At Belchertown’s TM, voters to again consider leaving HCG

  • Belchertown Town Hall

Staff Writer
Published: 5/12/2018 12:15:40 AM

BELCHERTOWN — Town residents will again vote on whether Belchertown will split with the Hampshire Council of Governments at the annual Town Meeting on Monday.

Following a letter sent from Hampshire Council of Governments to member municipalities claiming cities and towns could be liable for $4.7 in “legacy liabilities” held by the organization, town officials’ distrust rose again.

“I’m very disappointed the council has not taken the necessary measures to make the organization successful,” said Belchertown Town Administrator Gary Brougham. “I believe it is in Belchertown’s best interest to not be part of this organization. It has gotten to be an embarrassment.”

According to the letter, Belchertown would be liable for $434,223 for the Hampshire Council of Governments, or $29,078 annually for 15 years if the organization were to dissolve.

“There is nothing enabling the HCG to impose those fees on the member communities,” Brougham said. “How do you to intend to collect this when you have nothing allowing you to do so?”

The warrant article reads, “All obligations of the Town of Belchertown to the Hampshire Council of Governments will be met up until said effective date, and that the Town of Belchertown’s allocable share of the fiscal obligations of said Council will remain the responsibility of the town.”

Dubious of the HCG’s financial standing for years now, Brougham said he is frustrated with the apparent lack of accountability within the organization and failure to respond to member concerns.

“I have lost sleep over this issue, and I care deeply about this town,” Brougham said. “Whether Belchertown withdraws or not, the HCG will cease to exist.”

This will be the fourth time since 2003 that Belchertown has voted on whether to leave the HCG. If passed, Belchertown would leave the council effective July 1, 2019. Easthampton left the collective in 2003 after Northampton left in 2002, and Hadley voted to withdraw from the council at the last Town Meeting.

Budget

A total of 48 warrant articles will be addressed during theTown Meeting, which will likely continue into a second day. The town will vote on a $50 million budget for the 2019 fiscal year, according to Brougham.

Requested capital improvement projects include a $545,000 new fire truck, $290,000 to reconstruct the Town Hall parking lot and $455,000 to replace the boilers at Swift River Elementary School and Belchertown High School.

Changes to the bylaws regulating accessory apartments, small appendage apartments off of single-family homes, will be voted on. The new regulations will permit the existence of the dwellings with certain restrictions; there can be no more than one accessory apartment on a parcel of land, the apartments cannot exceed 600 square feet and can only have one bedroom.

Proposed bylaws regulating future non-medical marijuana establishments will be voted at the annual Town Meeting as well. Residents will vote on whether to place a 3 percent tax on commercial marijuana cultivators, dispensaries, and other related operations, and set limits on where such businesses can operate in town.

Four other articles will authorize the Board of Selectmen to enter into contracts with renewable energy companies to install solar arrays. Proposed locations are located on North Street, at the Water Department’s Daigle Well location, on the town landfill.

In preparation for the upcoming Route 202 improvement project, residents will decide whether to authorize the Board of Selectmen to acquire land by purchase, gift, eminent domain, or temporary easement land necessary for the project to proceed. Brougham said that the town has never before used eminent domain, and will likely not have to.

The annual and special Town Meetings will start at 7:30 p.m. in the Belchertown High School auditorium.




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