Dalton officials urge trial run for 24/7 Cumberland Farms

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DALTON — Town residents may soon have access to convenient gas and food any hour of the day, without having to travel into Pittsfield.

Cumberland Farms is seeking permission to keep its Main Street location open 24/7. It's currently open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.

At Monday's meeting of the Select Board, members were divided on the company's petition.

"I don't understand the rationalization to have this one open [24/7]," said John W. Bartels Jr.

He pointed out that the Cumberland Farms down the road in Pittsfield — only about two miles away from the one in Dalton — is open 24 hours a day.

"It's literally a madhouse in there," said John Boyle of his frequent trips to the Dalton location. "There's obviously a demand for the service they're providing. It could be very positive."

Cumberland Farms, through an outside public relations company, declined to answer Eagle questions about potential job creation because the proposal has not been decided on.

All four present members of the board voted to send a letter to the Zoning Board of Appeals, recommending that the request, if awarded, should be granted on a test basis of six months. The Zoning Board of Appeals makes the final decision.

Select Board member Marc Strout was absent from the meeting.

PROJECT UPDATE

Board members also received updates on in-progress local projects, including the feasibility study to examine renovation or replacement opportunities for Wahconah Regional High School.

The design team for the project will be in place by Jan. 1, 2018, pending a vote by the Massachusetts School Building Authority and members of the building committee.

Over the summer, a six-member subgroup of the building committee picked a Swedish company, Skanska, to lead the feasibility study of the school, paving the way for eventual repair or replacement of the aging building.

The study, approved last April, is expected to cost up to $850,000.

The design team will analyze potential options for the school.

The entire project will take about four to six years, Laurie Casna, superintendent of the Central Berkshire Regional School District, previously told the Eagle.

TASK FORCE DETAILS

The board also heard a presentation from the Berkshire County Education Task Force.

Task force members Cindy Brown, Bill Cameron and Carrie Greene outlined how the group arrived at its recommendation, announced last summer, that Berkshire County form one unified school district to combat declining enrollment and decreased resources in the county schools.

The effort is expected to take about 10 years, and it's up to the towns whether or not they'll participate.

The task force looked at four possible solutions besides a single unified district: doing nothing, modifying superintendents' unions, having a countywide superintendents' union or consolidating into three regional school districts.

Doing nothing wasn't an option — it would lead to stagnation or disaster, Cameron said.

And changing superintendents' unions would not solve the fundamental issues of lack of resources and enrollment.

Three regional school districts would still suffer shrinking enrollment, leaving them in much the same place they are now, Cameron said.

That left one option: a single district.

A single district could allow for broader programming, greater extracurricular options for students, and even the opportunity to partner with local colleges, Brown said.

Bartels asked the presenters how the towns could handle the change to one school district at the administrative level.

The task force's role isn't to propose an administrative model, Cameron said.

It's there to act as a resource for towns that would like to consolidate — "first adopters," Greene said.

"Any collaboration is progress," she said.

Select Board members also accepted two grants.

A grant of $2,5000 from the Katharine L.W. and Winthrop M. Crane, 3D Charitable Foundation will go to the town library.

Another $10,000 from the state Department of Revenue will allow for a review of the town's information technology practices and development of an off-site storage system for data.

The board also voted to have a special meeting on Dec. 18 to examine the town's master plan in-depth.

The plan was designed to guide long-term decision-making on town issues like land use, housing, open space, infrastructure and transportation.

It was developed in 2015 and 2016.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@berkshireeagle.com, at @BE_pleboeuf on Twitter and 413-496-6247.


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