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Hadley Town Meeting to consider $15 million budget

HADLEY — Voters at Thursday night’s annual Town Meeting will consider a 22-article warrant that includes a requested $15,274,544 budget for fiscal 2014. Town Administrator David Nixon said the proposed budget is a $538,832 increase over last year’s.

Of the total budget, $6,029,000 is being requested to fund the Hadley schools.

The school department is also seeking a five-year borrowing plan of $150,000 to increase and update the elementary school’s technological equipment and software. To pass, the article requires a two-thirds majority vote.

Voters will also have the opportunity to weigh in on two renewable energy articles. One would be for a solar facility to be built on Mill Valley Road that would be installed, owned and operated by solar energy developer NexAmp for payment in lieu of taxes. A second article would authorize the Select Board to enter into renewable energy purchases and/or net metering purchase agreements for the town.

“As I understand it, NexAmp will generate energy that is then fed into the network for which Western Massachusetts Electric Co. will give net metering credits,” Nixon said. “WMECO will sell the credits to the Hampshire Council of Governments, who will then apply those credits to the town’s electric bill,” he said.

According to Nixon, this could save $600,000 on the municipal electric bill over a 20-year period.

The state’s new regulations on medical marijuana will also be the subject of a proposed zoning bylaw amendment.

Last November, Massachusetts residents voted to regulate the cultivation, distribution and possession of marijuana for medical purposes. That measure required the state Department of Public Health to issue regulations to implement the law.

In an effort to buy more time to explore how the new regulations will fit with the town’s bylaws, voters will be asked to approve a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana treatment centers.

“The Department of Public Health is going to promulgate those regulations on May 1, just one day before our Town Meeting,” Nixon said. “We just want enough time to review the regulations to make sure they comport well with our zoning bylaws.”

Finance Committee Chairman Frank Aquadro said his board will officially make its recommendations on the town’s budget on Thursday, just prior to the Town Meeting. As of Monday, the committee was proposing $451,217 in general budget cuts that would reduce the fiscal 2014 budget to $14,823,327.

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