Saturday, March 22


In a recent Berkshire Record article I read that the town of Egremont is appealing the AG ruling that the selectmen violated the open meeting law. Since Charlie and Jeremia are quoted I will address them in this response.
Really Charlie? You think you're right and your lawyers are appealing? How many lawyers are we, the taxpayers of Egremont, paying for your screw ups? In case you haven't noticed this is our town and you are opening our town to yet another law suit. Maybe you should ask the town what they think before you act. Rather than run for another term, perhaps you should consider resigning and gracefully stepping out of the way. But I guess you don’t do anything gracefully.
I've read the rebuttal letter and all I can say is, really Jeremia? You think this town believes that your intent is to protect the people from committing a crime? Be real. In your rebuttal you misquote the AG as saying “notice is not required by law”. The fact is that the AG said “advance notice is not required”. Did you actually read the documents before you drafted your rebuttal? Did the selectmen read the documents before they approved this action? The Selectmen are suing the AG in the name of the town and no one noticed that Jeremia misquoted the AG. Who are we entrusting the affairs of our town to?
Jeremia should know that the moment a person notifies the chairman of their intention to record they’re not committing a crime. The law is satisfied upon notification that the citizen can record. Now you're going to argue that the AG is wrong? The words are clearly written in the text of the law and AG finding.
Weren't you the one that advised the BoS that there was no law requiring they be heard by the citizens attending an open meeting? You seem to have given the selectmen some very questionable advice. Do you get paid by the mistake? You have to understand that you are a line item in the town budget; the town can defund your position with one vote. You work for us. Try serving the townspeople rather than the town hall.
This appeal of the AG decision is just dumb; the selectmen need to take the slap on the hand and get over it. This action borders on abuse of process and illustrates exactly why this administration needs to be removed; starting with Charlie.

Our town is still dealing with the ramifications of what many believe to be Charlie’s vendetta against Reena Bucknell. And now it’s official, the attorneys for the former police chief have filed a wrongful firing law suit. Now the town has to pay to defend against this board’s stupidity. Then, to add insult to injury, Charlie Flynn asks the town to trust him for another three years? This town can’t afford another 3 years of Charlie Flynn.

Wednesday, March 19



        I can’t understand why some people insist that it’s ok to tax all of the people to give to a charity that they may not agree with. What if the CPC voted to restore the historic First Congregational Church; would there be objections to the violation of the separation of Church and state? If a person wishes to give to any cause they have every right to do so; and they do. It’s called charity and people who have the means to do so support their charities without hesitation. I have a problem with government mandated charitable donations whether that government is federal state or local.
          Rather than argue about the immorality of forced charitable donations, let’s look at a positive solution to a very divisive issue. If we set up these charitable trusts as private nonprofits that raise funds from truly charitable donations, we would have four separate trusts. These four trusts would be Historic Preservation, Land Preservation, affordable housing and Parks & Recreation. Those who wish to support any or all of the charities may do so freely.
          I’d like to challenge those who want this CPA tax. Take the amount of your property tax bill and multiply it by 3%. Now write a check in that amount to any of these charitable trusts. You may even want to divide it up and give a portion to each of the trusts. You are free to distribute the funds however you wish. Then the trustees of these charities can distribute these funds as they see fit without town meeting approval.
          If a person has land that they want to conserve they can either donate it to the land trust or write a conservation restriction into the deed. Not only is this donation tax deductible, it may qualify for state and federal tax credits. When the land trust was short about 50k to purchase a couple of farms an individual donor wrote a check for the full amount. This contribution allowed the deal to go through and a lot of acreage was conserved. All this happened without people being forced to contribute to the CPA. Unfortunately this land is no longer on the tax roll and the deficit is distributed to all the taxpayers. Oh well, another unintentional tax increase.
          Historic preservation is important in small towns like Egremont. There are historical buildings that need to be preserved, restored and maintained. I’m sure we have architects in town that would be willing to donate their services or reduce their fees to draw up plans for these projects. Many people would step up to pay for the materials. We also have many skilled artisans who may be willing to do the work on these projects; some for free and others for a fee. This way we’re hiring local craftsmen and building the local economy. People who may not be in a position to give money can donate their time and energy. Everyone benefits and no one is harmed. The cost of doing it this way would be less than half of doing the project with CPA funds and we don’t have to jump through all of the CPA hoops. Oh and best of all, because it’s a private charitable trust we don’t have the church and state conflict.
          Then we have the affordable and senior housing trust fund. This fund is set up to be used in a variety of ways, helping low income families to find housing; or helping elderly people on a fixed income to maintain their independence. These funds could be used to bring a home up to code or to build a handicap ramp. And hiring locals to do the work supports our local economy As a bonus, many of the things mentioned here are already subsidized by federal and state tax grant programs which we have already been taxed for. Do we really need the CPA tax to pay for things we have already been taxed for? Besides, the average handicap ramp can be built for a few hundred dollars. Using CPA funds it could cost several thousand dollars to build the same ramp. I think we can do without the CPA.

          Let’s not forget Parks and Recreation. We needed to replace the fence at the horse ring last year. When the FC was discussing this line item a citizen offered to pay for the entire project if they would take it off of the warrant. Since the FC didn’t have the authority to remove any items from the warrant the issue went to town meeting and was overwhelmingly passed. The point is we have always taken care of our town and we always will. We don’t need the CPA and all the baggage that comes with this program to take care of our town and our citizens. Let’s say thanks but no thanks to the CPA property tax.

Saturday, March 15


     My name is Kevin Zurrin and I am running for Selectman in the town of Egremont. In a recent letter to the editor Juliette Haas questioned my real interests in running for selectman. I would like to take this opportunity to share those interests. First and foremost Juliette I am one of your neighbors. I can also be a friend, as I am with many of our neighbors.

Thursday, March 13


     I love the process of education, but sometimes we can be misled by well intentioned people. I'm going to cite an example of this and before you say I'm being unfair, I found the information in our own town records. This was said in regard to THE PURCHASE OF THE WATER COMPANY, and I quote from the 1996 annual report. "This [the purchase of the WC] was possible only after the water study committee garnered support through extensive education of residents at the annual town meeting in May and two subsequent meetings in September". This water company article was rushed through the town meeting process much like the proponents are trying to fast track this CPA article. Unfortunately we're all still paying for the water company education; so before we rush into another debacle, we really need to better understand the CPA and its implications. Perhaps we should first form a committee to study this issue; before we commit everyone to a 3% tax increase that may never go away.

      The proponents of the CPA may look at the wealth of the town and say we can afford it. Shame on anyone who says affordability is a good enough reason for taxation. And those who can afford it should be mindful of the people who are struggling to make ends meet. They too will be saddled with a tax they should never have been burdened with. If someone feels so strongly about a project getting done then they should write a check from their own checkbook not mine or anyone else's.

      The other day we had an informational meeting hosted by the proponents of the CPA. I have to say, I'm always suspicious when all of the people giving the presentation are on one side of the issue; and may even have a particular interest in the passage of the law. You have to understand that these proponents came to sing the praises of the CPA, and they did. But before we take on another tax we should consider all sides of the issue.

      One very well respected citizen asked if his historic barn could qualify for some of these CPA funds. They answered yes, then went on to show how this is just what the CPA program was designed for. To his credit the farmer was surprised that they could take someone else's money to fix his barn. I think he sandbagged them with this question; and they bit the bait hook, line and sinker. I guess some people realize that if you'll take other peoples money to give to them, then you'll take their money to give to someone else. This is not what taxation is about.

      I asked a simple question about the "TRUST FUND" which I had to ask twice and still was not answered to my satisfaction. My question was can these CPC members guarantee that not one thin dime will be spent out of these trust funds without town meeting approval? They said they don't know and they'll get back to me after they check it out. I was going to call the DOR but then it dawned on me that I already have the answer. YES THEY CAN. If Cambridge can do it Egremont can. If Wenham can do it Egremont can. If you think the water company turned into a nightmare wait and see what happens if the CPA is passed. I wonder how long this one will take to pay off?

      I found an interesting fact on a Q & A from the Wenham Ma. government website. The question was "Does the establishment of a housing trust fund allow for expenditures from it without town meeting votes and without going through the proposal process each year? The answer was YES "If you transfer CPA funds into your housing trust fund, they may then be spent for CPA eligible projects without further approval of town meeting". If Wenham can do it and it does, Egremont can! They went on to give the example of Cambridge Ma. who transferred over 20 million dollars into their housing trust fund. If Cambridge can do it and it does, Egremont can! This is the power that could be given to one Committee stacked with 5-9 members who have obvious conflicts of interest.

      Remember in a previous post I recanted my statement that the CPA is a slush fund for things that can't get approved at a regular town meeting. Well I have to recant my recant. As it turns out my fear is justified. The fact is that many of the towns that have adopted the CPA have used, and continue to use the CPA funds in this manner. Let me ask you a question; How do you think the CPC, consisting of members from every committee except the finance committee, will handle such a large slush, I mean trust fund? Given the history of how this town has handled the enterprise fund, what do you think the outcome of this fund might be? PLEASE DON'T BUY THE PITCH! In case you haven't noticed I'm not in favor of our town adopting the CPA and as a citizen I will be voting against it.