Deerfield voters give nod to $3M for wastewater plant

  • Deerfield voters approved a $16.7 million fiscal year 2023 budget. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

  • Select Board members Carolyn Shores Ness, Trevor McDaniel and Chair David Wolfram address voters at annual Town Meeting on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Monday, May 09, 2022

DEERFIELD — With the exception of a few articles that were passed over as anticipated, all articles were approved at annual Town Meeting on Monday, including a $3 million appropriation for the South Deerfield Wastewater Treatment Plant’s reconstruction project and a $16.7 million fiscal year 2023 budget.

The meeting took place in Frontier Regional School’s auditorium for the first time since before the pandemic, with previous meetings having been held outdoors as a health safety precaution.

Most notable of the approvals was an article seeking to allow the town to borrow $3 million to address upgrades needed to ensure the wastewater treatment plant is permit-compliant.

“In 2019, we asked for an appropriation of $19 million to start work at the plant, and in four years, the world has really changed,” Select Board member Trevor McDaniel explained Monday night. “If we were going to do the same project (now) that we hoped to do in 2019 — with inflation and due to supply shortages and everything else — it would have been raised about 34%.”

He said the cost of both residential and commercial construction has increased.

“We hate to be back here asking for this … but it’s the reality,” McDaniel said. “We have a fantastic contractor right now. … They’re efficient, very few change orders … so we really have not had to spend much of the money we set aside in case something goes on.”

The few residents who spoke to the article expressed support for the funding, including Julie Cavacco.

Budget passes

Few questions were asked regarding the $16.7 million budget, which passed unanimously.

Finance Committee Chair Julie Chalfant said the committee reviewed every line item with the appropriate department.

“What we ended up at is a balanced budget,” she said. “It was by no means unanimous; I think every one of us disagreed with at least one of the line items, but at the end we came to a reasonably justified budget.”

Chalfant noted the budget is not a level-service budget.

“There are several budget line items that increase services,” she said. “There are new hours, new positions, new contracted positions.”

Additionally, there were cost increases that were not attributed to increased services, but were the result of the pandemic or lost grants, for example.

Other articles

In other business, voters gave their approval to sending a request to the Legislature to allow the split of the town clerk/treasurer/tax collector position into a town clerk and a treasurer/collector. The request follows the resignation of longtime Town Clerk/Treasurer/Tax Collector Barbara Hancock in December.

At one point, the town requested the Legislature allow the job to be an appointed position, which is why the town is now required to seek permission again to split it in two.

“Deerfield is one of two towns in the state that have all three positions under one job,” McDaniel said. “There’s really nobody out in the marketplace that does all three of those jobs.”

Residents also gave authority to the Select Board to reduce the speed limit to 25 mph for town areas defined as “thickly settled” or in the business district.

Responding to Tim Hilchey’s question, Police Chief John Paciorek Jr. explained that this change would likely impact several streets, including North Hillside, North and South Main streets, and Stillwater Road.

“I do get a lot of complaints town-wide,” Paciorek said, voicing his support for the article. “Under the Municipal Modernization Act … they allowed municipalities by Town Meeting vote to give the Select Board the authority to reduce those speed limits down for those narrow roads, right down to 25 miles per hour.”

Among the articles expected to be passed over was Article 13, which outlined appropriation requests for various capital projects, including the Leary Lot, a highway mini-excavator, South County Senior Center repairs, and the design and construction of the Police Station heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Select Board members explained the projects will instead be funded using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money.