Betsy’s Corner: Reflections at the end of the year…

By Betsy Huber Port

“The art is long, life is short, opportunity fleeting, experiment dangerous, judgment difficult.” ~ Hippocrates

The year is almost over. It is time to review and reflections. A new decade starting and 2020 is almost here, although 2021 is the actual start of the next decade.  Does 2020 feel like an end or a beginning to you?

Let’s take a moment and think about our town and all the changes within the last few years in our community. We lost Kiddly Winks, Gift-ology, Bertucci’s and our long-standing dependable Rinaldi’s. We got new trash barrels and started work on some huge building projects in town. After the completion of the new high school, discussions on the middle schools have stalled.

The DPW and Adult Center buildings are underway, with some bumps in the road. Posto opened later than expected, but the menu is a great addition to the meal choices around here. There is also the restored Young Mansion on the town green, something to be proud of as an accomplishment. In the coming year, we will have a new Master Plan for Laurel and Bliss Parks.

Overall, the state of our town is solid. Homes are selling and the school system is strong. Education is a priority here. Yet, bigger problems may loom ahead for us financially.

Deductions for real estate hurt everyone who has home taxes of over $10,000. This will be hard on homeowners here, but will substantially hurt those in the Boston and Manhattan metropolitan areas.  Whether we realize it or not, the rate of home taxes is almost at its height locally. We have the highest tax rates in our entire state. Our family fled New York City life ages ago, despite the good job opportunities. Starting over in Western Massachusetts was a good choice for us, and especially good for our children. The situation with our town taxes is difficult to comprehend. Homes do no command the prices seen in the Boston area, or near the shore. Can the town survive and thrive within our budget? Are we actually spending within our means or overspending? I think we are playing catch-up!

There must have been decades of conservative spending and a lack of maintained upkeep. Everything seemed outdated when we arrived twenty years ago. Nothing was new and updated. Well, enough was considered “enough” by the older generations. We need to keep up with the times, but these changes are often difficult.

We are beginning a new era. I welcome our new town manager, Lyn Simmons. She has a big job with daunting responsibilities. I hope she accomplishes a lot and stays for a long time. The job entails vision, foresight, attention to details and always keeping the big picture in mind. We need to get creative as we move forward with limited funds from our tax base. It is disappointing that our home has hardly gained value in over 20 years, but those homes near large east coast cities have lost some value in the last year. My pet peeve is the sloppy paving of roads, the uneven sidewalks and the traffic issues around here. Crosswalks need to be repainted and street lines need to be repainted as well. Better signage should be considered and dangerous intersections should be a top priority for the police department and the mysterious Traffic Committee. There are just too many car accidents around here, and too many cars zooming down the roads.

Complaints and problems are aired over the Internet these days. The historic tradition of a New England Town Meeting seems quaint and inefficient in these days of minute-by-minute conversations. Things happen fast! First of all, we need to get people to actually attend these town meetings where participation is crucial to town process and the debating process.

I wish all residents of the town Happy Holidays of Hanukah and Christmas and the New Year!

Better days are ahead, so think of the positive changes in front of us and work to make them happen.

Get involved in our community and take action!