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March 2000

Vol. 9, No. 3

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SATURDAY, MARCH 25, 12 to 4 p.m.: Debt Exclusion Vote at the Town Hall.  Voters will be asked to approve or disapprove exempting from the provisions of Proposition 2½ the Town’s share of the cost of renovations and new construction at the Becket Consolidated School.

SATURDAY, MARCH 25, 8 to 11 a.m.: Breakfast at the Becket Federated Church parish house.  Pancakes, French toast, bacon, juice, coffee and lots of friendly faces--all for $4.00 for adults; $2.50 for children under 12 and free for children under three.


            Breaking attendance records for any Town Meeting in recent memory, about 110 people attended the March 6 Special Town Meeting.  The vast majority of those were there to vote on the proposed Becket School renovation project, but they sat through five articles to get there.  Two of those articles--to establish and fund an account to pay for a feasibility study for generating wind power on Town-owned land--proved controversial and kept many there later than hoped or expected.

            Daniel Valianti of Green Power Develop-ment (GPD) explained that the $3,000 that voters were asked to approve would cover the administrative costs of a feasibility study; the cost of the study itself would be much greater, but GPD would seek third-party, public financing for that.  If there is enough wind for a small project generating one megawatt of power, it could supply the energy needs of 2,000 households or the equivalent revenue.  Selectman Richard Grillon explained that the Selectmen were looking for a source of revenue for the Town and began investigating this option.

            A variety of concerns were raised by residents, most notably about noise, aesthetics, siting and impact on bird populations.  One voter questioned whether such a facility can be built under current zoning bylaws.  Another wondered if the project would have to go out to bid in the same manner as other Town projects. 

            Voters eventually approved the article establishing the account 39 to 24; they approved funding the account 41 to 19. 

            Article 6--to authorize the school district to borrow $5,500,000.00 for constructing, equipping and furnishing an addition and renovations to the Becket Consolidated School--proved less controversial.  After a presentation by members of the Becket School Building Committee that included speeches both factual and impassioned as well as a presentation by a member of the committee and another by the architects, residents questioned the costs of some aspects of the project, expressed frustration at the deteriorated state of the current building and expressed concern that the school might be closed and the children sent to Hinsdale and the Town would be stuck with the debt anyway.  Members of the Building Committee as well as Superintendent Harvey Horwitz tried to allay peoples concerns and fears, noting that there is no expectation that the Becket School would be closed and that the costs involved in building according to State specifications can be higher than if the same project were undertaken by a private concern.

            In a confusing end to a long evening, Moderator Ed Bond called for a show of hands on the article.  After this vote, Bond was reminded that the warrant called for a paper ballot and another--paper--vote was held, though not before some voters had left, thinking the meeting was over.  The results of the paper ballot were 55 for and 29 against.

            There continues to be some disagreement about the margin needed to pass this article and the upcoming debt exclusion vote.  Members of the school committee indicated that the Town Meeting vote needs to be by 2/3; a member of the Nessacus Building Committee believes this needs a simple majority, but that the debt exclusion requires the 2/3 margin.  Town Clerk Michele Beemer says that she has received information from Town Counsel Sally Bell stating that according to Massachusetts General Law, the Selectmen have to approve putting the article on the warrant by 2/3, but the ensuing votes by residents require a majority.  Either way Monday’s vote stands as approved.  The debt exclusion vote will be held Saturday, March 25.

            Before the meeting officially began, Grillon awarded Certificates of Appreciation to several residents.  Honored for their work sorting through historical materials found in the Old Town Hall were Mary Alice Levernoch, Bernice O’Brien, Barbara Simmons and Ralph Simmons.  Also honored with the certificates featuring calligraphy by Julio Granda were Georgette and John Keator for their work organizing the Halloween celebration last fall.


            Town Clerk Michele Beemer announces that this year’s dog licenses will be available beginning March 13.  The old licenses expire March 31.  To get a license, dog owners must have a rabies certificate and, if they want the reduced fee, proof of neutering or spaying.  Licenses are $10 for unaltered dogs and $4 for altered.


            Victor Breen of N. Washington State Road in Washington has volunteered to be Washington’s new Dog Officer.  He will work initially with interim dog officer John Donnelly of Peru while he learns the ins and outs of being a dog officer.  Breen’s number is currently unlisted, so residents should jot down the number now: it is 623-8345.  Breen will be available in the evening and weekends; daytime calls that cannot wait should still go to John Donnelly (655-2635).  Residents should also remember that on-going and recurrent complaints should be made in writing to the Selectmen.


            A few warm days and the sap is running.  A hilltowner’s mind turns to spring--in spite of the knowledge that there are still many weeks before snowdrops and crocuses will peek out of the ground.  A birder’s mind, in particular turns to watching the early birds do what early birds do--and we’re not talking about worms now.

            This year Ed Neumuth will take interested birders of all levels of expertise on an early evening walk to see the nuptial dance of the woodcock which, he says involves some pretty impressive acrobatics and dives.  The exact date of the walk cannot be determined until that first week of April--since the birds don’t do their thing if it’s raining.  Anyone interested in going should let Neumuth know (623-5477) and he’ll call you that week to let you know which evening he’ll be going out.

            In the mean time, Neumuth says to be on the lookout for other early returners--the ones that don’t leave the country and know when there’s been some mild weather.  These should include: fox sparrows, phoebes, robins, red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds, black ducks and bluebirds.  To be ready for the bluebirds, clean out nesting boxes if you have them or build and install them if you have an area over one acre cleared around your house.  Male bluebirds will be returning, according to Neumuth, as soon as two weeks from now, and they’ll be looking for homes.  Neumuth has directions for building boxes, so contact him if you need them.


            Keeping pace with the times, the Town of Washington now has its own web site.  The address is TOWN.WASHINGTON.MA.US.  The web site will provide access to current and past editions of TRACKS, a list of Town officials, the schedule of Town government meetings and other information as it becomes available.  Townspeople are encouraged to send information by disc to Marty Packer (325 Cross Place Road, Washington) or e-mail to the web site itself.


            Charlotte Williams is now living at the Senior Lodge on Onota Street in Pittsfield, but she’s still looking for company.  If you’re in the neighbor-hood, stop by for a visit!


            The Becket Arts Center is currently planning an exhibit of old wedding gowns once worn by residents of the hilltowns.  To assist organizers of the exhibit, the Arts Center is asking residents to share a chapter of their family’s history by lending a gown.

            Depending on community response, “Weddings of Yesteryear” is tentatively scheduled at the Becket Arts Center during July.  Following the exhibit, the gowns and related items will be returned to their owners.

            To assist in telling the story of each gown, the Arts Center is asking families for a bit of history about the dress--who designed it and made it (if known), the wedding date, the name of the bride and groom, if the gown was passed down to daughters or granddaughters, etc.  When possible, a photograph of the bride or of the bride and groom could be shown with the gown.

            Hilltown residents who wish to participate in the “Weddings of Yesteryear” exhibit at the Becket Arts Center should express their interest by contacting the exhibit coordinators no later than March 22, 2000.  They are: Tina Sweet Wilson by phone at 623-6133 or by mail at P.O. Box 372, Becket, MA 01223; and Madeleine Swindlehurst by phone/FAX at 623-5351 or by mail at P.O. Box 172, Becket, MA 01223.


            In case you want to burn but have misplaced the Fire Chief’s number, here it is.  Call Stephen Deloye at 623-6019 for burning permits.


            If you've got news, comments, critiques or photos 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