Town Council 6/17/19

Committee Name: 

Amherst Town Council

Meeting date: 

Monday, June 17, 2019 - 18:30

Meeting Location: 

Tiown Room, Town Hall

Members present: 

all except Schwarz

Observer Notes: 

Note Non-League Observer Reports can also be found at Amherst INDY (volunteer news source)

Meeting began with announcements:

  • Public hearing on proposed studio apartment housing at 132 Northampton Road, Monday, June 24, Large Activity Room, Bangs Center.
  • Finance Committee meeting June 25 at 9:30 a.m. in the Town Room, Town Hall.
  • At the next Council meeting, 7/1/19, there will be a second reading and hearing on proposed zoning bylaw changes.
  • (given later, thank you note from Crocker Farm students, re bus station library, read aloud)

Action Items (with agenda numbering)
(Budget items previously passed with a show of hands were recorded with a roll-call vote.)

(d) Water and sewer: Town manager and Finance committee recommended a 2.6 percent increase in water and sewer rates, from $3.80 to $3.90 per 100 cubic feet (water) and from $3.90 to $4.00 per 100 cubic feet (sewer). Motion passed 12-0-0 with little discussion.

(a) By-law Revisions: Attorney Robert Ritchie and Town Planner Christine Brestrup presented proposed revisions to 1) the general bylaws, which were updated to reflect the Town Council, and were re-organized to be more accessible and 2) largely unchanged zoning bylaws. Draft was passed 6-0 by the planning board on June 5.  First of two required readings and two legal notices with a 14-day notice of a hearing. The hearing and second reading will be held at the July 1 regular council meeting.

(c) Community Preservation Act (CPA) Projects ($1.7 million+): Presented by Jim Oldham (excluding the Northampton Road SRO project).

  • 49%  to housing through the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust and Amherst Community Connections.
  • 7% to historic preservation in the West Cemetery, to windows in the North Amherst Community Farmhouse, and to the Historical Society.
  • 31% to open space, acquisition of Szala and the Keet Haskins properties, and improvements in the Groff Park and Mill River areas.

CPAC recommendations passed 12-0-0.

(h) The Joint Capital Planning Committee and Capital Improvement Program required roll-call vote for motions passed at the June 3 council meeting. Re-vote was 12-0-0. Motion to transfer funds from the general budget to cover deficits related to snow and ice removal and for repair of a fire engine, passed 12-0-0.  Regional school budget and the formula for assessment of towns in the district, passed in May, were also re-voted by 12-0 roll call.

(i) Council accepted the deed to the Kruczek property on the Pelham-Shutesbury border in order to protect Amherst’s water supply. Appraisal of $81,000, half expected to be paid by the state.

(f) Campaign Finance Reform. Long discussion of proposal from Hanneke and Ross to limit donations to town govt candidates from individuals to $250 and from PACs to $125 (25 percent of
the amounts allowed by the state) with an amendment to raise the limit to 50% of what state allows. Debate turned on greater goal to reduce barriers to participation in the Council by a more diverse pool of people.  The amendment was defeated 4 to 8 (Bahl-Milne, Hanneke, Ross and Steinberg in favor). Original motion also failed, Griesmer and Schoen joined the 4 above for 6-6
vote.  (My notes disagree with unofficial roll call on town website. Steinberg said clearly he was for it; Ryan said clearly he was against it.) Considerations included

  • Need measure to allow more people to consider running for council
  • Measure did not go far enough (DuMont, Schoen); needed to do a “deeper dive” for strategies to make running more accessible
  • Did not address in-kind donations such as mailings, website development, and lists of email contacts, also childcare, parking etc.
  • Diverse constituents reached out to by Bahl-Milne were in favor
  • Ryan and Schreiber wondered why Amherst was an exception to state law.

Two public comments (below) in favor of the limitations.

(g) Community Resources Committee (CRC) charge was amended.  (Sara Schwarz was added to the committee.)

Appointments: The council unanimously passed appointments to the Conservation Commission by the town manager that were also recommended by the Outreach, Communication and Appointments (OCA) committee. Ana Devlin Gauthier and Laura Pagliarulo, to begin three-year terms immediately (to fill vacancies); Casey Jo Dufresne to begin a three-year term July 1; Lawrence Ambs to begin a two-year term July1; and Brett Butler reappointed to a two-year term.

Town Manager Report:

  • Cited the efforts of the town’s community participation officers and the LSSE (leisure services) to bring programs and events to apartment complexes, including Butternut Farms and Olympia Oaks.
  • Town Clerk Margaret Natowicz will step down on June 30. Sue Audette will serve as temporary clerk until the position is filled.
  • Requests for Proposals for the development of housing at the East Street School will go out in July
  • Eversource will be replacing some high tension poles as an upgrade over the next four months. Service will not be interrupted.
  • State Street near Puffer’s Pond will now be one-way. Signage is being placed and police officers will direct traffic at first.  Concrete is being poured for the temporary bridge on Station Road.
  • There will be fireworks on July 4, but due to construction the event will be held on the other side of the stadium. Parking will be unchanged.
  • There was a well-attended reception for Nancy Pagano, who has retired from her position as head of the senior center after forty-seven uninterrupted years of service, making her the longest-serving employee in Amherst history.
  • Since the shooting in Virginia Beach, the town has been talking about safety. There will likely be “ALICE Training”--educational sessions for response to shooters in public places.

Approval of Minutes: May28, June 3, June 10  Vote 10-0-2 (abstentions Brewer, DeAngelis)

Councilor Comments:  Schreiber brought up the reorganizing of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. Long-term president Tim Brannen is retiring. Previously, Amherst was represented by a member of the planning board and a member of the select board. Connie Kruger of the select board resigned in December with the swearing in of the town council. Currently Jack Jemsek and Christine Gray-Mullen, both from the Amherst planning board, are representing Amherst. Councilor Schreiber strongly felt the council should be represented on this important regional committee.

Adjournment to executive session at 9:50 p.m. to consider purchase, lease, or exchange of real property.

Public Comment: 

Dillon Maxfield questioned the process of citizen appointments to committees, which seems to result in only professionals and business people appointed, excluding younger and working class residents. Maxfield asked that the names of people who applied to the positions be made available, so that the public could confirm whether the apparent bias has a basis in fact.
Amilcar Shabazz, with two sons and Edward Cage, announced the annual Juneteenth celebration June 19, when Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation will be read on the steps of Town Hall at 4 p.m. followed by a program at the Jones Library. Votes in favor of the proclamation, 12-0-0.
Campaign Finance Reform (in Action Items): John Bonifaz of Free Speech for People and Katherine Appy of the Amherst Forward PAC spoke in favor of limits, Bonifaz for a more comprehensive approach.

League Observer: 

Barbara Pearson