Sheffield appeals for volunteers for municipal board vacancies

SHEFFIELD — With a score of vacancies on several of the town’s appointed municipal boards, there may be no better time than the present for residents to get involved in local government.

The need for volunteer members on specific municipal boards has reached a point, Town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard says, where handling certain town business has become increasingly difficult.

“It’s becoming hard to operate,” LaBombard said at Jan. 6 Select Board meeting. “The recent one that comes to mind is that the Board of Assessors recently had a resignation, now we’re down to one member. We really need people to be interested in stepping up.”

Currently, there are more than 20 vacancies to fill across several committees and boards, including volunteer positions on the Board of Health, the Historical Commission and the Ashley Falls Historic District Commission. The vacancies, including the two empty seats on the Board of Assessors, are appointed positions.

Two volunteer positions and two alternate volunteer positions are available for residents to serve on the Agricultural Commission, which was established by the town in 2006 to work for the preservation of farms, forest land and working landscapes, according to the town’s website.

A pair of Sheffield-representative membership positions are available for the Five Town Cable Advisory Committee, which serves the towns of Stockbridge, Great Barrington, Lenox, Lee and Sheffield.

The committee meets at the offices of Community Television for the Southern Berkshires and keeps the public informed on updates with the local cable provider, Charter Communications.

The position of recycling coordinator is also currently vacant.

Additionally, extended vacancies on the Housing Commission and the Parks and Recreation Committee have left the two groups non-functional, according to Rene Wood, chairperson of the Select Board.

In an effort to draw increased attention to the issue, Wood said that she would entertain membership requests that run shorter than the desired full three-year terms.

“I, myself, would be willing to look at someone who says they are willing to serve for two years, or one year,” Wood said. “Sometimes people aren’t sure of what they’re getting into. Don’t let the term deter you from stepping forward.”

Like many small towns in Berkshire County, municipal board members often come with multiple titles, serving on several of their town’s boards and subcommittees. Select Board member Martin Mitsoff serves on the town’s Board of Health and Conservation Commission, while fellow Select Board member Nadine Hawver serves on the Council of Aging and has taken a lead role on the Eight Town Consolidation Committee.

Wood’s years of service to Sheffield include past and present terms on the Board of Health, Planning Board, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, the Five Town Cable Advisory Committee, an alternate member to the Zoning Board of Appeals and also a longtime volunteer of the Sheffield Senior Center.

Wood says she often hears conversations about how one person may serve on numerous appointed boards, but added that part of wearing multiple hats in local government is done in order to keep the town fully functioning.

“Part of the reason people are on multiple boards, is not only because they do volunteer, but because there is no one else to appoint,” Wood said. “Some years ago, some Selectmen were on [the Conservation Commission] when they didn’t want to be there necessarily. Otherwise, there would be no action taken on the Conservation Commission issues.”

Mitsoff, who also offers his time as a firefighter for the town’s fire department , stressed the importance of residents stepping up to fill the open appointed positions. He recommended residents who were interested in learning more to attend an upcoming meeting of their prospective board or committee.

“The Select Board and the town administration will support, as we always do, all the volunteers that fill these positions,” Mitsoff said.

Residents can request to fill any board vacancies at Town Hall with either LaBombard or Jill Hughes in the Town Administrator’s office.

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