Stockbridge Government Facing A Number Of Issues

Feb 27, 2019

Three months before the annual town meeting and election, there’s a lot going on in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Donald Chabon is the chairman of the select board in the town of around 2,000.

In October, Chabon stoked controversy when he attempted to dissolve the town’s Zoning Review Committee and replace it with a hired planner. While the committee remains intact, the town is still bringing in a planner in a part-time capacity.

“And it’s mostly to go over zoning bylaws, zoning bylaw review – bring them up to date, handle some of the questions that we have,” said the chairman.

Now, Chabon says that search may be over soon.

“We’re looking for an experienced planner," he told WAMC. "This job has been posted for some time. The bylaw review committee has looked at applicants and we believe they have a preference.”

The committee is expected to submit its candidate to the select board this week.

The town is also working on crafting a bylaw for short-term rentals like Airbnb in time for its annual town meeting May 20th. Town elections follow a day later.

“We had a report – we had one of our citizens, a member of the planning board, look into it," said Chabon. "She came back with the observations and opinions of the various segments of our community, and what we’re looking to do now is appoint a committee that will come up with the details.”

Stockbridge is also attempting to remedy a pair of dangerous intersections that bookend its downtown. It hired a private engineer to study the town.

“And the engineer sort of redesigned from the firehouse intersection to the Red Lion intersection, and the main street," said Chabon. "He came up with a proposal for the main street as well.”

The report was delivered on October 1st, 2018.

“We’re moving it along to see if and where we can get funding," he told WAMC. "At the same time, we opened the vehicle for people who have other opinions about what should be in the traffic study, opinions other than exactly what the engineer came up with, and we’re going to look at all of these and make some decisions.”

Chabon says Stockbridge is currently facing at least three lawsuits. Two emerge from the decision its Conservation Commission made to block an effort to combat weeds in the Stockbridge Bowl, a 372-acre lake just north of town.

“They made a decision essentially though against the use of chemicals under the current circumstances and the Stockbridge Bowl Association didn’t agree with them,” explained Chabon.

The third, yet unfiled, comes from the town’s former fire chief, Ernest “Chuckie” Cardillo. The sitting selectman confirmed his intention to sue, but would not comment further on the nature of the suit at the time. It likely concerns his firing earlier in February, when he was removed as fire chief after spending more than $80,000 of town money on a scam.

In January 2018, the town’s Finance Committee sharply rebuked the select board for privately settling a potential lawsuit with a former police officer to the tune of $38,000.

As far as the firehouse is concerned, Chabon said the select board moved forward on finding a permanent replacement for Cardillo.

“We authorized a screening committee to screen candidates and we authorized the posting of that job,” he told WAMC.

He says Cardillo recused himself from the decision. Deputy Chief Neil Haywood is serving as interim chief.

Lastly, Chabon says the select board is working with the finance committee on the town’s 2020 budget.

“We’re moving along with our budgeting," he said. "The town’s financial condition looks very good.”