Lee Select Board approves one day alcohol licenses to several entities during its Sept. 5 meeting. The group also voted on an Inter-Municipal Agreement to share building inspection services with surrounding towns and approved various appointments. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

Lee expands its building inspection services as Eagle Mill construction begins

The Select Board appointed a liaison to Tri-Town Health Department in anticipation of upland disposal facility plan.

Lee — With the Eagle Mill Redevelopment Project in motion, Lee’s Select Board took action to ensure building inspectors and a commissioner are ready for action.

On September 5, members unanimously approved an Inter-Municipal Agreement (IMA) for its building department that would provide one commissioner and three inspectors to be shared between Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, and Stockbridge. Lee already shares those services with Lenox and Stockbridge, but the new agreement adds Great Barrington to the contract and picks up two additional inspectors along with its current shared commissioner and two inspectors.

“We’ve been having trouble coming up with building inspectors to cover all the bases, and so we’re talking to other towns,” Chair Bob Jones said. The town is required by statute to have a building inspector on hand, he said, adding that Town Administrator Christopher Brittain came up with the shared service idea as a way of addressing that need.

With the change, the lead municipality will transfer from Lenox to Great Barrington, Brittain said. The new alignment offers more flexibility, he said. “We should see a number of benefits from it—additional inspectors,” Brittain said of the new agreement. “If one of them left, it’s easier to share among the towns.” He said the building commissioner position “is the hardest [position] to fill right now.”

The vote was taken with Member Gordon Bailey recused as he is a retired state inspector who was hired back on a part-time basis.

Jones appointed as liaison to Tri-Town Health

By unanimous approval, Jones was appointed as the town of Lee’s non-voting liaison to the Tri-Town Health Department, Berkshire County’s sole regional health department. The group is overseen by board members from Lee, Lenox, and Stockbridge.

A 2020 agreement between five Berkshire towns, General Electric Company, and the Environmental Protection Agency stated that an upland disposal facility would be established in Lee following decades of GE depositing the now-banned toxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), from its Pittsfield electric transformer plant into the Housatonic River.

With a final development plan due at the end of October regarding the UDF, Jones said the Select Board will schedule a public hearing following the announcement for input. Additionally, he said he was told by EPA officials that GE will be deciding on the route trucks will take to transport the PCB-laden soil and sediment to the UDF in Lee.

Tri-Town Health is “looking for their role in that process,” according to Jones. “I think we’re going to be getting into some murky waters, and I think it’s good to try to put something together early on, to be prepared for whatever happens, and we don’t know exactly what that is,” he said.

New appointment to Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

At the meeting, member Sean Regnier was appointed as Lee’s alternate representative to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) following Jones stepping down from the position on August 15. Buck Donovan is the town’s delegate to the group.

“I’ve just been disappointed and disillusioned by the performance of Berkshire Regional Planning,” Jones said. “I’ve been disappointed and disillusioned by their conduct, the way the town of Lee has been treated in this process, at least since we woke up and realized that we were going to be the recipients of this toxic-waste dump.”

Jones alleged that the BRPC director colluded to mislead Lee’s representatives to the Commission and said he was dismissed when he complained at a BRPC meeting. “I just don’t feel that I would do the town of Lee a service by continuing in that role,” Jones said.

Regarding other actions the Commission is involved in, Bailey said the town should appoint another representative “to keep our fingers on the pulse of what’s going on.”

At the meeting, members also:

  • Signed the FY2023 and FY2024 Agreement of Reporting that provides an annual accounting as to the percentage of time town departments devote to the Department of Education;
  • Approved one-day alcohol licenses for 51 Park on Founder’s Day weekend as well as Shire Breu Hous and Black Birch Vineyard, individually, for the High Lawn Cheese Festival;
  • Approved and waived fees to the Lee Chamber of Commerce for temporary signs and permit for Founder’s Day weekend; and
  • Approved three local gas permits.