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Adams voters approve $17.6 million budget, stipend increases, police bylaw at town meeting

A blue sign reads" ADAMS" in front of green leafy trees and a blue sky with white puffy clouds
Josh Landes

The Berkshire community of Adams, Massachusetts held its annual meeting this week. Wednesday night, voters approved a $17.6 million budget and spending on the long-awaited Outdoor Center at the Greylock Glen. They also signed off on a move to no longer require police personnel to be assigned to the department’s front desk 24 hours a day, as well as an increase in stipends for town board members. Adams Town Administrator Jay Green spoke with WAMC.

GREEN: I think the big takeaways from this year's town meeting is just an affirmation from our town meeting members that they're looking forward to moving Adams ahead, particularly when we look at our police station bylaw. You know, that bylaw was passed in early 20th century, when there was a form of policing where an officer was permanently stationed at the at the police department building. We're looking to update some of the way that we do things here in Adams in order to be more efficient, deliver better services, whether that's police, DPW, other municipal operations. And that was an affirmation of that for sure from town meeting. Reduction of finance committee members, seems really innocuous, but we've been working with 15 members for a long time. That has some challenges for folks, having such a large commission working in that sense. And that passed almost unanimously as well. So that was important, another nod saying, we're good with moving the town forward and ahead. And I think the other takeaway is, with another $233,000 that we're going to put into the Glen, there was an overwhelming affirmation, a signal that the town wants us to continue moving forward with that project and get it over the finish line, however one may define that.

WAMC: Let's get into the numbers here. What was the overall budget passed this year? And how does it compare to the budgets of years past?

Pretty much a vanilla budget. It's a maintenance budget. You've heard those terms used by city of Pittsfield and other municipal entities here in the Berkshires. I would say it's the same. It reflects a moderate growth in operational expenses, mostly driven by the cost of that. It reflects adding essentially a position at the Greylock Glen as Executive Director. We anticipate hiring a $90,000 a year, give or take, executive director by the end of this calendar year, in order to manage the Outdoor Center and eventually manage the operations up there. That was included in the budget this year. So, I think it reflects a very smart growth amount. We're living well within the confines of Proposition Two and a Half. So, it was it was smart growth. It doesn't have that much of an impact on our folks here. And we're growing smartly. So, I would say it's nothing major. It's not a huge increase. You know, we're not adding a lot to it. But we did so smartly and efficiently.

Where were the biggest conversations this year at town meeting? What topics prompted the most discussion?

Most of the discussion centered around the police department bylaw, which was essentially releasing language that said an officer had to be stationed at the building 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There was a lot of robust discussion as to what that meant. Did mean that the police station would no longer be staffed, and when? And all of those conversations eventually have to happen. But in order for us to test the use of our manpower and where best to deploy officers, we had to be released to that legal requirement. So that generated a lot of conversation. There was a lot of conversation as always over the school warrant articles. Adams essentially has three schools in. It has a charter school, our district school that we share with Cheshire, and McCann Regional Vocational. So, we fund both directly and indirectly three schools. That's a lot for a town such as Adams. Of course, we share that burden with Cheshire and our other neighbors in the Northern Berkshires with McCann, so that generated some conversations as well, but those articles did pass. And then there were general questions about how we were spending economic development funds and exactly what that money would be used for at Greylock Glen, and then there was a lot of conversation about whether or not our elected officials should receive stipends. So, there was a motion to increase those stipends from a minimal $300 back up to about $1,000 per person. So that's where the conversation landed. There was a lot of robust debate and that's why- Normally Adams is, we're pretty proficient. We keep it to about an hour, hour and a half, give or take, and this year was a little longer and that's just the nature of town meeting business.

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.
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