Around Amherst: League of Women Voters getting ball rolling on town charter review

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 03-31-2023 8:09 PM

AMHERST — Sometime next year the town’s charter, adopted by voters in 2018 and putting in place a 13-member Town Council to replace the 240-member Town Meeting and five-member Select Board, will be under review by a special committee.

To begin gathering opinions, ideas and recommendations about the council-town manager form of government, the League of Women Voters of Amherst is forming a Charter Review Task Force.

League member Adrienne Terrizzi said the idea is to get a jump on the official process and get residents thinking about the way Amherst is governed.

The charter states that the “Town Council shall provide, in every year ending in a 4, for a review of the charter by a special committee to be established by Town Council,” and that “the committee shall file a report within one year recommending any changes to the charter which it deems necessary or desirable.”

The League’s task force will have two components. The first will research how the 11 other Massachusetts towns with the same government structure compare. The second will survey Amherst residents on how they think the system is working.

These two facets will help the Town Council to consider whether any part of the charter should be amended or revised.

The survey is at lwvamherst.org, with a deadline for completion of April 17.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said he expects the Town Council to wait until after the November town elections, and the swearing in of the new council in January, before it forms its official study commission.

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Meanwhile, the current Town Council had a nearly five-hour retreat Saturday led by Pamela Nolan Young, the town’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion director, and Athena O’Keeffe, the clerk to the council, that began with an Appreciative Inquiry approach to having the councilors engage with each other.

Big Night in Amherst coming

Rainy weather and temperatures over 40 degrees make it ideal for salamander and amphibian migration from uplands to vernal pools, including in the Henry Street neighborhood.

Amherst is advising that the Big Night for the Henry Street Salamander Tunnels is looming, meaning a portion of the street may be closed to traffic to limit amphibian mortality and to keep volunteers safe. The two tunnels were built by the town in 1987.

The Hitchcock Center for the Environment, which coordinates the annual event, will provide updates for those interested in volunteering at the site and for people who travel on that road.

For more information, call 413-256-6006 and select 3 to hear updates about the salamanders, or go to facebook.com/groups/1597484666933278.

Vacancies

More than 20 municipal committees have vacancies, including the Agricultural Commission, the Amherst Affordable Housing Trust, the Community Safety and Social Justice Committee, and the Public Art Commission.

Bockelman is seeking residents who have relevant expertise or experience, as well as people with diverse backgrounds. A complete list of boards and committees can be found at amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/37001/Committee-and-Board-Report-04092021.

People should fill out Community Activity Forms at amherstma.gov/caf. Anyone with questions can send email to community participation officers at GetInvolved@AmherstMA.gov.

School building presentation

An overview of the $97.5 million elementary school proposed for the Fort River site on South East Street will be provided to the public at an in-person forum at the Bangs Community Center on Sunday at 3 p.m.

District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen, chairwoman of the Elementary School Building Committee, will be joined by Tamera Sullivan-Daley, principal at Fort River School, to provide details and foster discussion about the project.

The project will be subject to a Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion vote on May 2 that will allow the town to finance the school and secure a grant from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

Those interested in coming are reminded parking is free at the Boltwood garage and other locations on Sundays.

Local Vocal Chord Bowl

The Local Vocal Chord Bowl, being held at the Amherst Regional High School at 7 p.m. Saturday, will support music enrichment for Amherst Regional and Northampton High.

Being staged for the 12th time, the event is hosted by the Northampton-based a cappella singing group The Green Street Brew.

They will be among performers including the Amherst Regional Chorale and Hurricane Singers, Northampton High’s Northamptones, Smith College’s Smiffenpoofs, the University of Massachusetts’ Doo Wop Shop and The Vocal Suspects, and the Wise Guys and Chill Harmonics.

Tea and poetry

Local poets will read from their work at the Amherst Woman’s Club, 35 Triangle St., on Monday 1t 1:30 p.m.

Tea and refreshments will be served at the free pubic event.

Meetings

MONDAY: Town Council, 6 p.m.

THURSDAY: Zoning Board of Appeals, 6:30 p.m.

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