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West Stockbridge passes budget, all articles but dog park proposal ‘ruffed up’ a bit

Officials and residents bid goodbye to the Commonwealth’s longest-running moderator.

West Stockbridge — Although residents approved the town’s fiscal year 2025 budget, along with all special articles, the May 6 Town Meeting hit a roadblock during the public’s discussion of a proposal to appropriate $25,000 to the Dog Park Advisory Committee, a 10 percent match required of a $250,000 grant that would move forward the project, at least to the design phase. The article ultimately passed but with an amendment that provided a stopgap measure by requiring a Special Town Meeting vote to approve the final project.

After requesting a separate vote of the four sections of the Community Preservation Fund appropriation article—that also included a $25,000 appropriation to update the Old Town Hall’s infrastructure, a $25,000 appropriation for a consultant to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and a $69,000 appropriation for pavilions at Town Hall and Card Pond—voters questioned the benefit of a local dog park. Speakers stated that veterinarians don’t recommend dog parks because they are “bad for dogs,” encouraging negative behavior and dog fighting, along with creating risk of dogs contracting diseases. Attendees questioned the town’s liability should a person or a dog be injured at the park. Select Board member Andrew Potter responded that the advisory committee plans to form a nonprofit corporation, with that entity entering into an operating agreement with the town. He said the nonprofit also intends to have its own insurance. However, objections persisted as to the town having to still defend itself in a lawsuit over the dog park even if its liability was clear.

“I’m wondering, at what point, if this passes, does it come back to the Town Meeting For further approval or to the Select Board,” said attorney and resident Mitch Greenwald. “I think people are concerned about details.”

Although Potter replied that the measure must come back to the Select and Planning boards for permits, Greenwald urged a pause until decisions have been made about the operations of the park.

A special article adopting a six percent local excise tax from lodgings—such as a bed and breakfast, hotel, or short-term rental for less than 30 days—passed, with those funds contributing to the town’s general coffers. Two additional special articles passed imposing a three percent Community Impact Fee on the occupancy of a short-term rental that is professionally managed, as well as a short-term rental located within a two- or three-family home that includes the owner’s residence, with those fees to be dedicated to the town’s affordable-housing projects.

West Stockbridge Town Hall was packed for the May 6 Town Meeting during which residents approved all warrant articles. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

The town also approved special financial articles providing for a Police Department software program ($21,500) and new vehicle ($70,000); a new mower ($19,100) and truck ($70,000) for the Department of Public Works; resurfacing the parking lots of the Town Hall/Library ($23,000) and wastewater treatment facility ($39,400), as well as Deer Hill and Lenox roads ($478,250 less state funds); the town’s 250th anniversary celebration ($7,500); repairing and replacing a culvert on Willson Road ($100,000 less grant funds); repairing and improving the Cone Hill Road Bridge ($100,000); and adding a new Jaws of Life equipment to the fire department ($33,000).

The approved budget includes about $3.59 million appropriated for the fiscal 2025 operations of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District and $68,538 for the district’s capital assessment. Education comprises the bulk of the town’s budget at 52.42 percent. According to Finance Committee Chair Robert Salerno, the total town valuation stands at $604 million, with a tax rate of $9.58 per $1,000 assessed value. The total levy is reduced by local receipts such as excise and room or meal taxes and state receipts, with the town losing $50,000 by being reduced to one restaurant within its borders, he said.

In comparison to the other 32 Berkshire County towns, Salerno said West Stockbridge is 12th from the bottom for its tax rate, highest to lowest, and fifth from the bottom for South County’s nine towns.

The meeting was eventful for West Stockbridge Town Moderator Eugene Dellea who, at 58 years in the position, was praised by State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli for being the longest-serving town moderator in the Commonwealth’s history. The Town Meeting was his last in that capacity.

Called “Mr. West Stockbridge” by Pignatelli, Dellea was awarded citations from the state’s House of Representatives and Governor Maura Healey. Select Board Chair Kathleen Keresey presented him with a town gift as he also served a decade on the West Stockbridge Select Board.

State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli (left) congratulates West Stockbridge Town Moderator Eugene Dellea for his service to the community during the May 6 Town Meeting as Town Clerk Ronni Barrett (dais, left) and Town Administrator Marie Ryan look on. Photo by Leslee Bassman.
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The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.