Vol. III No. 10 5/15/2022
Notes from the Select Board (SB), April 28, Hybrid meeting
- Roxanne McCaffrey, Chair
- Chuck Cardillo
- Patrick White
- Michael Canales, Town Administrator
- Donna Brewer, Town Counsel
- Steve Shatz via Zoom
- Jim Balfanz via Zoom
- Tom Stokes via Zoom
- Patrick White requested that optional funding for sscholarships via the tax bills be added to the Warrant. Approved
- Minutes of the 3/10, 3/17, and 4/7 SB meetings approved as amended
- Brewer in person and Shatz from London spoke about the "Rest of the River" escrow account and the $35,000 Article on the Warrant.
- Brewer said "going back years and years" there was a process that resulted in an agreement that GE pay five towns a total of $55,000,000 not divided equally. "All we are doing now" she went on, pursuant to an escrow agreement reached in 2/20, is setting up a $1,500,000 "put in place out of the $55,000,000 and used to insure going forward that the settlement is fully realized."
- Shatz spoke from London saying in addition we will continue to ask Town Meeting for $35,000/annually for legal costs, and environmental consultants (to ensure compliance). The money is held by Berkshire Regional Planning Commission that receives part of the $35,000 for services. Once the agreement is "final and unappealable" money will be distributed. Shatz anticipated that would take another two years.
- Shatz said, the first distribution will be reimbursement of the amount expended to date. Shatz said "it is hard to believe it has been nine years"" and added something about $35,000 paid annually for 10 years might total $150,000 spent by Stockbridge and that would be reimbursed first before the "settlement" was distributed. According to Shatz, the formula for paying in and for reimbursement is: Lee and Lenox 45%, the other three towns 10% roughly 3% each.
- Stokes asked for public forum to better understand this issue and expenditure. McCaffrey said that is unnecessary as there were public hearings at the time (2013). Stokes said that was some time ago and time for an update. Shatz agreed with McCaffrey no need for public forum and added, once agreement was implemented, there would be no work in Stockbridge, only work in Lee and Lenox. Shatz also added he answered questions and explained at every annual Town Meeting.
- Stokes reported that the questionnaire for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program will be held and distributed in the fall as the summer season is very busy for nonprofits.
- Review and reordering Warrant
- Articles 1 – 6 must stay in that order. Following will order in amounts of money requested — most to least.
- Will order Community Preservation Committee awards from most to least amounts of money
- Two articles proposed by citizens — agreed to push the one from Stockbridge citizens a position earlier on Warrant
- Jay Rhind resigned from Conservation Commission (ConCom)
Editor's note: 1. The five towns in the Rest of River agreement are: Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge, Great Barrington, and Sheffield. 2. Of the five, Lee decided not to contribute the $35,000 3. Possibly Shatz misspoke when he said the $35,000 "was paid annually for 10 years". The agreement was signed in 2019. See question #1 below. 3. When the request for the $35,000 appeared on the Warrants, attendees asked questions. However, at past Town Meetings, Shatz, our ROR representative, always said he could not answer questions because of ongoing litigation.
Editor's questions: 1. Although agreement was signed in 2019, and the process began earlier. Brewer said, "many years ago" and Shatz said "I can't believe it has been nine years". So assuming 2013, did Stockbridge incur costs in the years 2013 - 2019? If Stockbridge did incur costs prior to 2019, will those be reimbursed? 2. Since 2019, Stockbridge has put $35,000 in a fund annually. According to Shatz, that will be reimbursed "first" by GE. Will it be reimbursed out of the settlement? Apparently, Brewer said yes, out of the $55,000,000. In that case, the amount of the settlement is reduced by the costs. In that case, aren't the five towns not GE actually paying for "the settlement to be fully realized"? Do the five towns receive the settlement minus the reimbursed costs or does the agreement say the five towns receive the settlement PLUS reimbursement of costs? 3. It's it far worse that the reimbursement is taken out first? 4. Is it safe to assume GE is putting the $1,500.000 in escrow? Are the five towns, by whatever formula, putting it in? If the latter, the agreement is so bad for the towns, doesn't it require a special Town Meeting before we vote as Stokes suggested? 5. If Stockbridge pays in another $35,000, Shatz said it would total $150,000, that equals 10% of our anticipated settlement if the reimbursement comes out of the settlement
Photo: Jay Rhind