Egremont voters to decide on Select Board race, ballot question on road service

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EGREMONT — Voters need to settle a hotly contested Selectman's race and consider whether taxpayers should pay for winter maintenance private roads during Tuesday's annual town election.

Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the North Egremont Fire Station near Town Hall.

Veteran Selectman and board Chairman Bruce Turner, is expected to face a stiff challenge from Kevin Zurrin, a former Finance Committee member who three years ago says he uncovered mismanagement in the Water Department.

Zurrin's first attempt at a Select Board seat came two years ago, losing by 54 votes to Selectman Charles Flynn. The only other contested race pits James Olmstead again William Wood Jr. for constable to succeed longtime constable Rosemary Beasancon, who is retiring.

The nonbinding question on the ballot asks if the town should plow and sand private roadways that are open to the public.

Turner, who is seeking his fifth three-year term on the board since the early 2000s, said bringing high-speed Internet service to town is a top priority.

"Broadband is going to change the community," he said. "We have a lot of second-homeowners who come up for the weekend who could telecommute on a Monday morning, if they wish."

The election comes nearly a year after the member towns of the Southern Berkshire Regional School District approved their share of the fiscal 2016 budget. Due to a miscalculation, the assessments were incorrect, and the School Committee two weeks ago finally revised the budget with the correct assessments.

The school budget again was a bone of contention at last week's annual town meeting, but Egremont's assessment still garnered a majority approval from those present.

"The 9 percent [in assessment] was still a significant increase, but in the end the town voted for it," Turner said.

Several residents called on the district to find ways to reduce spending without affecting education. Zurrin is cautious if that will happen.

"Time will tell if they will tighten their belt and get better figures," he said.

School spending aside, Zurrin believes the board needs to be more fiscally responsible.

"They seem to have a free hand with the town's money," he said. "I'm a reasonable person with reasonable ideas of how we're going to operate the town."

Turner, who says he's proud of the town being financially well managed, and he understands the need to balance high-quality municipal services with a moderate tax rate.

Proponents of the ballot question believe the town should plow and sand the town's 17 private roads totaling seven miles. They note private doesn't mean exclusive as they are open to the public, just not accepted by the town as they don't meet municipal standards. Supporters are only looking for snow and ice removal, nothing else.

But several who spoke at last week's annual town meeting worried that homeowners along private roads would have to foot the bill for damage town plows may cause to the roadways. They also felt each neighborhood with a private road should determine if they want the municipal snow and ice removal.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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