Town still miffed at vandalism
by Mike Eldred
Dec 03, 2013 | 3272 views | 0 0 comments | 82 82 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHITINGHAM- At a special meeting Monday evening, selectboard members reaffirmed their resolve to hold Town Hill vandals accountable. At their last meeting, the board set a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in a series of incidents at Whitingham’s Town Hill public recreation area. The first incident was several weeks ago when someone smashed a power meter on a communications utility box. A few weeks later, someone vandalized playground equipment, smashed the meter again, and damaged conduit. In another incident, someone removed shingles from the roof of a shelter at the park to form an obscene word.

Since then, board members said, they’ve received a number of calls, but none that have revealed the perpetrators. “There’s a lot of public interest in what we’re doing,” said board member Greg Brown, “and a lot of concern and disgust from taxpayers and even people who aren’t taxpayers and just enjoy using it.”

Brown said the board was “pursuing any leads, and all information is appreciated. The reward still stands.”

In other matters, the board met with Twin Valley School Board chair Seth Boyd to discuss trash and snow removal at the school, and user fees the town pays to use the school for public meetings and other municipal uses. Selectboard members sought clarification on ownership of the school structure, local education funding under the K-12 joint school district, and Wilmington’s contributions to snow and trash removal.

Boyd explained that the budget had been simplified by the expanded school merger. Now there’s one Twin Valley School budget, whereas before the elementary school merger there was a Twin Valley budget, a Whitingham budget, and a Wilmington budget. Boyd explained that the school budget is divided according to each town’s percentage of students at the school.

“Has there been any transfer of ownership of the school building from Whitingham to Twin Valley?” asked Brown.

Boyd said Whitingham still owns the building. Because the agreement between Whitingham and Wilmington is a joint contract, rather than a union school district, Twin Valley School District can’t own buildings under state statutes.

“So when you build the budget, can you take into any consideration that, for the Whitingham building, trash and plowing are taken care of?” asked Brown. “What is Wilmington doing at the elementary school?”

“I had to do some research on that,” Boyd said. “Historically, they have had contracted trash removal for the elementary school and high school building, and in Whitingham, Jon has put it in the back of his truck and taken it to the transfer station. Both towns take care of the parking areas through their highway departments.”

Body noted that Twin Valley recently put out a request for proposal for sidewalk snow removal, which would be separate from snow removal in the parking lots. “We didn’t get any response, so we’re going to buy a snowblower and have custodial staff take care of it.”

Boyd suggested that, “to make it all equitable, Twin Valley should plan to pay for contracted trash removal at the Whitingham facility in the next budget. “I think we should have the same arrangement in both towns, and I don’t think taxpayers in either town would disagree.”

Board members asked highway commissioner Stan Janovsky if he had any concerns about plowing at the school building, in light of the new parking and driveway configuration at the school. “Just plowing the new maze,” Janovsky said. “If there’s going to be curbing (along the lower parking area) it’s going to be hard to make that turn.”

Boyd said some of the curbing and sidewalks were required by school construction regulations. “The state requires sidewalks where kids have to walk.” But Boyd said he didn’t think curbing would be necessary at the turn into the lower lot.

“We’re just concerned that we’ll have a guy in there all day with a loader,” said selectboard chair Keith Bronson. Boyd said the building committee would make sure project engineers were aware of the concern.

Brown said the bigger issue for taxpayers may be the $120,000 in user fees the town has paid annually. “I think that should be on the table too, and Wilmington is asking the same questions,” Boyd said.

“Is Wilmington aware of the user fee we pay?” asked Brown.

“They do the same thing, although I think they pay more,” Boyd said. “But it’s a good discussion to have. I think we need to look at what’s best for the residents of both towns, and maybe we’ll stay the same and maybe we’ll have some changes. And maybe it goes away. The user fees helped to keep us out of the (Act 68) penalty box.

Boyd warned board members that the building will be under construction during Town Meeting and the annual Craft Fair, both of which are traditionally held in the school gymnasium. Although the new auditorium, located in the current gymnasium space, was slated to be finished by the end of February, Boyd said some adjustment of the schedule was made that may put the completion of that space off for several weeks. Boyd said the craft fair may be smaller this year if it’s in the auditorium, which will have less open space.

“I think we can hold Town Meeting here,” Brown said, referring to the Whitingham Municipal Center.

After an executive session, board members appointed Gig Zboray as zoning administrator, replacing Jack Kincella, who left in October.

The board also appointed Peter Barus to the planning commission, replacing Jane Kincella.
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