicle that we have now, for that piece of equipment, rather. And $161,000 for repairs to the roof of the town garage. The DPW is garage is leaking quite clearly, and it's been a problem over the years and just getting worse. So, we're very pleased that that item went through and also, a replacement cruiser for the police department. Those three were the top three expenses for capital items and the finance committee made the choice to borrow for those three items. There's also an administrative vehicle for the police department, a pickup truck for the DPW, a flatbed for the forest warden, and some smaller items as well, but those were the main expenses, capital expenses for the town.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
Related Content