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Birch Properties closes out public forum with Lenox Select Board incumbent candidate Neal Maxymillian

“We’re very lucky in terms of the nature of the town that we live in, but it takes a lot of work to run it too,” Maxymillian said during the meet-and-greet event.

Lenox — For Select Board member and incumbent candidate Neal Maxymillian, the May 6 election is the first time the construction company business owner has faced challengers for a seat on any dais after his two elections and six years in office.

In 2018, Maxymillian filled in on the Lenox Select Board for Channing Gibson, who was working in California on a project. Prior to that, he had served on town committees when he was appointed to the dais, running unopposed in the following two election cycles. “This is the first time I have been in a campaign mode,” Maxymillian said at the third meet-and-greet public forum sponsored by Birch Properties on May 2, with the previous two sessions focused on candidates Ed Lane and Jared Weber.

Less than a week before the election, he said he has already put out 50 campaign lawn signs, sent a mailer to more than 800 absentee-ballot voters regarding his credentials, and will offer a one-pager at the upcoming Town Meeting covering his platform. This election season, Maxymillian said his constituents have been “very supportive” and “very happy with what I’ve been involved in.” “They feel that the town is in a place that needs experience, particularly the big building projects that we’re doing, so they’d like to see me continue working on those,” he said of the $40 million-plus Lenox Wastewater Treatment Plant update and new public-safety facility.

According to Maxymillian, Lenox has eight vacant positions on its boards and committees. “It’s wonderful that Jared [Weber] wants to be involved,” he said. “One of the predominant things people say to me is, ‘Jeez, like you did, Neal—you were on the planning board and the school committee and the building committee before you went for the Select Board.’ And that generally gives you a better knowledge of how the town works.”

Maxymillian said he has thanked those residents who have stepped up as volunteers in the town. “We’re very lucky in terms of the nature of the town that we live in, but it takes a lot of work to run it too,” he said.

Letters of support have touted Maxymillian, with the town’s governing boards relying on his expertise to ensure its two large projects are done “cost effectively” and without overly burdening taxpayers. “I’ve run a construction company for so long and have intimate knowledge of the finances of bonding municipal projects,” he said.

A Berkshire native whose family has been local for generations, he said he’s “really dedicated to this town.” “We have all the outward appearances of an exceptional town, and we are, financially,” Maxymillian said. “We are in terms of tourism. We are in terms of well-maintained roads, vibrant businesses. But we do have some challenges ahead of us.”

For those challenges, he pointed to the welfare of Lenox’s older buildings and the conservation land acquired by the town but unconnected, either by trails or other means. Maxymillian noted that the town is in a “housing crisis” and, with only about a dozen properties available, is in desperate need of workforce housing. “There’s just not any stock,” he said, adding that he has worked with state legislators on offering Commonwealth funds to towns to acquire land if they build workforce or other housing.

Maxymillian said he has been discussing with Boston University Tanglewood Institute officials the potential for their open land to serve as a housing site. Five years ago, he bantered about the idea of transferring the Lenox Children’s Center preschool from its deteriorated structure to a town-owned building to become part of the public school system with Town Manager Christopher Ketchen, while the preschool’s former property would be repurposed into affordable housing, he said. However, Maxymillian said the effort failed as school administrators didn’t think they would have the room to expand, and the school system has since seen a revolving door of superintendents “trying to right the ship” and lacking the bandwidth “to address new and different ideas we have approached them with.” With the possibility of funds appropriated at the May 2 Town Meeting for a feasibility study to expand the high school, he said more space for the school system could make the project work.

“If that could be an entitlement of living in Lenox—in other words, you’re here, you have a three-year-old and rather than paying for daycare, your kid could come to the Lenox system for free—that would be an enormous benefit,” Maxymillian said, acknowledging that creating the housing for those families would have to be in concert with the project.

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