When: 6 p.m. Monday (continued to 6 p.m. Thursday, if needed)
Where: Monument Mountain Regional High School, 600 Stockbridge Road/Route 7
Highlight: For a second year, Great Barrington will hold its annual town meeting drive-in style, in the Monument High parking lot. A second date, of June 10, is reserved, should the meeting run late and into darkness, as it did last year, or encounter bad weather.
Select Board Chairman Stephen Bannon said if voters are familiar with the warrant and prepared, voting could be finished Monday. He said town officials “look forward to an efficient town meeting.” The warrant can be found on the town’s website.
Child care won’t be available this year, though children can attend if they are supervised. Transportation is offered for those who need it. Call the Claire Teague Senior Center by June 4 to reserve a seat in a town van.
Highlight: Voters will weigh in on items that include the operating budget and a slew of zoning articles, a number of which propose cannabis laws that would limit and control the industry in certain areas. Other zoning items are overhauls to adjust outdated regulations. Some are citizens petitions, prompted by objections to past proposed developments and wariness of the marijuana industry.
Other meeting highlights include a petition that aims to increase resident input in town affairs, significant funding for historical buildings, and the construction of public bathrooms and a downtown parking lot.
Budget overview: Fiscal 2022 property taxes are held down at a 1.4 increase over this year. The reason is that, while increasing 5.8 percent over this year, the operating budget is offset by strong revenue from cannabis stores, combined with the use of more than $3.5 million free (leftover) cash and capital costs that are 27 percent lower over this year. Next year’s budget includes wage hikes across several departments.
Bathrooms and parking: Capital projects include $1.2 million to buy a downtown parcel next to the railroad tracks off Castle Street, and to build a public parking lot there. After years of rejecting the idea, town officials agreed to propose spending $100,000 for public restrooms on the Town Hall campus, making trips downtown easier for residents and visitors.
Input from residents: A citizens petition calls for a change in municipal meeting rules that would increase resident input and opinion on town matters. A proposed bylaw amendment would allow residents the chance to speak during the discussion of any issue, before officials vote. Currently, residents can speak at public hearings and during a specified time at the end of a meeting, but rarely do boards allow it until then.
Historic preservation: Two of the town’s historic and cultural treasures will receive significant funding from Community Preservation Act money if voters agree. Among nine projects the Community Preservation Act committee recommended for various levels of funding, two would receive the most: $200,000 to Clinton Church Restoration for phase two of restoration of the now-deconsecrated Clinton AME Zion Church building, an early African-American church; and First Congregational Church of Great Barrington would receive $240,859 for restoration of stone and masonry walls.
Banning toxic waste and private prisons: Another citizens’ petition calls for banning the dumping or storage of any toxic waste in town. The resolution stems, in part, from General Electric’s future cleanup of PCBs in the Housatonic River, and the company’s plan to dump the chemicals at an industrial parcel in Lee.
While Massachusetts currently has no privately run prisons, another petition seeks to outlaw them across the state. The petition says that state-run prisons “do help rehabilitate people giving them hope in the present, and futures they can look forward to …”
— Heather Bellow, The Berkshire Eagle