Vol. II No. 13 7/1/2021
"Article 26: Transfer and appropriate $35,000 to be added to the amounts appropriated [2013 through 2020] ...for costs associated with negotiations for the rest of the river project (along with Pittsfield, Lenox, Lee, Great Barrington, and Sheffield) regarding removal of PCBs in the Housatonic River."
Overwhelmingly, Stockbridge Town Meeting approved the 2021 Warrant Articles. There were 55 of them. The 5 1/2 hour meeting was possibly the longest Town Meeting ever. If not, it should have been. My father warned, "The mind can absorb no more than the seat can endure."
Town Meeting is not, or at least should not be, a rubber stamp for our representatives' proposals. They propose, the voters decide, therefore, voters need to be informed. Town Meeting is the time to listen to our neighbors, voice our own opinions, and ask questions.
I rise with a question.
If, according to Article 26, five towns and the City of Pittsfield each voted $35,000 annually, then that would be $210,000/year for the last eight years or almost two million dollars. My question: what did we get for it? The agreement with GE? If so, that was signed in January 2020. Why were we asked to appropriate more money in July 2020 and June 2021?
To what lawyer or lawyers did that money go or was it held in escrow against a future need?
Is there one lawyer for all participants? Is that possible or are our needs too diverse?
The Stockbridge representative for eight years of negotiation, Steve Shatz, said he could not discuss it due to ongoing litigation. The person with the most information could not answer questions? His job as representative was to attend negotiations and report back; he could not report back? In that case, where do the voters get the answers?
What ongoing litigation? Stockbridge is not suing or being sued. The Housatonic River Initiative (HRI), the only participant in the negotiations who did not sign the agreement, is seeking permission to commence litigation but none has commenced. In Lee there is a tangential suit filed in which no other participant in the agreement appears to have standing. So, in what ongoing litigation is Stockbridge involved? Even if there were ongoing litigation, why would that silence the Stockbridge representative to negotiations now concluded?
One last question.
If someday there is ongoing litigation, how was the lawyer (potentially paid from 2013 to date) instructed? For example, if HRI proceeds, will our lawyer enter the suit on the side of HRI or GE? Who decides that? When? Doesn't the electorate have a role in that decision — doesn't the electorate need to be informed to decide?
Carole Owens, Managing Editor
While you were sleeping, sunrise on the Housatonic River. Photo: Jay Rhind