Definitive cemetery bylaws in Tyringham and swift action on an eight-article warrant in Alford highlighted Tuesday’s annual town meeting in both communities.

By a count of 34-27, Tyringham voters supported revisions to plot size and headstone placement in both the old and new cemeteries. Town officials say the changes simply put in writing what has been practiced for years, mainly one headstone for each family plot in order to easily maintain the burial ground.

However, opponents of the revised bylaw felt plot owners should have an option to have multiple headstones, with one voter noting "this isn’t a New Jersey cemetery."

In roughly 75 minutes, voters approved the entire 15-article warrant, including an operating budget of $1,444,000 for fiscal 2015 starting July 1, roughly $12,000 less than the current spending plan that expires June 30.

In addition, voters agreed to use $114,000 in surplus funds known as free cash toward maintaining the property tax rate at $6.58 per $1,000 assessed value for fiscal 2015.

Prior to the meeting, Peter Curtin was honored for his nearly four decades of service to the town as a selectman, member of the Board of Assessors and police chief, a position he retired from late last year. Selectmen Chairman Chris Johnson praised the 77-year-old Curtin for his longevity.

"Not many people can say they served their town for more than half their life," said Johnson.

In Alford, voters needed 20 minutes to approve all agenda items, including a $1.13 million fiscal 2015 spending plan, about $25,000 higher than the municipality’s fiscal 2014 spending plan of $1.11 million.

Town officials attribute the spending hike mostly to a 3 percent salary increase for four town employees, a $2,000 rise in funding slated for snow removal, and a nearly $7,500 jump in the town’s portion of its operating and transportation expenses for the five-town Southern Berkshire Regional School District.

Alford’s SBRSD assessment starting July 1 will be $388,763, compared to $381,230 in the fiscal year ending June 30.

Despite the line item increases, Selectman Charles Ketchen expects the current $4.30 property tax rate to stay about the same for fiscal 2015 when it is officially set later this year.

Alford voters also approved $120,000 for town building renovations and another $80,000 toward the purchase of a new Ford F-550 four wheel drive truck that will replace the 2003 model.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.