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At Hadley Town Meeting, voters take action on marijuana, money in politics and more than 20 other articles

  • Hadley Town Hall



@JackSuntrup
Thursday, May 11, 2017

HADLEY — Voters enacted a moratorium on recreational marijuana, approved the town’s budget plan and shunned sending $10,000 to Northampton to fund courthouse renovations at Hadley’s annual Town Meeting May 4.

Select Board Chairwoman Molly Keegan outlined the town’s $17 million budget blueprint for fiscal 2018, saying Hadley has seen growth, but faces challenges including a Berkshire Gas moratorium and state aid that is likely to plateau this year.

“Tonight’s budget reflects a best effort to keep existing services going with the dollars at hand,” Keegan said, not leaving out the possibility that the Select Board would consider proposing a Proposition 2½ override vote in the future to boost services.

The budget, which goes into effect July 1 and factors in a 3.24 percent gross revenue increase over the current fiscal year, allocates noticeable increases to the Fire Department, School Department and also includes an increase of almost $20,000 for an enhanced building maintenance schedule.

The Fire Department will be able to hire one more full-time firefighter and fulfill contractual raises after receiving $432,274 this year, up from $373,898 last year.

The School Department will see $6.93 million this year, up from $6.73 million last year — a $187,000 increase Town Administrator David Nixon attributed to rising education costs.

“Educational costs have gone up, fuel costs have gone up, operating costs have gone up, contracted increases for salaries have gone up, so that’s what they’re spending their money on,” Nixon said after the meeting.

Voters considered more than 20 articles, though there were no notable donnybrooks this year. Votes were lopsided, with issues earning more than 100 votes for or against, and only a handful of dissenters, if any, on any given issue.

Marijuana: Any pot eventually sold in Hadley will have an additional 2 percent sales tax tacked on, after a near-unanimous vote, and voters also approved a temporary moratorium on recreational sales, until Nov. 30 2018.

The taxing question drew some questions. Resident Dina Friedman, who said after the meeting she doesn’t use marijuana, wondered if the town also places an extra tax on alcohol. It doesn’t.

Her question: “Whether there are any extra taxes on alcohol sales and if those go to the town for police” to fund OUI enforcement and “other issues relating to alcohol.”

Courthouse: Voters also shot down a proposal to send $10,000 of Community Preservation Act funds to help pay for renovations to the Hampshire County Courthouse.

“Why would we, who are so reluctant to spend historic preservation money on our own buildings, want to help our neighbors in the next town?” asked Historical Commission Member Ginger Goldsbury.

HCOG: One issue that did not receive a vote was whether the town should withdraw from the Hampshire Council of Governments. Selectman Donald Pipczynski said the Select Board did not realize the town had to provide 45 days advance notice to the council before entering into a vote to withdraw. He said the issue is on the table for debate in the fall.

Capital improvements: Voters did allocate $26,000 for Town Hall parking lot renovations and another $69,915 for equipment and space upgrades for Hadley Public Access Television.

Solar: Voters also approved two payment-in-lieu-of-taxes arrangements for two solar projects near the Hampshire Mall. The benefit to the town is more revenue in the long run; the benefit to the owners, in these cases Nexamp Inc., is a predictable cash flow.

Land preservation: Voters approved designating 107 acres off South Maple Street to be used for agriculture only. Pipczynski said Hadley has reserved almost 3,000 of its 5,200 acres through the state’s agricultural preservation program.

“We’re number one in the commonwealth and Hadley is very proud of it,” he said.

Money in politics: Voters also approved a citizen-submitted, nonbinding petition that seeks greater transparency in political donations and seeks to limit the influence of money in politics.

Seniors: Under a plan given the go-ahead, the town will waive a certain amount of property tax for seniors who meet income specifications and want to work on needed tasks for the town.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.