Lenox Select Board to evaluate ambitious list of goals

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LENOX — The town's chief administrator has challenged the Select Board to tackle a set of ambitious goals for the benefit of local residents.

Lee-Lenox Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Ketchen has distributed to board members a list of a half-dozen projects as the start of "budget season" approaches. The board will take up the matter at its meeting Wednesday in Town Hall.

In an interview, Ketchen said he had met with individual board members before compiling his list of proposals to see which ones they'd like to pursue.

High on the list is a suggestion that the town hold two annual meetings in order to expedite action on key issues that come up between the current gathering of voters every year on the first Thursday of May.

"It's logical for the town government, comparable to a $28 million a year business, to hold two meetings a year for voters, who act as the legislators for budgets and other matters," Ketchen said.

He suggested the second town meeting be held on the first Thursday in November, the exact midpoint between the traditional annual gatherings. Ketchen hopes the regular scheduling of an additional meeting would encourage a new tradition of twice-a-year attendance.

The strategy, if adopted by the Select Board, would reduce the need for special town meetings called to deal with immediate issues that need a quick resolution. But those meetings are rarely well-attended.

Among other priorities Ketchen suggested:

- Expand downtown parking availability through a plan brought to annual town meeting voters next May.

- Broadband strategy "to ensure the long-term regional competitiveness of Lenox as a destination for businesses and residents."

- Develop a closer relationship between Town Hall and the town library operated by the private Lenox Library Association through an agreement to ensure that the town meets state funding requirements and solidifies operations.

- Prepare a long-term strategy for a multimillion dollar, federally required wastewater treatment plant upgrade ahead of anticipated permitting of the project by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The town seeks to add paying customers and increase revenue as far as capacity allows.

- Reach a final resolution and location for a dog park, which has been under consideration for several years.

- Consider acquisition of additional land between Mountain View, now owned by the Peters Family Trust, and Post Farm for open space, cemetery expansion and general municipal purposes.

Ketchen also listed as a goal "the demonstrated ability to implement shared leadership with the town of Lee in a mutually beneficial arrangement."

Additional potential priorities include a plan to recognize, compensate and retain top-performing town staff, a system to centralize maintenance responsibility for town-owned facilities and properties, a business summit meeting and a community solar energy project.

"Since 2014, our overriding goals as an organization with respect to financial and human resources management have been met," Ketchen told The Eagle. "We continue to maintain these as core values, but I feel a need to clearly define what success will look like on May 4, 2018," the day after the annual town meeting.

"The town's fiscal posture remains very strong," he added, "and therefore the time appears to be right to pursue these and perhaps other ambitious projects that the Selectmen wish to prioritize."

Lenox has a coveted AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor's and anticipates strong reserves of around $3.5 million for the upcoming year. Great Barrington is the only other Berkshire community so designated.

Ketchen asked the Select Board members to review his list of proposals and offer feedback "to get as far as we can before Labor Day so we can hit the ground running."

In response to a query by Selectman Channing Gibson, the board's liaison to the Community Preservation Committee, Ketchen said he'll bring some proposals to the Select Board next Wednesday for town projects that may qualify for Community Preservation Act funding. The deadline for submitting all proposals to the CPC to be considered and voted on for next year's annual town meeting is Sept. 1.

Reach correspondent Clarence Fanto at cfanto@yahoo.com or 413-637-2551.


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