Jones Library Director Sharon Sharry
The moderate surprise this evening at the kick off to the 256th Amherst Town Meeting was the Jones Library getting blow back over Article #6, a $25,000 appropriation to couple with a state grant of $50,000 to fund a 2-year study to prepare for a major renovation of the building (possibly doubling in size).
The state grant application also requires a clause seeking possible site approval if an entire new building in a new location is called for. Library Director Sharon Sharry told Town Meeting that site selection is an inherent part of the grant process but stated confidently, "If I were a betting person I would bet the library will stay right where it is."
Pitched roof bombs patrons with snow and ice during winter
One town meeting member had tried to refer the article back to committee and another member tried to amend the motion to nix the clause referring to a new building on a new site. But both motions were voted down on voice votes by a comfortable margin, and after about 45 minutes of discussion the main motion passed by the same comfortable voice vote.
Vince O'Connor, comeback kid
Town Manager and Amherst Select Board
Although the $125,000 was never in doubt since Article #21 coming up later in Town Meeting had that amount coming out of Free Cash for the same Social Service agencies. The difference is by putting it in the General Fund budget as a line item, it comes out of taxation.
According to Town Meeting member Renee Moss, "Having this $125,000 as a regular line item does say as a town we are committed to this and proud of it." Amherst is one of the very few, possibly only, municipalities in the Commonwealth to spend town tax money on Social Service agencies.
In his initial presentation O'Connor told Town Meeting that he would be moving to cut $200,000 from the Planning Department when their $327,729 budget line comes up for discussion.
The last few years the town used Community Development Block Grant money (federal money) to fund the Social Service agencies, but last year Amherst lost its status as a "mini entitlement" community.
After about an hour of discussion O' Connor's motion passed on a recorded Tally Vote of 79 "Yes" to 74 "No."
O'Connor has a few expensive petition articles coming at the end of Town Meeting, including Article #37, a request to double the Community Preservation Act surcharge to 3%. Amherst already has the highest property tax burden in the area.
And under Article #38, spending $750,000 to take by eminent domain 40 Dickinson Street, the old car dealership recently purchased by Amherst College.