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Mohawk school repair request fails at Colrain meeting

COLRAIN – The Mohawk Trail Regional School District’s request to borrow nearly $543,000 for school repairs died on the floor of the Colrain Central School gymnasium Tuesday.

Residents at the Colrain town meeting supported the request in a 40-23 vote. But it needed at least a two-thirds vote in each town, and support from all eight member towns, in order to pass.

The $542,778 in repairs would have included floor replacements, heating, ventilation and air condition upgrades, drainage updates, parking lot resurfacing, auditorium lighting equipment upgrades and installation of a second means of egress from the main electrical switchgear room.

Even with the rejected request, the school is not in danger of closing, said school Superintendent Michael Buoniconti after leaving the meeting. But it is in need of repairs in order to last into the future, he said, and the School Committee will likely bring the request forward again next year.

“Things that aren’t taken care of over time will be more expensive over time,” said Buoniconti.

The costs would have been split across the eight member towns and would have been exempt from Proposition 2 1/ 2. Finance committee members told residents that they didn’t support the vote, because costs for the school weren’t sustainable for the town.

The town did approve, in a 47-18 vote, $42,400 in capital repairs for the Colrain Central School. The work includes sidewalk and exterior stair replacement, floor replacement and window caulking.

Residents also narrowly approved, 35-28, the town’s $1.66 million appropriation to the regional school district. The finance committee was not in support of this appropriation, saying that the costs were too high for the town. School Committee members and Buoniconti stressed that they were trying, in multiple ways, to reduce costs and increase revenue in the schools.

They also voted to give the school district $45,962 in annual capital costs.

Wind farm moratorium and solar farm bylaw

During the 21/2 hour town meeting, Colrain residents approved a one-year moratorium on any large-scale wind farms generating more than 35 kilowatts. The Planning Board had asked residents to approve the moratorium to give the board more time to develop a bylaw for such facilities.

Residents also approved bylaws that place new regulations on any large-scale solar farms occupying more than one-tenth of an acre. Any ground-mounted photovoltaic systems up to one acre require a site plan review with the Planning Board and those that are more than an acre will require a special permit.

The proposed bylaw originally set the minimum size of a large-scale solar farm at one-quarter of an acre. But resident James Slowinski said that there was no reason for a noncommercial venture to need more than one-tenth of an acre and his amendment to the bylaw passed in a 34-26 vote.

Residents approved the town’s operating budget of $1,356,109, which represents a 9.5 percent increase over this year’s budget of $1,237,555.

In addition to the allocation to Mohawk Trail Regional School District, the town also voted to give $273,547 to Franklin County Technical School and $28,000 to Smith Vocational and Agricultural School.

The town adopted a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana treatment centers.

It also created a new commercial camping bylaw in case an organization someday wants to establish one in town.

Colrain residents approved $11,985 for central air conditioning for the Griswold Memorial Library. They also voted in favor of $3,000 for smoke- and fire-detection equipment at the library, although residents urged the library to install carbon monoxide detectors as well.

The town approved $150,000 for a new “glider kit” and related equipment, which gives the Highway Department a practically new 10-wheeler truck with a rebuilt engine. Money comes from the town’s Chapter 90 highway funds.

The Highway Department also asked for, and was granted, money transfers to be used to purchase a new dump truck body.

Residents also approved $4,000 for the town to start a Technology Stabilization Fund for the future purchase of technology-related equipment.