New Stockbridge selectman optimistic on future, cautious on finances
STOCKBRIDGE >> In a surprisingly strong turnout for an uncontested local election, Donald Chabon captured 160 votes on Tuesday for a vacant seat on the Select Board.
There were 32 write-ins, and 22 voters did not choose a candidate for the three-member board.
Chabon succeeds Charles Gillett, who chose to retire after five years, but received 14 write-ins anyway. Chabon will be serving with Selectmen Ernest "Chuckie" Cardillo, also the town's fire chief, and Stephen Shatz.
Town Clerk Terri Iemolini, re-elected with 209 votes, said she was "very pleased" by the turnout — 220 out of 1,632 registered voters, or 13.5 percent.
Chabon, also impressed by the number of voters who participated, said a celebration at the Lion's Den night spot, attended by local Democratic Committee members, friends and other townspeople included "a toast to the town."
In an interview on Wednesday, the newly sworn-in selectman declared that while he is "very optimistic" about the town's future, he intends to closely study the community's financial picture.
"We have a good foundation, a lot of interested people, and we've just got to get them together," he said.
Chabon voiced concern about spending on big-ticket projects such as the newly reopened Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives — a $4 million renovation and expansion — as well as the pending Stockbridge Bowl dredging operation, expected to cost $2.7 million. Although both were funded primarily by donations and grants, he pointed out that the town had also contributed.
"The library is a magnificent building, it's a credit to the town, they did a fantastic job, it's beautiful and well-done," Chabon said. "But it was expensive; everything has a cost."
He cautioned that "We want the best of everything but we can't afford it, though the townspeople seem to think we can. I hope they're right, but I'm concerned about spending in general and the library was one of the things."
Chabon expressed support for the motion approved at Monday's annual town meeting to dilute the authority of the next town administrator by removing hiring, firing and contracts from the list of responsibilities. The post is being advertised ahead of Jorja-Ann Marsden's mid-July retirement after 21 years as administrator and 31 years in Stockbridge town government.
"I'm very leery about abdicating the Select Board's authority, responsibility and ability to directly call people to provide services to the town," he said.
"I feel that as far as shared services go, it's great; we need to do it, we will do it and we are doing it," Chabon said. He's anticipating the next meeting of the tri-town Administrative Review Committee on June 21.
The committee, working with officials of the state Department of Revenue, is exploring opportunities to share services among Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge, up to and including a town manager or administrator.
Re-elected candidates on Monday's ballot included Douglas Goudey on the Board of Assessors, 193 votes; Planning Board members Gary Pitney, 185 and Eugene Talbot, 164; and Sewer and Water Commission member Peter Socha, 199.
Newly elected to town positions are James Welch on the Housing Authority, 173 votes; Susanna Rogers on the Parks and Recreation Committee, 186; and Catherine Plakun on the Board of Health, 185.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.
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