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Wind energy, pot tax, school changes on agenda Colrain annual meeting agenda May 8

COLRAIN – Annual Town Meeting voters will decide whether to replace a moratorium with a large-scale wind turbine bylaw, set up a capital fund for the Griswold Memorial Library, levy a marijuana sales tax and agree to the regional school district’s plan to move sixth-grade students to Mohawk, starting in the fall of 2019.

The meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 8, in the Colrain Central School, beginning at 7 p.m.

Of all the Mohawk Trail Regional School District member towns, Colrain has been the most concerned about moving sixth-graders to the middle/high school building because of fears the resulting reduced enrollment at Colrain Central could lead to its closure in future years.

Last year, the Heath Elementary School was closed, as the first step in a plan to make the Mohawk school district more financially sustainable. And moving all Mohawk sixth grades to the Mohawk Regional School is to be the second step, by consolidating small sixth-grade classes into a larger class that shares teachers and resources. Closing Colrain Central is no longer spelled out in Mohawk’s long-range plans, but moving the sixth grade could “enable the potential closure of another elementary school if declining enrollment persists,” says a information brochure about the Mohawk agreement changes.

Throughout the spring, School Committee members have pointed out that rising preschool enrollment at Sanderson and Buckland Shelburne Elementary schools means there is less likelihood of closing Colrain Central and sending its pre-K to Grade 5 students to BSE, the closest school.

The requested town operating budget of $1.6 million represents a 3 percent increase, of about $47,000. Mohawk’s operating and capital budget assessments combined represent a 3.7 percent decrease of $74,245 for Colrain, which is to be billed $1.92 million for the coming year, instead of $1.99 million. The Franklin County Technical School’s assessment for Colrain is $246,726 for the coming school year – a 12.5 percent decrease, partly reflecting an enrollment decline.

Other financial requests include: $11,470 for Franklin Regional Council of Governments services; $87,697 for the town’s share of the Franklin Regional Retirement System; $700 for the town’s share of costs at the Franklin County Regional Dog Control and Adoption Center; $2,000 for restoration/preservation of town records and $17,000 for a financial audit.

The town will be asked to transfer $39,000 from the Police Stabilization Fund to buy a new police cruiser and to establish a stabilization fund for future capital needs and improvements at the Griswold Memorial Library.

Two requests from the town’s “free cash” reserves include: $50,000 for the Post-Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund, established in 2016 to offset future costs of providing post-retirement health and life insurance benefits to current and future retired town employees; and $50,000 to pay of part of the debt incurred for infrastructure damages during the 2011 Tropical Storm Irene.

An article presented by citizen’s petition is a resolution to prevent possible nuclear war by taking several steps, including limiting “the president’s unchecked authority to launch a nuclear attack” and pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed countries to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

Among zoning changes is a seven-page “Large-Scale Wind Energy Bylaw” to provide standards for design, placement, construction, operations, monitoring and removal of large wind-energy facilities that could affect public health and safety and impact the town.

The last article is a proposal for a 3 percent sales tax on any retail sales of marijuana or marijuana products in town.