GB Town Hall briefs
Board approves $40,000 request for Lake Mansfield
Great Barrington — The Selectboard March 9 approved a $40,000 request for the 2016 capital improvement budget in order to “hire a multi-disciplinary team” to pull together the community’s collective desires for the Lake Mansfield Recreational Area, and devise “well-developed” alternatives for work to the area, especially the road, which winds around the edge of the Lake.
Lake Mansfield Improvement Task Force Chair Christine Ward asked the Board to recommend the request for the planning money.
“While many accomplishments have been made, the current challenges are complex and demand that our next steps be well informed by experts in environmental engineering and community planning,” said Ward, reading from the letter she had submitted to the Board.
The desperate state of Lake Mansfield Road has brought the issue to the fore, since it is a popular road for walkers, runners, fishermen, as well as for access to both the beach area and the boat launch. There are skiers and skaters in the winter. There are homes that use the road for driveway access, and the road is a shortcut for many residents, as well, particularly for ambulances on their way to Fairview Hospital from the Fairview Commons nursing home on Christian Hill road. Add a delicate ecosystem and vital habitat to the mix, as well as drainage problems and runoff issues, and fixing the road becomes a complicated puzzle.
But to fix the road properly in a sensitive environment will be expensive, according to a recent study by Tighe & Bond. Five town boards met last fall to outline the issue and look at options, which included:
- A full road rehabilitation including a guardrail to support current use — $1.2 million;
- Reducing the road to one-way use while still attending to drainage systems and bank stabilization. This would increase space for pedestrians, bikers and fishermen. No guardrail – $1.1 million;
- Reclassify it as a park access road, essentially closing it to all but emergency vehicles and residents who live on the road — $600,000.
Or the town could simply repave to the tune of $60,000 for a 5- to 7-year lifespan, no environmental permits required, but significant deterioration and impact on the lake remaining. Town Planner Christopher Rembold said he wasn’t sure if the road done this way would even last that long.
Ward said that investing in planning “will ensure the Town’s financial resources are carefully and skillfully utilized,” and that the team will also “advise the Town about potential grant funds and revenue sources to support future improvements.”
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Board to U.S. Rep. Neal: No to Fast Track “Trade Pact”
Great Barrington — The Selectboard voted March 9 to endorse the Agricultural Commission’s stand against quickly implementing a massive trade agreement known as the Trans Pacific Partnership on the grounds that it would affect local oversight of agriculture and “healthy, safe food for all residents.” It also voted to urge U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) to join with all other state representatives and its two senators to vote against putting the legislation on the “Fast Track” in the next few weeks.
Congress is attempting to fast track the TPP, an agreement that covers a wide range of markets, from intellectual property to food. The Obama administration asserts the agreement will expand the American economy — critics say it will serve only corporate bottom lines, since international treaties “supersede all local, state and national laws.”
Agricultural Commission member Vivian Orlowski said the Commission has involved itself in food policy at the state and regional level, and asked the Board to consider taking a position against fast track, noting that it would “endanger the ability of town, our state, and even our federal government to enact and uphold laws to advance these goals,” of healthy, safe food. Orlowski said that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who opposes the fast track of the TPP, noted that the treaty “even enables corporations to bypass our entire judicial system,” using international tribunals with “corporate attorneys” and sue them for major damages “if any state, local or national law would interfere with their corporation’s ability to make a profit…”
Orlowski observed that while the TPP is called a trade agreement, only five of its 29 sections deal with trade. The rest of the treaty covers a “wide swath of matters” including labor, land use, food and health care. “This would impact all of us in many ways.”
“This is urgent, this is timely,” Orlowski said.
The vote was unanimous.
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Tax refunds and help for seniors
Great Barrington — Massachusetts homeowners or renters over age 65 can get a tax refund of up to $1,050 through the “Senior Circuit Breaker Credit.” Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said that the refund is based on the amount of real estate taxes paid, including water and sewer payment, as long as the home is not assessed over $691,000.
“This is tax refund that is provided from the state, so it is a good way to bring more dollars into our local economy,” Tabakin said.
Tax returns and the “Schedule CB” (Circuit Breaker) can be filed for free online through the Department of Revenue’s WebFile for Income at mass.gov/dor/wfi. Forms can also be downloaded and printed. For free help preparing tax returns and the Schedule CB call VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) at 1-800-906-9887, or AARP’s Tax-Aide at 1-888-227-7669.
For more information go to mass.gov/dor/seniors.
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Are You OK? Program for Seniors
Great Barrington — Selectboard member Ed Abrahams announced a new program through the Claire Teague Senior Center in conjunction with the Great Barrington Police Department. Seniors can get a daily phone call to check on them.
To participate in the program, call 413-528-1881.
For more information about the Claire Teague Senior Center’s programs, go to greatbarringtonseniors.org/claire-teague/
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Population Planning Survey for older adults
Participating in an anonymous, 15 minute “Age Friendly Communities” survey for those over the age of 50 who live in Berkshire County will help the Councils on Aging in Adams, Great Barrington, Pittsfield and Williamstown begin to plan for the needs and desires of an aging population.
“Berkshire County is aging faster than most of Massachusetts and our nation,” according to the survey. “Nearly 30,000 baby boomers will retire in Berkshire County over the next 10 to 20 years. This change in our population requires that we all rethink what it means to get older here in the Berkshires, and that we begin to take steps to prepare for this change.”
“An ‘Age Friendly Community’ is a way to help older adults remain healthy, active and engaged in their community for as long as possible.”