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Recognition of wrong to tribes highlights Leverett’s Annual Town Meeting warrant



Staff Writer
Monday, May 03, 2021

LEVERETT — An acknowledgment that the land Leverett occupies was taken from the Nonotuck and Pocumtuck tribes could be made by residents when annual Town Meeting convenes Saturday.

The petition article states that “injury and injustice perpetrated on the native peoples by the colonial enterprise blights our collective conscience,” and if adopted would require all future town meetings and special town meetings to begin with this reflection. It’s one of 26 articles on the warrant to be taken up starting at 9 a.m. in the parking lot at Leverett Elementary School.

People are encouraged to bring chairs, sunscreen and mosquito repellant and will be required to wear masks as part of COVID-19 safety protocols. In case of rain, the meeting will be postponed to May 8.

The session will begin with the town election, with candidates nominated from the floor and, for contested elections, ballots created so voters can cast ballots until early afternoon. Races for seats on the Select Board and for trustees of the Leverett Library are expected.

The proposed $6.54 million town operating budget is $246,558, or 3.9% higher than the current year's $6.29 million budget. The schools make up much of this, with the elementary school budget at $2.74 million, up $127,501, or 4.9% from the current year's $2.62 million budget. The $1.47 million assessment for the Amherst-Pelham regional schools, though, is down $7,202, or 0.5%. Residents will also be asked to approve a method for calculating this assessment. 

If the budget is passed without changes, the tax rate of $19.73 per $1,000 valuation would go up by 66 cents to $20.39 per $1,000 valuation.

Other spending on the warrant is $200,000 from the stabilization fund for a new Highway Department dump truck and $8,000 from the stabilization fund to supplement $20,418 in unspent money to get new extrication tools for firefighters. Free cash will also be used, including $36,058 to do repairs at the safety complex and $10,000 for fixes at the old salt shed.

From the Community Preservation Act account, $28,491 would go for the Leverett Historical Society and Leverett Historical Commission to inventory, archive and preserve paper collections at the Moore’s Corner Schoolhouse and the Field Family Museum, while another $12,500 would be for the historical commission’s “A Sense of Where You Are” project.

Another resolution would ensure that open space remains between the Leverett Elementary School and the Leverett Library, requiring any change of use or installation of structures to return to Town Meeting for approval. This concern stems from trustees for the library proposing using a portion of this large lawn for solar arrays.

Other articles include having residents make a statement to oppose state subsidies and other incentives for biomass plants, and renaming the town Revenue Committee as the Sustainable Economy Committee.

Election

Three residents are running for two available seats on the Select Board, including filling the remaining year of the position previously held by Peter d’Errico, who resigned last fall.

Incumbent Julie Shively, first elected in 2009, is seeking a fifth three-year term on the Select Board, likely facing no challengers, while Jed Proujansky and Melissa Colbert are competing for the second seat.

Colbert, a physician, said she is running for office because she cares deeply about Leverett and its residents.

“I have a tremendous passion for service, and understand that, particularly during a global pandemic, our community may want someone with my skill set — a longtime local, a medical doctor with 10 years of leadership and legal expertise, a parent, and a woman of color, to serve the role of selectman,” Colbert said.

Colbert said she is passionate about sustaining the values that make Leverett a special place.

Proujansky, an IT data analyst in the health care field, is a member of the town’s Finance Committee who served on the Northfield School Committee for 13 years and its Select Board for three years. He also coordinated a coalition of towns that stopped the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline in 2016.

“I’ve been giving community service to communities for many years. I think it's something important to do,” Proujansky said.

Proujansky said he brings familiarity with budgets and understands the challenges Leverett faces with reduced state aid. He also hopes to respond to injustice nationally by focusing on social justice locally.

For library trustees, there are two three-year terms, with incumbents Lisa Sullivan-Werner and Rachel Flint and newcomers Frank Battisti and Ann Watson expected to be nominated.

Others who have announced an interest in serving in elective office include Cat Ford and Jim Staros for a two-year term and a three-year term on the Board of Assessors; John Hillman for a three-year term on the Board of Health; Brian Emond for a three-year term as constable; Larry Farber for a one-year term as moderator; Richard Natthorst and Tim Shores for five-year terms on the Planning Board; and Jess Rocheleau, Aaron Buford and Becky Tew for two three-year terms and a one-year term on the School Committee.