Special election date set for road repair funding in Deerfield

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 11-29-2023 8:49 PM

DEERFIELD — The Select Board has set the special election date for a Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion vote to decide if the town should move forward with authorizing up to $5 million in borrowing authority to pay for road repairs following July’s rainstorms.

Voters will head to the ballot box on Tuesday, Dec. 5, to grant or deny the borrowing authority, which the Select Board has said will be used to pay immediate costs for repairs already done, while also ensuring the town is able to respond to any other issues in the near future. One of those potential issues on the town’s radar is River Road, where an embankment has been slowly sinking in subsequent storms and could fail during any further heavy rainfall.

At the town’s Oct. 23 Special Town Meeting, residents overwhelmingly approved the measure, which required a two-thirds majority to pass. The borrowing request will also need to receive support from at least two-thirds of voters to be passed at the ballot box, according to Assistant Town Clerk Cassie Sanderell.

“The reality is we do not budget a line item for climate change or storm damage that we incur during the year,” Select Board Chair Carolyn Shores Ness told residents at Town Meeting. “Deerfield sustained unprecedented road and infrastructure damage after the flooding this summer. ... It’s cumulatively more than we’ve had in two decades, in my experience.”

If approved, Finance Committee Chair Julie Chalfant estimated the average single-family tax bill in Deerfield, based on the average home value of $359,661 and a loan interest rate of 6% over a 20-year period, would increase by $178 per year, or a 3.2% increase.

Notably, there is a chance the town may not have to borrow the full $5 million. Shores Ness said she believes the state could potentially reimburse towns across Massachusetts for storm damages that occurred throughout the summer.

Along with Deerfield, other towns that suffered significant damage include Conway, North Andover, Leominster and North Adams, among others.

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Shores Ness has said at recent meetings that funding could come before the election, and if it does, the Select Board will cancel it and then rescind the borrowing authority in the spring at Annual Town Meeting.

The election will be held at Town Hall, 8 Conway St., on Dec. 5, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Chris Larabee can be reached
at clarabee@recorder.com or
413-930-4081.