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Peru OKs $1.17 million for broadband initiative; budgets pass  

An amendment to the zoning bylaws that would limit the size of wind-turbines in town passed by 104 to 49, despite the planning board’s 3-1 recommendation against the article. The new bylaw will effectively prohibit commercial wind turbine development within the town.

Credit:  By Nick Rogers, Special to The Eagle | Berkshire Eagle | 06/08/2015 | www.berkshireeagle.com ~~

PERU >> Voters authorized the town to borrow $1.17 million for the construction and installation of a last-mile fiber network by a margin of 114 to 41 at Peru’s annual town meeting on Saturday night.

The article was moved to the front of the agenda by a motion from the floor, along with two articles on wind turbine zoning bylaws.

WiredWest executive committee members Steve Nelson and Jim Drawe discussed the project with voters.

“The fundamental issue” according to Nelson, who chairs the WiredWest legal committee, “is if we don’t do it, no one else is going to do it.”

The article received the support of the Central Berkshire Regional School District, which stated that the WiredWest initiative would “enhance educational opportunities for students” and make small towns “candidates for internet businesses.”

Several voters expressed concern about the costs of installing the network.

If 40 percent of the households in the towns that comprise the WiredWest coop subscribe to the broadband service, the coop can afford to service the loans that the towns will have take out for construction and installation purposes over the next few years. Currently about 16 percent of Peru residents have pledged to subscribe to broadband service should it become available, according to wiredwest.net.

Laura Marshall, of East Windsor Road, asked if WiredWest would hire people from the town to carry out the installation of the network. Drawe replied that a bid process would determine which company would actually install the fiber and couldn’t speak with certainty about whether or not they would hire locally.

Arguments based on the educational merits of broadband access resonated strongly with voters.

Debbie Cahill told the audience that they were “responsible for the future” of the town and its children, and that it was “selfish to think about whatever money is going out right now.”

Roughly half of the voters left the meeting after the broadband article passed.

An amendment to the zoning bylaws that would limit the size of wind-turbines in town passed by 104 to 49, despite the planning board’s 3-1 recommendation against the article. The new bylaw will effectively prohibit commercial wind turbine development within the town.

Voters strongly opposed a proposal to change the status of town clerk from elected to appointed. According to Selectman Bruce Cullett, the intent of the article was to allow the Select Board to appoint a clerk in the event that nobody ran for the position, as had been the case in past.

The $877,953 budget assessment for Central Berkshire Regional School District passed overwhelmingly, an increase of $18,790 – or 2.2 percent – over the current year.

A $2.1 million municipal budget, up $174,923 from this year, also was approved.

Voters also overwhelmingly supported a non-binding resolution to ban the construction of the Kinder Morgan gas pipeline.

Peggy White of Lafayette Drive reminded voters that although the proposed route of the pipeline cut across only a small piece of the town, the route could change by as much as 50 miles and was currently very close to the Cleveland Brook Reservoir.

[rest of article available at source]

Source:  By Nick Rogers, Special to The Eagle | Berkshire Eagle | 06/08/2015 | www.berkshireeagle.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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