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April 1999

Vol. 8, No. 4

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MONDAY, APRIL 5, 7:30 p.m.: Annual Town Caucus at Town Hall.  Please come. 

TUESDAY, APRIL 6, 7:30 p.m.: Public comment meeting on the use of herbicides by WMECO at the Ashfield Town Hall.  Representatives of WMECO, the State Pesticide Bureau and Western Massachusetts legislators will be there. (The public comment period has been extended to April 12.)

FRIDAY, APRIL 9, 5:30 p.m.: Spaghetti dinner sponsored by the Becket PTO to highlight the newly created Paul Pharmer Music Fund.  The school band will play for the first hour of dinner.  Adults: $5; children:$2-3; family maximum: $12.

FRIDAY, APRIL 16, 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m.: Voter registration for Special and Annual Town Meetings at the home of Town Clerk Michele Beemer (148 Middlefield Road).

TUESDAY, APRIL 20, 7 p.m.: Public Hearing on the location of the new Becket Post Office at the Becket Town Hall.  USPS representative to present its choice--the space across from the fire station in Becket Village--and the reasons behind it.  Public input is encouraged.

SATURDAY, APRIL 24, 7 to 9:30 a.m.: Annual Spring Earth Day celebratory Bird Walk with Ed Neumuth.  Meet at the Town Park with your binoculars.  This year’s walk will focus on the areas around attending birders’ houses to familiarize them with the birds they can see most often.  (Please note: another bird walk will take place in May along the Washington Mountain Meadows trail.  More details to come.)

SATURDAY, APRIL 24, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Becket School Spring Cleaning to clean up playing field across the street from the school.  Bring a lunch; the PTO will supply drinks.  Rain date: April 25.

MONDAY, APRIL 26, 8 p.m.: Special Town Meeting at Town Hall.  Warrant features end-of-year, housekeeping funds transfers to keep the books looking good.  (This is the first Special of this year--a testament to the efficiency of Town Treasurer Sandra Brazee and the Finance Committee, according to the Selectmen.)

FRIDAY, APRIL 30, 3 p.m.: Spring Tea at the Washington Town Hall sponsored by the Washington Council on Aging.  Entertainment will be provided by Patty Carpenter, singing and playing the piano and guitar.  Refreshments will be provided.  For information and transportation, call Michele (623-6073) or Jeanne (623-8730).

SUNDAY, MAY 2, 1 to 5 p.m.: Annual Spring Sprucing at the Town Park.  Bring garden and yard tools and plenty of energy.

SATURDAY, MAY 8: Plant Sale at the Becket School.  A PTO fund-raiser.

SATURDAY, MAY 8, 8  p.m.: Annual Town Meeting at Town Hall.

SATURDAY, MAY 15, 12 to 4 p.m.: Annual Town Election.


In opera, it isn’t over until the fat lady sings; in State education funding, it isn’t over until you’ve got the check in hand.  And while you wait for the check, you work with estimates, approximations and projections.  At the end of February, the Central Berkshire Regional School District (CBRSD) School Committee presented a budget that increased about 6%.  The next day that budget increase decreased to about 2.6%.  Did a very vocal and concerned audience at that February 25 meeting make the difference?  Actually...no, says school representative Jan Huebner.  She explains that the district must present a budget to the seven member towns in advance of the Annual Town Meetings--which is also in advance of concrete numbers from the State.  In the absence of those numbers, “you calculate as conservatively as possible.” 

Though it’s always wonderful when people come to the school committee meetings, says Huebner, that’s not what changed the budget increase.  “We presented the budget and the next day we got the number for transportation from the State.”  That number was $195,000 more than the district had anticipated--a windfall, in short.  School Committee Treasurer David Balardini notes that the increase is the State’s projection and is not yet confirmed.  In other words, the budget situation could change again. 

Assuming the transportation funds come through as projected, the impact on Washington is a decrease in the Town’s assessment of $10,000.


The Selectmen have sent letters to Representative Kelly, Senator Nuciforo and Lieutenant Governor Swift asking them to work towards special education reform, in particular State funding of the special education mandates.  The letters also pointed out what the Selectmen perceive as the unfairness of Towns having to paying tuition for vocational education in addition to regional district tuition.  They feel voc-ed should be considered school choice. 

Responses from all three politicians indicated that they are working on special education reform.


The newest Washingtonian is Devon Paul Mikaniewicz, born December 1, 1998, to parents Allison and Paul and sister Ashley.  Welcome Devon!


Washington’s first effort at removing hazardous waste from the waste stream was a success, according to Selectman William Cawley.  “”I’m very proud of the Town of Washington,” he says.  The Town paid $265 to have 360 feet of fluorescent lamps, 8 pounds of lead acid/gel cells, 4 pounds of mercury batteries, 4 pounds of lithium batteries, 44 pounds of alkaline batteries and 633 pounds of computer and electronic equipment taken to the appropriate reclamation companies.  They, in turn, will break these things down to their component parts for reuse.  Fluorescent bulbs and TV tubes are, according to Cawley, filled with lead, better recycled than landfilled.  “Recycling like this is not cost effective,” notes Cawley,  “It’s just the right thing to do.” 


The quantity and cleanliness of Washington’s collection of plastic grocery bags has been complimented by Goodwill.  According to Selectman William Cawley, the Town averages 13 bags of clothes, toys and kitchen ware each week. 

Cawley reminds people to double knot the bags they donate bags in and to use heavy-duty bags of average size for clothing.  Leaf bags are too heavy for most people to move, and light-duty bags fail before the clothes reach their sorting destination.  Toys need to be bagged; games taped shut and shoes in bags strong enough to keep them together.  Kitchenware should also be secured in strong boxes.


Kimberly Denault has volunteered to be the Town’s newest Assessor.  She has already begun work and will run for the position at the Annual Town Election in May. 


With spring kind of sort of here, Washington’s Highway Department can look back on this winter of ice and more ice and proudly say “at least we didn’t go over budget” (or so says Highway Superintendent Craig Willis).  Few Berkshire towns can make that claim this year.  Barring any significant new snows, the road crew plans to begin spring cleaning by mid April: that means, street sweeping and grading of dirt roads. 

On April 26, bids will be opened for a new loader being purchased with State money--a one-time deal, as the State does not usually provide money for equipment.


The Housatonic Valley Association has announced that Saturday, May 8, is the Source-to-Sound Clean-up Day.  Volunteers will clean up the entire length of the Housatonic River--from Washington (that’s our Washington) to Long Island Sound.  In Washington, that means starting at Muddy Pond and heading toward Pittsfield.  People interested in participating in the clean-up should contact East Branch Stream Team member William Cawley (623-8730).


For burning permits, please call Fire Chief Steven Deloye at 623-6019 (home) or 448-7320 (work).


According to the grass-roots organization Herbicide-Free Power Lines, Matthew Amorello, Massachusetts Highway Commissioner, announced that, in response to the public’s concern, the agency will not spray herbicides along highways.  The agency had previously agreed not to spray along State roads, but was still planning on spraying along the highways. 

WMECO, on the other hand, still plans to spray and/or use stump applications under power lines on all roads.  The State Pesticide Bureau has received 250 letters in opposition to the use of herbicides under the power lines.  Herbicide-Free Power Lines hopes that vocal public opposition to the herbicides will force WMECO to follow Mass Highway’s example.


If you've got news, comments, critiques, whatever to share, or you want to advertise, please write or call Abby Reifsnyder (623-6073). 


Send your comments and questions about Tracks at: tracks@town.washington.ma.us