Tuesday, December 16


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Thursday, November 20

BoH Response to Blog Post

Kevin -
 The Egremont Board of Health is discussing upgrading the town's local tobacco regulations which haven't been upgraded since 2002. Please see the BoH article in the current Egremont newsletter for more information on that.
 The article you posted regarding what the Town of Westminster is doing has nothing to do with what is in the discussion stage here in Egremont. Westminster is proposing to ban the sale of tobacco products in their town. Even though we only issue two tobacco permits in town this has never even been considered by the EBoH for discussion, never mind action.
  What the EBoH is considering regulating is the sale of e-cigarettes, which is an inhaled device that contains nicotine. Currently with no local regulation in place a 12 year old could purchase the product. And product manufacturers cleverly flavor e-cigarettes in flavors like bubble gum and root beer with the intent to appeal to the youth market. So what the EBoH is considering is prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes and all other nicotine delivery products to a minor. REPEAT: not a total ban, just a ban to minors similar to the ban to minors for cigarettes.
 The EBoH is also contemplating raising the age to purchase both tobacco products and nicotine delivery products to the age of 21. They are also discussing whether to prohibit smoking on town owned property (French Park, Transfer Station, etc) or having designated smoking areas on those properties. These and other items are in the discussion stage. If the EBoH proceeds they will hold an informational meeting and then a public hearing.
 The board invites you or anyone else to come to a regularly scheduled meeting or to contact me by phone or email with questions or comments. My work email address is: jhaas@egremont-ma.gov. I would very much appreciate it if you would forward this message to your email group. 

Most respectfully,
Juliette Haas
Egremont Board of Health
(413) 528-0182 x 22

My Response

    Thank you for your kind response and I do understand that there is a difference between what the BoH is proposing and this article which is why I prefaced the article with the statement "because of its similarity". I also provided a link to the minutes of the BoH meeting on October 9th 2014 so people could read it for themselves. I did read the article in the town newsletter which is what alerted me to the fact that the BoH was discussing changes in the tobacco regulation.
     I do have to disagree with a couple of inaccurate statements that were made. One is that e-cigs could be sold to a twelve year old. Any products that contain nicotine are banned from sale to anyone under the age of 18 in this state. Also the statement that Tanglewood has entirely banned smoking on the property seemed misleading. Tanglewood does have designated smoking areas which I use whenever I attend an event. I only point this out to suggest that the smoking ban on town property would be more palatable if isolated smoking areas were provided for those who do smoke.
    I respect that non smokers have the right to not be subjected to second hand smoke and I have always respected that right. However, I feel that smokers have rights as well. The right to do what one chooses with their own body is indisputable. However that choice cannot violate another persons rights. For instance any adult has the right to smoke as long as they don't affect another persons right to be smoke free.
    This brings me to another point. Restricting an adults right to purchase nicotine products until they are 21 is a violation of their right. The law is clear that when a person turns 18 they are adults in the eyes of the law. This does not mean they are suddenly endowed with wisdom but they should be free to experience life on their own terms. To set the age to purchase nicotine products to 21 tells a young adult that they don't really have rights. This act also interferes with a store owners right to sell a legal product to a legal adult. This restricts the storeowners ability to make the profit that pays the bills and supports their lifestyle.
    Your desire to protect young adults from the harmful effects of smoking is noble; however the regulation you propose will not have the desired result. This will only chase business out of Egremont into surrounding towns. Not only will this take away cigarette sales but other products that these smokers would have purchased. I don't have a problem with reasonable regulations; but I do have to speak up when I see an act as unreasonable as this would be.
    In regard to passing this message on to my readers you may post this as a comment on the blog. I have lifted all restrictions on the comment section, however I reserve the option of deleting any comments I find objectionable. If anyone is disrespectful toward you or your comments I assure you the comment will be removed. Contrary to what people may think or have been told I do respect honest discussion of ideas however lively they may be.

Wednesday, November 19


The Egremont Board of Health is preparing to issue an edict in regard to the towns tobacco and nicotine dispensing device regulation. Because of its similarity I've reposted an article from NY Times.com.


 Click on the following link to see the Egremont BoH proposed policy.

Firestorm Erupts in Anti-Smoking Massachusetts Town


A hearing on Wednesday with the Westminster Board of Health became so unruly that the board chairwoman could not maintain order; she shut down the hearing 20 minutes after it began. Credit Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times

WESTMINSTER, Mass. — The fury — and make no mistake, it is white-hot fury — went way beyond the ordinary wrath of offended citizenry. A plan here to ban the sale of tobacco has ignited a call to arms.

The outrage is aimed at a proposal by the local Board of Health that could make Westminster the first town in the country where no one could buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco.

The uproar stems not from a desire by people here to smoke — only 17 percent do (a smidge higher than the statewide average). Many say they have never touched tobacco and find the habit disgusting. Rather, they perceive the ban as a frontal assault on their individual liberties. And they say it would cripple the eight retailers in town who sell tobacco products.

The ban is the major topic at Vincent’s Country Store, where a petition against it sits on the front counter and attracts more signatures every day; at last count, 1,200 people had signed, in a town of 7,400.

As shoppers come and go, they feed one another’s fury.

"The issue for me is freedom. Whether you are a smoker or not, you have a right to go and buy tobacco products in Westminster; it is a legal product," said Keith Harding, who carried this sign to one of Westminster's main intersections. Credit Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times

"They’re just taking away everyday freedoms, little by little," said Nate Johnson, 32, an egg farmer who also works in an auto body shop, as he stood outside the store last week. "This isn’t about tobacco, it’s about control," he said.

"It’s un-American," put in Rick Sparrow, 48, a house painter.

As Wayne and Deborah Hancock grabbed a shopping cart, they joined in. All quickly agreed that the next freedoms at risk would be guns and religion, prompting Mrs. Hancock, 52, a homemaker, to say that she was afraid to wear her cross.

"I’m thinking, ‘Am I going to be beheaded?’ " she said, not entirely joking.

Nearly 500 people packed a hearing at a local elementary school on Wednesday night held by the three members of the Board of Health. Passions ran high, and the hearing became so unruly that the board chairwoman could not maintain order; she shut down the hearing 20 minutes after it began.

The crowd started singing "God Bless America" in protest as the board members left under police protection. Angry residents circulated petitions demanding a recall election for the board members.

Few can fathom how Westminster became the latest setting for the nation’s decades-old tobacco wars. The pre-Revolutionary settlement emerged as a stagecoach stop in the late 1700s between Boston, 50 miles away, and points west. It remains largely rural and votes heavily Republican. There is no industry here, not even a mall.

Andrea Crete, center, was escorted from the public hearing afterward. Credit Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times

Opponents of the ban blame "outside groups" that want to make the town a test case, conjecturing that because it is so small, no one would care.

In fact, the Board of Health has been discussing the ban since the spring. But no one noticed until the board notified merchants last month that they could lose their permits to sell tobacco. David B. Sutton, a spokesman for Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, the nation’s biggest tobacco company, said the company was monitoring the situation but had not been involved or stoked the rebellion.

Tobacco accounts for only a fraction of total revenue at the stores here that sell it. But people who buy cigarettes and cigars also buy other things, and studies say that losing those customers can cost stores a third of their revenue.

"The name of the game is one-stop shopping," said Joe Serio, the owner and pharmacist at the brown-shingled Westminster Pharmacy, where tobacco sales are 2 percent of revenues, and where wine and beer are stocked next to the cramped aisles of Band-Aids and antacids.

Over the years, Massachusetts has banned smoking in workplaces, as well as in restaurants and bars. And most of the state’s 351 cities and towns have enacted their own restrictions. For example, 105 towns have banned tobacco sales in health care institutions, including pharmacies; 34 have raised the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21 from 18; eight have banned the sale of flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes.

But Westminster would be the first in the state and nation with a full-blown ban on selling all tobacco and nicotine products. The idea originated with the Board of Health, which says it has a moral obligation to try to stop young people from smoking. The board found it hard to keep up with all the new products, like bubblegum-flavored cigars and strawberry-margarita-flavored tobacco, many of them aimed at hooking young people.

"We have a whack-a-mole-effect," Joan Hamlett, the town’s tobacco control agent, said at the hearing Wednesday night before it was cut short. "Every 18 months since 1994, this Westminster Board of Health has been looking at different regulations because every time we work together to find a way to reduce youth access to tobacco, the tobacco industry comes out with a new product that we have to look at and address and figure out how to regulate."

Brian Vincent, left, was concerned a tobacco ban would hurt his business. Credit Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times Continue reading the main story

Andrea Crete, chairwoman of the Board of Health, quoting a report from the surgeon general, said that youth who shop at least twice a week in stores that sell tobacco are 64 percent more likely to start smoking than those who do not.

"The Board of Health permitting these establishments to sell these dangerous products that, when used as directed, kill 50 percent of its users, ethically goes against our public health mission," Ms. Crete said.

The crowd listened, but once the hearing was opened for public comment, people began to hoot and holler.

"You people make me sick," one man growled at the board as the audience cheered.

Wayne R. Walker, a town selectman, said that the selectmen had voted unanimously to oppose the ban. "I detest smoking and tobacco in all its forms," he told the health board, but such a "unilateral and radical approach" as banning all sales would "create a significant economic hardship."

A resident named Kevin West said that smoking was "one of the most disgusting habits anybody could possibly do," but added: "I find this proposal to be even more of a disgusting thing." The shouts after his statement prompted Ms. Crete, who had issued several warnings, to declare the hearing over.

She said that people could submit their views in writing until Dec. 1. The board, which has final say on the ban, will schedule another meeting and vote on the proposal, but she did not know when.

As angry citizens milled about after the aborted hearing, Brian Vincent, who owns Vincent’s Country Store, said he was disappointed he did not have a chance to tell the board that none of the merchants in town sell the kind of cheap, sweet tobacco products that the board is worried about. And none have been found in the last two years with underage sales violations.

Among the hundreds of protesters at the hearing, at least two people — doctors — supported the ban. Dr. Corey Saltin and Dr. Payam Aghassi, lung specialists who have a private practice nearby, said that they understood concerns about free choice but that people who are subjected to secondhand smoke have rights, too.

"This ban is going to happen somewhere, sometime," Dr. Saltin predicted. "But probably not in Westminster."

Friday, November 14


            Well the people of Egremont made a very important decision on November 4th. We said that we are going to take back control of our town. We are not going to leave our town’s affairs to be decided by a small group of people with their own agenda. Town government works best when more people participate. This can only happen when a majority of the town’s people get together and decide what is best for the town as a whole. They do this at regular elections and when they meet together as fellow legislators at a town meeting to discuss the issues that affect the town and vote on those issues. Then the town officials are directed to implement these mandates.

There are many who say the CPA was a very divisive issue and it was; but then every issue is divisive or it’s not an issue. However, we can’t use divisiveness as a reason to not talk about controversial issues. Rather we must discuss these issues with mutual respect, understanding that we are divided on the issue. Personally I think this brought more people together than it divided; otherwise this high of a turnout would have been impossible. People discussed the issue amongst one another and decided not to adopt the CPA.

To the surprise of many 632 of the 934 registered voters came out to cast their vote in regard to the CPA and other state issues. That’s almost 70 % of all registered voters. 52% of these voters rejected the CPA while passing many of the state initiatives and overwhelmingly electing a democratic ticket. So don’t think the CPA failed because of a few outspoken opponents. It failed because a majority of voters felt it wasn’t for this town.  The pro CPA people didn’t expect this issue would bring out as many as it did and no one expected nearly 70% of the registered voters to show up at the polls; but they did. In fact one of our oldest and most respected citizens said that in his entire lifetime he had never seen such a turnout.

 We have a lot of people to thank for such a large turnout and the defeat of the CPA tax. I would like to thank the people who came out to vote, those who allowed signs to be posted in their yard, many who called and asked people to spread the word and last but not least those who financially supported this cause. I didn’t even have to ask people to volunteer; several people came to me and asked if they could call people to get out the vote. Others asked me for signs to pass out to their neighbors, friends and family. Most people simply discussed the CPA issue with everyone they knew and common sense told them to come out against it. We have everyone to thank and I thank you all.

This turnout was no accident either, it was a town wide effort of many people from every area of our town getting together and taking their rightful place in our town’s governance. I’m not one to say I told you so but I told you so. I said that we the people have the power to stop the CPA and we did. My only hope is that this is the beginning of a new era where the people start taking an interest in how their town is run. I hope this is a foresight of a well attended town meeting whereby the people give a clear dictate to our elected officials.  Town officials will do what they were elected to do or what they are allowed to get away with; we have to remind them that they were put in office to exercise the will of the people as expressed at the town meeting. They each have their voice as a citizen but their job as selectmen is to follow the directive of the people.

Sunday, November 2


            We the people of Egremont have a very important decision to make this November 4th. Are we going to allow ourselves to be taxed into oblivion for every little thing that some special interest group wants or will we make a stand against this blatant grab for our hard earned money? It seems that the more we give the more they want to take. It’s an endless cycle. Government can’t make money they can only take it from the people who earn it. I understand the need for taxation. Taxes are necessary for common necessities but not for luxuries.
            A neighboring town passed a new property tax under the guise of community preservation. How does taking money from people who work several jobs just to make ends meet preserve a community? It doesn’t! This does more to destroy a community than preserve it. The more money taken from people who can’t afford to pay the less they are able to spend on preserving their own property. Then property values go down thus destroying the community. This so a small group of people can fund a few “worthy” projects. Let’s look at a couple of these so called “worthy” projects that are being considered for funding with these monies.
Someone purchased an old building and spent several million dollars developing it. This property is now going to be used for their business.  The business owners are asking that 150 thousand dollars from this preservation fund be given to them for “historical restoration”. Ironically this building was never planned to be used as a private business. So much for historicity.
Another “worthy” project being considered is a large property that had been vacant and overgrown for decades. Someone purchased this property for a very low price and has plans to turn it into a profitable multi use business. The owners are asking for about a half million dollars from this fund for approved preservation purposes.
Do these people really need the money? Of course not; if they can afford to put several million into purchasing and developing these properties then they certainly don’t need our money. They’re asking for the money because it’s free to them and it is there for the taking. The question is, who are they taking the money from? This is taxing the poor to fund the rich.
There is a small group of people in Egremont who have their own special agenda. They see other towns getting a lot of money under the pretext of community preservation. They see a big pot of money and they want a piece of it. This agenda is not in the best interest of our town as a whole; it benefits a few at the expense of many. These people are trying to advance their agenda at the expense of the entire town and we the people will have to pay for it if we allow them to get away with it.  
Now I have a reputation for being a bit outspoken and I am. But when you look at my commentary I simply say aloud what people are thinking but won’t say. Now I hear voices of dissent coming from many people who disagree with the CPA but feel powerless to do anything about it. They feel that the election process is stacked against them and there’s nothing they can do about it. I can only say that we the people have the power to stop this. But we not only have to get ourselves out to vote; we need to get our friends and neighbors out to the polls. WE THE PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER. We are a true democracy where every vote is equal and no vote is more equal than any other. Please come out and vote no for the CPA because the only vote that doesn’t count is the vote that isn’t cast.

Friday, October 31

The Consummate Cynic

          Call me a consummate cynic and you’d probably be right; but in my own defense, my cynicism has a hard time keeping up with reality. I don’t trust our government to do things right or in the best interest of the people. Somehow when the government gets involved the cost always increases in direct correlation with a decrease in value of service.
If you look at the little red voter information book that the state printed up and distributed at your expense you will see what I mean. Study it carefully and read between the lines and tell me if you agree. I’ll give you my cynical view of the ballot questions we must vote on in the upcoming election but remember this is only my viewpoint; you have to make up your own mind. http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele14/pip14idx.htm

Question1 THE GAS TAX INDEXING (GTI): Those who support eliminating GTI want you to think that they want to make the legislators vote on a gas tax increase so it makes them more accountable to the people. REALLY? When has a legislator ever worried about passing or increasing our taxes? What they don’t tell you is that the GTI being attached to the consumer price index actually limits the gas tax increases to inflation. What they also don't tell you is that if the CPi goes down the tax may be reduced to no less than 21 1/2 cents per gallon. this is why our gas tax has only risen about 3 cents in 20 years. This takes the ability to increase your gas tax out of the hands of the politicians. If you vote to eliminate gas tax indexing you actually free the politicians to increase your gas tax at will. What do you think these politicians will do if they have the ability to increase the gas tax as high as they want with a simple vote? I think we need to not only limit the gas tax but limit the politicians ability to increase taxes at their whim. Therefore I will VOTE NO TO QUESTION 1.

Question 2 THE BEVERAGE CONTAINER LAW: Those in favor of this law want you to think that this is about the environment. They say it will keep the parks and playgrounds clean. Maybe I’m confused but aren’t there laws against littering? Most people don’t litter just out of principle. Others obey the law rather than having to pay a fine. If this law were truly about littering then it punishes law abiding citizens for the few people who don’t have enough respect for their community to keep it clean. If it were about littering we would enforce the littering laws a little more aggressively; perhaps even increase the fine for littering. No, this law is about collecting more tax revenue. They said it in the information handout. The state collects over 30 million dollars in unclaimed deposits. Now they want to tax the water bottles under the guise of environmental protection because they see another endless revenue stream. I’ll VOTE NO ON QUESTION 2 as well.

Question 3 EXPANDING PROHIBITIONS ON GAMING: Any time I hear the word prohibition I think of the 18th amendment to the constitution. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Personally I don’t gamble; I don’t like risking my money with such a small chance of maybe winning more. However, I do respect another person’s right to do whatever they want with their own money. If this were about the carnage that gambling addiction can cause to an individual or family then it would be a different story. But then if the government is so concerned about this then we would eliminate the state lottery and any other state or charitable gambling as well. Personally I think the state wants to prohibit gaming because they can’t pilfer enough revenue from it. They point to the dwindling casino industry as a reason to stop gaming but if someone wants to spend millions of dollars to build and operate a casino then let them. It creates a lot of temporary jobs as well as many permanent jobs. It pumps a lot of money into the local economies of communities who are open to gaming. I think I’ll VOTE NO ON QUESTION 3.

Question 4 EARNED SICK TIME FOR EMPLOYEES: You can’t earn time to be sick. That’s like saying that I’m planning to get sick because I’ve earned it. Although many employees who do receive paid sick time use it like that. They take a sick day even though they’re not really sick. Others use their paid sick days as extra income or vacation days. People do get sick and that’s a part of life. Some get sick because they don’t take care of themselves and others get sick because they’re victims of chance. The question is, do we want to force every employer who has over 10 employees to pay every one of their employees a full weeks pay for not working? Imagine how much the cost of their goods will go up for the consumer. Many employers have a paid sick day policy but there are many companies that just can’t afford it. It may price their goods out of the market. This law may cause some companies to downsize to under 10 employees. Imagine being laid off for this reason. While the idea of forcing employers to pay sick employees to not work seems noble, the reality will be devastating for many. I guess I have to VOTE NO ON QUESTION 4 too.

Question 5  THE CPA TAX: I guess you already know I’m going to VOTE NO ON QUESTION 5.

Wednesday, October 22



As you may know I am NOT a supporter of the Community Preservation Act, (CPA). The following article copied from PPJgazette is a good example of why I am not a CPA fan and why we should do everything in our power to defeat this in November.

I think it's absurd that the people would tax their friends and neighbors to allow land to be purchased by a so called non profit under these terms and conditions.

Conservation Easements (CEs)*:Read the fine print before you sign
December 18, 2010

Marti Oakley corruption, Government agricultural property, conservation easements, GAO, land agents, land trusts, private land, Property, property easements, Trust for Public Lands 5 Comments

http://ppjg.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/ppjg-4810.jpghttp://ppjg.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/ppjg-4810.jpgby W.R. McAfee, Sr. (c)copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved


"A normal easement by a landowner usually grants a right to someone to do something on the landowner’s property; but a conservation easement gives away the landowner’s rights to do something on his or her own property.
Land trusts and environmental groups regularly use conservation easements to take control of private property."

Read the fine print before you sign
http://ppjg.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/mapa.jpg&http://ppjg.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/mapa.jpgA basic Constitutional tenet of private property ownership in America is the landowner’s right to determine the use and disposition of his or her land. This ownership gives the property owner the right to occupy, use, lease, sell, develop, and deny public access to his or her land.

Today, landowners can lose these rights simply by signing a ‘standard’ or ‘model’ conservation easement (CE) offered by ‘nonprofit-environmental-friendly’ land trusts, NGO environmental organizations, or government agencies unless the easement has been worded to protect the landowner’s rights.

The growing number of land trusts
In the early 1950s, there were some 50 land trusts in the U.S. Today, there are more than 1,700. Among the largest are the:

Nature Conservancy (TNC),
American Farmland Trust (AFT),
Conservation Fund, and
Trust for Public Land.

Land trusts exist to remove private property from production
They do this by acquiring ranch, farm, forest, or other private land either through donation, purchase, or by acquiring CEs to property as well as water. They act as unofficial arms of government agenciesthird party intermediaries or ‘land agents’and routinely flip (sell) donated as well as purchased land and CEs to these government agencies. When they do, they’re paid with tax dollars which, in turn, are used to purchase more private property.

In 1994, the Government Accounting Office reported approximately 61 percent of the Trust for Public Land’s operating revenue was gained from the sale of donated land.

In 2001, the U.S. Forest Service and TNC signed a five-year ‘memorandum of understanding’ to ‘protect the land’ from things like ‘invasive species’ which, according to some eastern congressmen, includes cattle that graze federal land even though their owners pay the government a per unit (head) fee to graze it.

That same year, government officials at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, made available to the TNC several million dollars to acquire water rights from private property owners around the base through the use of conservation easements.
Primary recipients of land trust acquisitions are the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Government already owns almost half the land in America.

Why land trusts are used to acquire land for the government
Government agencies are prohibited by the Constitution from buying land within a state unless the sale is approved by that state’s legislaturea pesky, time-consuming process that usually has to withstand legislative scrutiny and public debate as the Founders intended. Article I, §8, 01.07 of the Constitution states that:

[Congress is authorized] "…To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of Particular States (emphasis added), and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be (emphasis added), for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful Buildings…"

Once fed agencies gain control of private property, they have difficulty maintaining it. The reason being the money to purchase the land comes to them unearned in the form of tax dollars. In April 2002, the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General estimated the agency had an $8-11 billion dollar maintenance backlog affecting land and facilities it already owned.

Lester Thurow gave a good explanation why this happens in 1986 when he wrote:

"… government ownership of production fails because it cannot answer the question: Who should stay up all night with a sick cow?

"In America, it’s the owner. In a socialist country, the answer isn’t clear and is oftenno one."

Land trusts operate with few restrictions
Land trusts are under few restrictions when it comes to landowner transactions. They:

Buy targeted land (a ranch, farm, or private property location) for federal agencies when it becomes available; then hold the land until the agency that wants it has the tax dollars to buy it.
Provide what appears to sellers an alternative to having to deal directly with government agencies.
Are not required to buy a real estate license or provide full disclosure of their transactions.
Can be less than forthcoming about their agenda when signing up ‘willing sellers’; often conducting their ‘real estate transactions’ in a manner that best suits their causes and goals.
Are generally accountable only to their boards.
Mostly are immune from civil and criminal litigation due to hold harmless clauses in their ‘standard’ or ‘model’ CE agreements.

Congress won’t check these land trusts.

Conservation Easements take private property rights away from landowners
A normal easement by a landowner usually grants a right to someone to do something on the landowner’s property; but a conservation easement gives away the landowner’s rights to do something on his or her own property.

Land trusts and environmental groups regularly use conservation easements to take control of private property.

Read the fine print before you sign a CE
If a landowner is seeking a CE to reduce taxes on a part of his or her property, then he or she must make sure the easement agreement meets the required IRS codes.

To meet IRS requirements for a tax deduction, the CE must include the following:

Be granted in perpetuity (forever) to a government agency or ‘nonprofit’ land trust or organization,
Prohibit all surface mining on the easement, including oil and gas exploration, and
Allow public access onto the easement if the leaseholderthe party with whom the landowner signs the easement agreementso specifies.

Beware the ‘standard’ or ‘model’ CE
‘Standard’ or ‘model’ CEs offered by government agencies, land trusts, and environmental organizations to landowners as a means to reduce taxes can later lead to problems if landowners sign the agreement without fully understanding its contents. For example:

Their children and their heirs are bound forever by what’s written into the CE.
They can’t build, drill, or put a road on the CE without the leaseholder’s permission.
They can’t lease or sell the CE to another party.
They can’t develop the CE.
They’re still responsible for taxes on the CE.
They’re still responsible for the upkeep, maintenance, improvement, and financial support for the CE.

Leaseholders can enforce CE requirements
Many landowners don’t realize the recipient of their CEtheir leaseholderbecomes the fulltime landlord and dominant partner over their easement land after a ‘standard’ or ‘model’ CE is signed. Plus, the leaseholder can enforce the requirements of the CE on the landowner and has the authority to:

Review and approve the landowner’s activities on the CE,
Monitor the landowner’s ongoing use of the CE and visit the property any time to ensure all CE restrictions are being met, and
Legally enforce the CE’s restrictions on the landowner if the leaseholder feels they aren’t being met.

CEs affect the value of private land

The value of CE landother than that realized through a reduced tax rate on the CE propertydrops dramatically once the CE is signed.
It becomes difficultif not impossibleto borrow against CE land because avenues for foreclosure are extremely limited for the lender if there’s a default on the loan.
Title insurance on CE land becomes difficult to obtain.
Developers are hesitant to buy land attached or adjacent to a CE

A landowner’s CE can be conveyed

The easement holderthe party or organization with whom a ‘standard’ or ‘model’ CE is signedcan convey a landowner’s easement to a third party without the landowner’s permission.
The landowner has no control over the boards that govern either the actions of his or her easement holder, or the third party group to whom the CE is conveyed by the assignee.

Vague terms in a CE can be costly
Lease holder boards can and often do interpret vague, general terms and wording in ‘standard’ or ‘model’ CE agreements in ways that help their (environmental) organizations meet goals and agendas; thus putting the landowner at the mercy of the officials who govern his or her CE.

An example of a vague, general term is the phrase "…no use inconsistent with the conservation purpose of this easement…"
This harmless-sounding statement purposely leaves the door open for leaseholder boards to change the interpretation of what’s allowable on a landowner’s CE, and can put his or her heirs in court with the leaseholder.

Litigation can be expensive
Litigation resulting from ‘standard’ or ‘model’ CEs can be costly for landowners in face-offs with organizations like the Trust for Public Land or TNC who stay flush with tax dollars from:

Land sold to government agencies,
Tax deductible donations from multi-national and Fortune 500 corporations, and
Donations from wealthy individuals and endowed charitable trusts friendly to environmentalists.

Extensive litigation usually follows, but if the CE wasn’t worded to protect the landowner to begin withand it has been signedthen he or she usually is out of luck.
Other situations can arise after a ‘standard’ or ‘model’ CE is signed.

For example, a state highway department may want to condemn a portion of the CE for a new road right-of-way. When they do, they normally pay the lower value of the land that resulted after the CE was signed.

Then, once the road is in, the landowner cannotunless it’s written into his or her CEput in a business, franchise, or gas station alongside the new road because the standard easement rules will still apply to the remaining land.

Advice for landowners considering CEs

Get good, solid legal advice from an experienced real estate transaction lawyer.
Draft the CE in specific, limited terms that will protect your rights.
List the terms and length of the easement.
Draft the easement so that you are the dominant estate partner in the agreement.
Write into your CE a no assignment provision. In other words, the organization with which you’re signing the CE must have your permission before they assign your easement to a third party.
Strike any hold harmless language or clauses in the CE that the organization wanting the CE seeks. For example, The Nature Conservancy and other land trusts often want you to indemnify them in the CE with language or clauses.

Get good accounting advice as well.
If a landowner feels it is in his or her best interest to sign land over to an organization, then the landowner should:

Get good accounting advice and make sure the CE meets the required IRS codes and regulations for a tax deduction before the agreement is signed. The landownernot the recipient of the CEis responsible for this.
Pick a good organization with whom to sign a CE. Environmental groups and land trusts are not landowner friendly.

There are other ways to reduce your property and estate taxes. Find a good, experienced, estate tax attorney, sit down with him or her, and explore your alternatives.

Finally, a landowner needs to look at two layers within his or her CE.

Will your CE partner accept your terms for the easement?
Will the IRS accept your CE and allow you the deductions if reduced taxes on your property is one of your goals?

If the answer to either of these questions is no, then a landowner needs to re-examine the CE he or she is about to sign.

* Information compiled from notes taken at a 2004 presentation on Conservation Easements by attorney Paul M. Terrill, III, of Hazen & Terrill, P.C., Austin, Texas, at the Stewards of the Range annual conference and meeting, Reno, Nevada, and from GAO reports.

Tuesday, June 17


    Although I couldn't be at the BoS meeting last night I did hear from Mr. W. that the subject of the insurance coverage for the Bucknell case came up. I guess the BoS is in full damage control mode after the latest Berkshire Record Article. For your convenience I have attached a copy of the letter that Mr. Spaulding referred to in his article for the record. This letter is a matter of public record and is available at the town hall although I received a copy attached to an email dated today.  If you read the 5th paragraph you will see that the town will not receive one thin dime of coverage for any issues raised in the complaint. I have also attached a copy of the complaint so you can determine for yourself the issues that will not be covered. I know the BoS claimed to have a letter dated 04/04/2014 that supposedly contradicts this latest letter and I haven't seen the letter but it is pretty clear that the town is not covered. Perhaps the BoS is creating a plausible explanation as to why they misled the people at the town meeting. I would challenge the BoS to publish the April 4th letter so we all may see the truth of the claim; or lack thereof.

The letter and complaint referred to above was attached to the email sent to those on my email list.

To receive an email with copies of the letter and complaint attached send your request to KevinZurrin@aol.com . If you wish to be included in future mailings please ask to be added to the email list.

Saturday, June 14

Sarah Schneider's thoughts

     Since I changed the comment policy comments have to be filtered. Sarah asked me to post this in the comment section of the previous post. After reading her comments I asked her if I may post it as an article. Sarah's thoughts express the viewpoint of many people who for whatever reason have tuned out of town politics. In light of recent events I think many of these people are starting to wake up and get involved. These are some of Sarah's thoughts; which according to her are for the most part facts.
     Stanley Farnum is a well known and knowledgeable man! Everything he says in the articles he wrote were right on the money! There are too many things in this town that the voters are just throwing away their rights on and letting things pass that shouldn't even be put out there let alone passed to raise our taxes!
     The water department was owned for as long as I can remember and maintained as well by Robert Parrish! When his health was failing he sold it to a man I can't recall his name but he knew before he sold it to the town it was failing and needed a great deal of repair! Well who steps in the "Mighty Select People"? They twisted and turned and got the room packed with the yes of course we need to take it over, not having a clue what was about to happen to their tax dollars!
     Egremont's water is suppose to be the best water I guess ever on this earth! Well if that is the case then it should be as clean and pure from the beginning to the end of the line! Well it's not and so many are getting fooled by this! There is less than half of Egremont's population on town water while the rest of us have our own wells! Tell me why I should pay for my water twice when I only get it once?
     I know, it's our civic duty to take care of our neighbors! BULL! If something happened to my well do you think the town would vote to drill me a new one? Who are you kidding? Look where the water department is now! There are people in this town getting it free and others not even hooked to a meter! All the blame was put on one person and sorry that is not how it works! Enough on the water it got voted down and hopefully the select-board won't be stupid enough to ever try slipping it in anywhere again! Enough is enough!
     The same goes with the schools!! Charlie Flynn also said at our doorstep that he was going to see that the extra schools be closed! Considering if anyone has ever looked into the fact that when the NEW Mt Everett was built all outlying schools were to be closed that was part of the vote! Check it out don't just let the select-board suck you into lie after lie! The only school that did close was Alford! As I recall the North Egremont school had already been sold though South Egremont remained oh yes and Sheffield Center closed! Why would any tax payer want to put so much of their hard earned money into repairing these old decrepit buildings? Onward and upward!
     My husband and I were interviewed recently by a very nice young man from the record! He didn't mix any words at all! He told the story the same as if we had written it ourselves! Of course Charlie Flynn isn't going to agree and he and whom ever may think we were set up! Well they are wrong on both accounts!
      People may think we were wrong by opening our mouths but sorry the truth is the truth and so help me God we told the truth! We are so sick of the lies being told in this town from select board members to police officers! Yes you heard me right! I could tell you a few incidents but it doesn't matter because my saying is , it always comes back to bite you right in the a_ _!! In fact I was at a meeting awhile back to let the select board know of some lies and instead got more told to me! Again a subject for another time!
     Now on to this CPA! If anyone thinks this is the best thing for our town, I suggest you look into it a little closer! You may NEVER see any of your money back in this town and certainly if did it wouldn't even come close to what you will be paying in your taxes! All I can say is I hope come November that everyone who has questioned if it is right or wrong to do sway more to the wrong than the right because us as a whole Town of Egremont will once again take a screwing if you vote yes! Please consider doing research certainly there were a select few at the Town Meeting who did but of course because maybe they can afford to give money away to other towns! Well I can't and I'm not afraid to admit that every penny I have goes to better my husband and I, not to support other towns projects!
     After what they want for these schools with a handful of kids in them and most not even from this five town district to the water department that you may not even be on the system to now this CPA and upping our taxes to better other communities and leaving ours to deteriorate! This is only the beginning on the CPA. There will be much more out there before November vote! So research people and educate yourself! It is far from being a clean cut addition to our Town and taxes as we were really led to believe!
     Ok well can't end without making a comment on one very BIG lie that appeared in the record this week! We all know at least the ones in attendance, that our fine select board said they wanted to only vote the $5000 in for the Bucknell law suit because the insurance the town has already said they were covering it! Wrong again!! Can't understand why our select-board as smart as they think they are can't seem to do their homework correctly! We may as well have three 4 year olds running the town of Egremont!
     I am so totally disgusted with the management of this town as I said before in ALL departments! Everyone needs to suck it up and stop spending money, lying about everything and anything, doing half ass work, and making the tax payers look like the bad guys because they have the nerve to question why things are the way they are!!!!! I hope this town starts stepping up to the plate and start taking our town back!! BIG changes need to take place and I'm sorry to say that unless we get some fresh faces in control it is never going to happen!! Think people!! Do we want to take our town back or do we want to let it go to hell??
Sarah T. Schneider

Sunday, June 8

déjà vu all over again

    We all remember the big to do about the town spending over 2 million to put in a waste water treatment plant for the 20 properties along the river. Fortunately the people didn't fall for the pitch; they rose up and defeated it at a well attended town meeting. We also remember the the water company fiasco where we were promised it wouldn't cost the taxpayers one thin dime. Unfortunately we did fall for this pitch and we're still suffering the consequences for this choice. Well folks it looks like it's déjà vu all over again.

     This CPA tax is another one of these harebrained "progressive" schemes that needs to be defeated at the ballot box. Since this is another well intentioned but misguided attempt to tell the people the best way to spend their hard earned money, because obviously the government is the only one who knows how to spend your money, I'll use the wise words of one of the pillars of our community. A man who has been here for nearly a century. A true native who has seen many of these schemes come and go and has witnessed the cost to the town when we fell for a slick sales pitch. When I asked Stan what he thought of the CPA tax he gave me these two letters These are the sagacious words I found in his letter's to the editor from over a decade ago appropriately titled A 'Waste' of time and Egremont's Water Fiasco. These are Stan's words of wisdom, lets learn from them.

Saturday, May 31


In light of this new information about Charlie's campaign promise I have to remind people what has happened over the last year. Charlie has been on several vendettas against certain people and it seems he never cared what or who he destroyed in the process, least of all our town. Because these actions went unchecked the other selectmen are just as culpable and unless they distance themselves they’ll likely go down with his ship. The wake of absolute destruction left in the path of Charlie’s wrath can only compare with the likes of hurricane Irene.
Let’s look at the three major rampages Charlie went on. First it was against a finance committee member, namely me, who spoke out against the water company debacle. Ironically Charlie said the reason he went after me was that I opened the town up to multiple lawsuits. The truth is at most I only opened myself up to a law suit. In the end I was right; there were tens perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars unaccounted for. We all know where the discrepancy was.
Then he went after the chief of police. Granted many people disliked the chief, including Don and Sarah Schneider, who were quoted in the Berkshire Record article, but until Charlie put his crosshairs on Bucknell she had a fairly clean jacket. The paper trail showed few if any complaints. Even the Pomeroy Report showed that there were no actionable offences. This was emphatically stated by Mary Brazie at a BoS meeting when a citizen asked if any charges would be filed against Bucknell. Mary said that the Town Counsel, Attorney General and District Attorney all reviewed the report and found nothing actionable and they said that further investigation would not likely uncover anything actionable.
Finally we have Officer Pilone whose career was bruised pretty badly over this incident.  Personally I feel bad for the guy; he trusted Charlie and got shafted in the process. A couple of weeks before Pilone was fired Charlie had nothing but praise and adulation for him. What a difference a day makes? With this new evidence coming to light I wouldn't be surprised if Officer Pilone reconsidered suing the town. At the very least he will be deposed by Bucknell's attorneys and who knows what he will say when asked about his personal knowledge of this case. Obviously he has no reason to hold back.
One thing all of these cases have in common is that each of them opened our town to yet another lawsuit. The former chief of police is suing for an amount that will be determined at trial, Officer Pilone has a couple years to decide if he wants to sue and I'll probably never file suit over my unjustified removal from the finance committee.
In July of last year I wrote a piece about Officer Pilone called no more Mr. nice guy. When I said it was mostly conjecture I wasn't being totally truthful; most of the statements were based on an actual phone conversation with Jeremy. I agreed that I wouldn't quote him at the time because he was in negotiations with the town to settle the wrongful dismissal issue. With the surfacing of this new evidence this scenario as described by Officer Pilone seems very likely.  The following is taken from that post.
Speaking of Officer Pilone I’m going to muse about what I think happened with this whole police fiasco. I think Officer Pilone wanted to get out of big city police work to settle into a small town and become a small town police chief. He stated as much. Then when he got here he became a little disillusioned because the small town life was a little too quaint for him. He was a little frustrated with the pace and wanted to make some changes so he suggested these changes to his boss, chief Bucknell. She knew these changes didn't quite fit for this town and rejected these ideas. Men being men he didn't like his ideas being rejected; especially by a woman.
After awhile officer Pilone became so disenchanted with the state of affairs that he had to vent. In the chain of command his only option was to speak to the personnel director, Bill Tighe, (whose job it was to be a buffer between the BoS and the employees). Bill, being firmly under the thumb of the BoS, immediately called hurricane Charlie. Bill probably said something like Jeremy; tell Charlie what you just told me. Being put in such an awkward position Pilone had no choice but to lay out the complaint to Charlie. 
After hearing the complaint Charlie might have said; you know Jeremy, I've been looking for some ammunition to use against the chief so we could get rid of her. You keep me informed on what she is doing and if we can build a case against her you could be the next chief of police. Charlie then might have suggested that Jeremy try to turn the rest of the officers against her and he would have his back.
Turning the rank and file against chief Bucknell wouldn't be hard since there was much grumbling in the ranks. Jeremy, thinking he had the backing of Charlie and the BoS, might have said some negative things about the Chief to stir up dissent. The more the officers talked together the more heated things got and it culminated in a vote of no confidence. Once the vote of no confidence was cast the BoS believed they had cause to relieve the chief of her duties and investigate the charges. So they locked the chief out of the station took her gun and badge and went through the files with a fine tooth comb.
Wanting to at least appear impartial the BoS hired an outside firm to investigate this matter. I’m sure Charlie figured that this firm would find something in the fifteen years that Bucknell was chief that he could use to dismiss her. I guess he was wrong. While the report did show that there were things that could have been done better, things that might have even warranted a reprimand; it showed nothing worthy of dismissal. The BoS showed the report to the town counsel, the Attorney General and the District Attorney; they found nothing illegal or worthy of dismissal.

This police debacle, which was supposed to be settled in two weeks, lasted over nine months. We thought it was settled on July 8th when the BoS agreed to reinstate the chief and allow her to retire end of year; but Charlie just couldn't let it go. Rather than swallow his pride, which admittedly is a rather large bite to swallow, he convinced the other selectmen to create a gauntlet so unreasonable that no one could possibly make it to the end. I don’t know what Charlie had over the other selectmen but he seemed to have had total control over the agenda. Whatever Charlie said, however absurd, was going to happen. It was like the Charlie Flynn marionette extravaganza. If the town officials charged with running the towns affairs can’t do the right thing we have to get rid of them and put people who can do the job in their place. We had that chance on May 13th but unfortunately we are stuck with Hurricane Charlie for another three years. I hope we can afford it.

Monday, May 26


I want to wish everyone and especially the veterans a pensive memorial day. As we reflect on the price that has been paid so that we may live in a free society, please take the time to thank all those who have served and fondly remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to secure that freedom.

Tuesday, May 20

Three Reasons to Vote NO on the Community Preservation Act

Three Reasons to Vote NO 

on the 

Community Preservation Act

This article was posted on the Stonham patch. To read comments follow this link: http://stoneham.patch.com/groups/paul-rotondis-blog/p/bp--three-reasons-to-vote-no-on-the-community-preservation-act

Next years property Tax increase is in your hands. You can reduce the increase in your tax Bill next year by 40% by voting no on the acceptance of the Community Preservation Act.