West Stockbridge fire chief wants seat on board that fired him

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WEST STOCKBRIDGE This year, West Stockbridge's longtime fire chief was removed from his position and also fined by the state Ethics Commission. Today, claiming all that's behind him, he wants a seat on the Select Board.

Town elections will be held Monday.

Peter Skorput, 62, is seeking a one-year term on the board that removed him as fire chief in March. His opponent is Roger Kavanagh, 74, a retired middle management executive who moved to West Stockbridge four years ago but had lived in the Berkshires before.

The polls will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the town offices at the Village School, 21 State Line Road.

Candidates for 17 other offices, along with a ballot question, will also be considered Monday. The ballot's only other contested race is for a three-year term on the Board of Health.

The ballot question asks voters to consider having the town adopt the state's Community Preservation Act to preserve open space.Skorput received a chance to run for his third term on the Select Board when Doane Perry resigned this year after serving less than two years of his three year term.

A second seat on the three-member board also opened up when Select Board chairman Bernie Fallon decided not to run for another-three year term. But Kathleen Keresey is running for that seat unopposed.

A lifelong resident of West Stockbridge, Skorput ran for re-election to the Select Board last year but lost by 34 votes to Eric Shimelonis, who will be the board's only returning member.

In March, the board fired Skorput, a 36-year member of the fire department, following the department's bungled response to a house fire in early February. Earlier that week, Skorput had been fined $5,000 by the state Ethics Commission for violating conflict of interest laws that included securing pay for relatives and engaging in retaliation towards those who complained about his handling of the department.

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In a telephone interview, Skorput said he's moved on. He said he is running to curb town spending, not settle grudges.

"I don't like the way things are going fiscally in the town," he said. "The rest of that stuff is behind me. It's over and done with. The ethics thing was just a bad judgment call by me a couple of times.

"I don't have an agenda. I'm not out to get anybody," Skorput said. "I just want to get the town on the right path again."

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The town's fiscal 2021 budget, in an economy ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, rose to $5.9 million, an 8.2-percent increase over current spending. The budget's big-ticket item, the town's assessment to the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, rose 5.3 percent, the highest increase among the district's three towns.

"I don't have a problem spending money if it's done the right way," Skorput said. "We've got to straighten our belts here."

Originally from New York City, Kavanagh lived in Chatham, N.Y., as a youngster, graduated from high school in Great Barrington, and has lived in Connecticut and Georgia.

Although he's never held public office, Kavanagh has served on housing authorities in Atlanta and New York. He moved back to the Berkshires from Brooklyn. N.Y., in September 2016, and became a frequent attendee of Select Board meetings.

"I started going to the board meetings in January 2017 as a way of trying to get familiar with the town and what's going on," he said. "I've only missed a few. I've observed several configurations of the board and seen some of the processes they've followed, or that I wished they had followed.

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"At the outset, I thought I could make some significant contributions just by bringing some of the skills that I had with my public and private sector experience to put more order into board meetings, and make the board a little more focused on speaking to the community," he said.

Kavanagh said he has no special causes. "I think that I can contribute and the board could be more responsive and a little more thorough in the way it handles matters," he said.

In the ballot's only other contested race, incumbent Michael Skorput is being challenged by David Finck for a three-year term on the health board.

In the uncontested races, incumbent Eugene Dellea is running for a one-year term as moderator; Michelle Laramee-Jenny is running for a three-year term on the Board of Assessors; incumbents Andrew Krauss and Robert Salerno are each seeking three-year terms on the Finance Committee; and incumbent Dana Bixby is seeking a five-year term on the Planning Board.

In other races, Ryan Beattie is seeking a two-year term on the Planning Board; Andrew Potter and Beth Sack are each seeking one-year terms as library trustees; Mary Korte Kimmond a three-year term on the Cemetery Commission; and Andrew Fudge a three-year term as tree warden.

Incumbents Karl Cooper, Wayne Cooper, Paul Faggioni, and Michael Skorput, along with newcomer Elizabeth DiGrigoli, are seeking three-year terms as constables.

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-281-2755.

Kathleen Keresey, running for an unopposed Select Board seat, had her name misspelled in an earlier version of this story.


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