Lanesborough voters OK study on location for police station

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LANESBOROUGH — Annual town meeting voters have greenlighted a study that could determine the future home of the local police force.

By a near unanimous decision, the gathering Tuesday night at Lanesborough Elementary School agreed to raise an additional $10,000 toward hiring a firm to assess three potential locations to house the Lanesborough Police Department. The town already has $20,000 set aside for the evaluation. The estimated $30,000 review will focus on the current police station at the corner of prospect and North Main streets, town-owned land once targeted for downtown senior housing and the former Vacation Village off Route 7, a mile north of the town hall.

Police Chief Timothy Sorrell and his officers support the study, noting that four years of a piecemeal upgrade of the current station has taken long enough.

Personally, Sorrell wants to relocate his headquarters from a building nearly 200 years old.

"We've been giving tours of the station and people know how bad it is," he told an Eagle reporter after the meeting.

Sorrell added the study could determine none of the sites are viable, but the town needs to plan for the police department's future.

Resident Michael Murphy said the future is somewhere else. "The current police station is unacceptable and needs to go," he said.

In a related matter, voters rejected a proposal to sell the aforementioned North Street property, which Lanesborough bought more than a decade ago for $225,000.

The town meeting voters approved additional special money articles benefiting senior citizens and the fire and highway departments. As for the municipal operating budget of $10.71 million, it passed with one significant change: increasing the Council on Aging director's annual salary from the Finance Committee-recommended $25,209 to the COA request of $29,307. COA officials say the pay is comparable to what other COA directors earn in Berkshire County.

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Despite the added $4,100, the fiscal 2020 spending plan is $280,000 less than the current budget that runs out June 30.

The voters' generosity toward seniors continued as they approved a COA request for $15,000 toward renovating the community room on the lower level of Town Hall. The installation of a dishwasher and energy-efficiency upgrades would benefit the Senior Center located in the community room.

Voters also granted the COA $10,000 toward hiring a firm to identify the administrative structure and funding sources to build out senior housing in Lanesborough.

Additional key special money articles approved:

- $223,000 toward buying a dump truck with sander and snowplow.

- $100,000 for a one-time appropriation to catch up on road repairs.

- $70,377 set aside in the newly created Fire Equipment Stabilization Fund for future equipment purchases.

Town meeting voters passed a citizen-petitioned article asking the Select Board to begin the process of expanding the board from three to five members. To achieve that goal, the town must create a town government charter or seek a special act of the state Legislature. Cheshire went the legislative route to expand its Select Board from three to five members. The entire process took four years with final local approval coming last month.

Meanwhile, Lanesborough voters agreed to reduce the Board of Health from five to three people. The board has been down to three members for some time, unable to keep all five seats filled. A five-member board means at least three must be present for a quorum, which is determined by the size of the board, rather than the actual number of people serving on the panel.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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