Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives
in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same,
SECTION 1. There is hereby authorized to be created and established a district within the town of Cheshire, known as the Hoosac Lake Restoration/Preservation District which, upon establishment as provided in this act, shall constitute a body politic and corporate. Said district shall be comprised of the parcels of land which abut directly on the shoreline of the Hoosac lake and which are assessed for real estate taxes by the board of assessors for the town of Cheshire.
SECTION 2. Membership in the district shall consist of the persons and entities having a fee simple interest in real estate lying within the district. For purposes of this act, persons and entities shall not include the commonwealth or its political subdivisions.
SECTION 3. Upon establishment, the district shall have the following powers:
A. To initiate and coordinate research and surveys for the purpose of gathering data concerning Hoosac lake, related shore lands, watershed and the drainage basin and other matters directly pertaining to the reclamation, preservation and maintenance of the lake for general recreational use.
B. To plan lake rehabilitation, enhancement, maintenance and preservation projects, and public recreational projects.
C. To implement such projects and to conduct, coordinate and supervise the implementation thereof at all times subject to the obtaining of necessary approvals from and, where required, under the supervision of appropriate local, state and federal governmental agencies including the town of Cheshire, the departments of environmental management, environmental quality engineering, fisheries, wildlife and recreational vehicles, or divisions and boards thereof.
D. To make and enter into all manner of contracts and agreements necessary or incidental to the exercise of any power permitted to the district by this act.
E. To adopt an annual budget and to raise, appropriate and expend funds in such amount to carry out the purposes for which the district is formed.
F. To acquire, by gift, purchase or lease, dispose of, lease and encumber real and personal property for the purposes of the district.
G. To manage, control and supervise equipment and facilities necessary or appropriate in the accomplishment of the purposes of this act, including but not limited to weed control and water level control.
H. To construct, acquire by lease or purchase, improve, maintain and operate such equipment and facilities and such other equipment, materials, supplies, facilities and services as such be required to accomplish the purposes of this act, to the same extent and subject to the same limitations as shall apply to towns in the commonwealth from time to time under the General Laws.
I. To apply for, accept and expend financial assistance from the federal government, the commonwealth, Berkshire county and the town of Cheshire either directly or jointly with and through said town.
J. To apply for, receive and expend funds from charitable foundations or other private entities and individuals in the form of grants, gifts, loans and advances for or in aid of the purposes of this district.
K. To employ such persons including consultant experts as may be deemed necessary in its judgment and to fix their compensation.
L. To adopt by-laws for the regulation of its affairs and the conduct of its business, which by-laws shall be consistent with the powers conferred by this act and with other applicable provisions of the General Laws.
M. To borrow at the first or any subsequent meeting of the district for the purpose of meeting preliminary or current expenses such sums as may be necessary and to issue therefore general obligation temporary notes for a period of not more than two years; provided, however, that such notes shall be issued only in anticipation of assessments and other revenues of the district of the fiscal year in which such notes are issued or in anticipation of money to be received from the sale of longer term bonds or notes for such purposes as are otherwise hereafter permitted in this act.
N. To sue and be sued in its own name and to plead and be impleaded; provided, however, that neither the district nor any officer or employee thereof shall be liable in tort except pursuant to the provisions of chapter two hundred and fifty-eight of the General Laws; and, provided further, that the district may indemnify its officers and employees to the extent provided in said chapter two hundred and fifty-eight.
O. To invest any funds not required for the immediate use of the district in such manner and to the extent permitted under the General Laws for the investment of such funds by the treasurer of the town.
P. To procure insurance against any loss or liability which may be sustained or incurred in the carrying out of the purposes of this act in such amount as the district shall deem necessary and appropriate and with one or more insurer who shall be licensed to furnish such insurance in the commonwealth.
Q. To perform generally all acts which are necessary or convenient to implement the powers which are expressly or by necessary implication conferred upon the district by this act and which are not otherwise prohibited under any provision of the General Laws.
SECTION 4. Within sixty days of the effective date of this act, the selectmen of the town of Cheshire shall call a meeting of the proprietors of the lands to be included in the district as set forth in section two. For the purposes of establishing an initial list of owners, the selectmen shall consult with the board of assessors and said board shall furnish to the selectmen a listing of all property owners as of January first in the year of enactment who are owners of one or more separately assessed parcels of land which abut the shoreline of said lake or who within the reasonable knowledge or belief of the assessors are owners of one or more separately assessed parcels so abutting said lake. The selectmen upon receiving such lists shall prepare and mail by certified mail a notice to each such owner signed by a selectman and setting forth a time and place of a meeting to occur within said sixty day period, but not less than fourteen days from the date of mailing and said notice. The notice shall be in the form of a warrant specifying the matters upon which action is to be taken at the meeting and shall state that the purpose of the meeting is to consider the organization of the district. The selectmen shall not later than fourteen days prior to the date of such meeting cause a copy of the notice to be posted in one or more public access locations within the town. The meeting shall be held at a public access building in the town of Cheshire unless some other location within the town shall be jointly agreed upon by the selectmen.
At the first meeting of the district, one selectman from the town of Cheshire shall initially preside and shall call the meeting to order. Said selectman shall thereupon determine whether or not a majority of the owners are present or represented by proxies duly executed and placed in the hands of other owners prior to said meeting. Lacking such majority, the meeting shall have no power to act, but the selectmen of the town may call additional meetings for the same purpose within a further sixty day period using the procedure specified in the previous paragraph.
If the presiding selectman determines that a quorum is present the meeting shall proceed to the following order of business:
A. Election of a temporary clerk, who shall be sworn by one of the selectmen present, and a moderator who shall thereupon preside.
B. The taking of a vote to determine whether or not the district authorized by this act shall be established and organized, which vote shall require an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the proprietors present and voting in person or by proxy. If such vote shall be in the negative, the meeting shall thereupon adjourn. If such vote shall be in the affirmative and upon the required majority, the meeting shall next proceed to consider the order of business set forth in subparagraphs C to F, inclusive.
C. The adoption of district by-laws and form of district seal.
D. The election by ballot of a district clerk and a district treasurer, who may be the same person, and who shall be legal residents of the commonwealth, to hold office until one year from the next succeeding annual meeting and at each annual meeting after the first a clerk and treasurer shall be elected by ballot for one year. There shall also be elected by ballot three members of the prudential committee, one of whom shall be elected for a term of three years, one for a term of two years, and one for a term of one year, from the next succeeding annual meeting. At each annual meeting after the first, a member of said committee shall be elected by ballot for a term of three years. Elected officers of the district shall hold office until their successors are elected and qualified. Persons eligible for nomination and election to the prudential committee shall be at least eighteen years of age and shall be persons entitled to vote as owners.
E. The adoption of an initial budget for the remainder of the fiscal year and the appropriation of monies to be raised by assessment upon the real property within the district held by owners.
F. The consideration of such other business consistent with the power and authority conferred by this act.
The district clerk shall retain all proxy votes cast at the initial meeting, together with the minutes of the meeting and as part of the permanent record of the district. The clerk shall further prepare a certificate of the vote taken to organize the district and shall affix the form of seal thereto as adopted by the initial district meeting and shall obtain the endorsement of the selectmen initially presiding at the meeting thereon. Such certificate shall be forwarded to the attorney general within thirty days following the adjournment of the meeting and upon filing said certificate, the provisions of this act shall take full effect.
SECTION 5. At the initial district meeting and at all subsequent annual and special district meetings, voting by owners shall be governed by the provisions of this section. There shall be one vote available to be cast for each parcel of real estate assessed for real estate taxes by the board of assessors of the town of Cheshire which abut directly on the shoreline of Hoosac lake whether or not there is more than one owner for such parcel. In the event there is more than one owner, the owners shall designate in writing to the clerk prior to the commencement of the meeting, the person authorized to vote on behalf of the owner at such meeting and such person shall be presumed as qualified and authorized to present signatories. A person owning a parcel with his spouse shall not be required to furnish a written proxy from his spouse and either shall be presumed to be qualified to vote.
The authority of a person to cast a proxy vote on behalf of an owner shall likewise be determined by the clerk. Further, all proxies shall be tendered in writing prior to the commencement of a district meeting and shall clearly set forth the name and address of the proprietor entering the proxy, the name and address of the person who is to exercise the proxy, the signature of the proprietor granting same and the date of execution. The district may, if it so elects, adopt in its by-laws an approved form of proxy to satisfy the provisions of this section. The duration of a proxy shall be as established by district by-law.
SECTION 6. Annual meetings of the district shall be held on the last Saturday in May in each year or at such other time as the district shall establish from time to time in its by-laws. Annual and other special meetings of the district shall be called by warrant under the hands of the prudential committee, notice of which shall be given fourteen days at least before such meeting. The warrant shall be mailed first class, postage pre-paid to each owner of record in the district and a copy of same shall be directed to a constable of the town of Cheshire or to some other person who shall cause a copy of said notice to be posted in one or more public place within the town or by advertising in a newspaper published at least weekly within Berkshire county and having a general circulation within the town. The warrant for all district meetings shall state the time and place of the meeting and the subjects to be acted upon thereat. The prudential committee shall insert in the warrant of the annual meeting all subjects, the insertion of which shall be requested of them in writing by ten or more owners and in the warrant for each special district meeting all subjects the insertion of which shall be requested of them in writing by twenty or more owners. The prudential committee shall call a special district meeting upon request in writing of not less than twenty owners or may call a special district meeting on its own request. Special meetings so requested shall be held not later than thirty days after the receipt of such request. No action taken at the annual or any special district meeting shall be valid unless the subject matter thereof shall have been set forth in the warrant for such meeting. Two or more district meetings for distinct purposes may be called for by the same warrant. At every district meeting a moderator shall be chosen by ballot and shall have the powers of the moderator of a town meeting.
District meetings shall be governed by chapter thirty-nine of the General Laws except as otherwise expressly provided in this act.
The board of assessors of the town of Cheshire shall, at least thirty days prior to the annual district meeting, prepare and forward to the prudential committee a true and complete alphabetical listing with addresses of the owners reflected in their records as of January first of the year in which such meeting is to be held and from the records maintained by the assessors pursuant to chapter fifty-nine of the General Laws and other related provisions of the General Laws. A copy of such list shall be maintained in a manner accessible to the owners and the public at all reasonable times by the prudential committee or the district clerk and shall further be available for inspection at the annual meeting and any special meeting of the district. The board of assessors shall likewise maintain a list of owners by separate list or special designation on their list of all assessed parcels.
Quorum requirements for annual meetings and special meetings of the district shall be as specified in section four for the initial district meeting or otherwise as the district shall determine from time to time in its by-laws.
Any matter to be voted upon at an annual or special meeting of the district shall require for passage a majority of owners present in person or by proxy and voting on the question, except for the following actions which shall require a two-thirds vote:
A. A vote to petition for dissolution of the district.
B. A vote to purchase or otherwise acquire real property.
C. A vote to finance any undertaking which is authorized by this act to be financed in whole or in part by the issuance by the district of long term notes or bonds.
SECTION 7. The prudential committee shall have and shall exercise, the following powers and duties:
A. To expend money raised and borrowed by the district for the purposes permitted to the district.
B. To prepare an annual budget for the management and operation of the district and the submission of such budget to the annual district meeting for its approval. Such budget shall include the committee's estimate of monies required to be raised and appropriated by means of assessment upon the district proprietors, by borrowing, or otherwise to be received.
C. To apply in the name of the district for grants, loans, and other assistance from both governmental and non-governmental entities.
D. To enter into agreements and contracts involving the purpose or lease of services, equipment and supplies consistent with the powers granted by this act, subject to prior appropriation therefor.
E. To hire, supervise, suspend and discharge such employees as the committee shall deem necessary or appropriate for the conduct of the work to be performed by the district including, but not limited to, a district superintendent who shall have charge on a day to day basis of all district employees and who shall be responsible on behalf of the prudential committee for the conduct and supervision of any and all work to be performed by or on behalf of the district pursuant to this act, subject to prior appropriation therefor. Compensation and benefits for the district superintendent and all other employees shall, subject to prior appropriation therefore, be as determined from time to time by vote of the prudential committee.
SECTION 8. The prudential committee shall meet as necessary, but not less frequently than every six months. A quorum of the prudential committee shall be required at all meetings for the conduct of any business. The initial meeting of the prudential committee shall be held not later than thirty days following the establishment of the district. Thereafter the committee shall schedule one meeting to be held in each year immediately following the adjournment of the annual district meeting. At such initial meeting and at all subsequent meetings following the annual district meeting, the committee shall elect from its members a chairman who shall preside at all committee meetings and who shall serve until his successor shall be elected at the meeting following the annual district meeting. The committee shall also elect a vice-chairman who shall be empowered to preside over committee meetings in the absence of the chairman and who shall serve for a like term.
The district may, subject to a prior appropriation therefor, provide appropriate compensation for district officers including members of the prudential committee and including the expense of travel, meals and lodging for such officers and committee members residing outside the district.
SECTION 9. Without limiting its powers as provided in this act, the prudential committee shall have charge of expenditures on account of the district duly budgeted and appropriated pursuant to the powers granted to the district and shall exercise the authority conferred upon it by district by-law, except as otherwise expressly provided in this act.
SECTION 10. The district treasurer shall receive and take charge of all money belonging to the district, and pay over and account for the same according to the order of the district or of its prudential committee. No other persons shall pay any district bill; provided, however, that this provision shall not prohibit the treasurer from paying such bill by the use of a bank treasurer's or cashier's check. He shall further have the authority given to an auditor by section fifty-one of chapter forty-one of the General Laws, and shall annually render a true account of his receipts and disbursements and report of his official acts to the district.
The treasurer shall give bond annually for the performance of his duties in a form approved by the commissioner of revenue and in such sum, not less than the amount established by said commissioner as shall be fixed by the prudential committee, and, if he fails to give such bond within ten days after his election or appointment, or if within ten days after the expiration of said bond or any renewal of said bond, he fails to file a renewal thereof, the prudential committee shall declare the office vacant and the vacancy shall be filled by the committee in the manner set forth in section twelve.
SECTION 11. The district clerk shall, in addition to the other duties specified herein, take all minutes at district meetings and at meetings of the prudential committee and maintain a record of such minutes in a manner provided for the maintenance of records of minutes of town meetings and of meetings by boards of selectmen. The clerk shall further be the official responsible for certifying copies of any and all votes taken at a district meeting or a meeting of the prudential committee.
SECTION 12. A vacancy occurring in the office of clerk, treasurer or member of the prudential committee elected by the district may be filled by the district for the remainder of the unexpired term at any special meeting called for that purpose, or in the case of a vacancy in the office of clerk or treasurer or disability effecting either of said officers, the prudential committee may appoint a person to fill said vacancy until an election can be held or the disability is removed. Such temporary appointee shall be sworn and shall perform the duties of the office to which he is appointed during his tenure thereof. A temporary treasurer so appointed to fill a vacancy shall give bond in the same manner as the treasurer.
SECTION 13. At its initial meeting, and at the annual meeting each and every year thereafter, the district shall adopt by two-thirds vote, a method to be employed, during the fiscal year to which the meeting relates, for financing the share of its annual budget which is anticipated to be required to be funded by the district. The district may vote to adopt any of the following methods of financing, or combination thereof:
A. The district may raise by assessments upon the real estate situated within the district the sum required to meet the district budget.
B. The district may incur debt by a temporary loan in anticipation of the collection of assessments during the fiscal year in which said debt is incurred or during the next succeeding fiscal year.
C. The district may incur debt to the amount advisable for district improvements or major equipment purchases and may issue therefore notes or bonds, and may, if the district further so approves, issue notes or bonds on the condition that the first payment on account of the principal shall be deferred for a period of not more than five years from the date of issue of such notes or bonds and that the whole amount of such debt shall be payable within a period of not more than twenty-five years after such notes or bonds are issued. No such issue shall be for a term longer than the reasonably estimated useful life of the improvements, facilities and equipment to be so funded.
Indebtedness incurred by the district under the provision of this subsection shall be subject to the provisions of chapter forty-four of the General Laws and to other provisions of the General Laws applicable to notes and bonds of districts except as otherwise provided in this act. If the district issues notes or bonds and thereafter it shall receive an appropriation from another governmental entity to cover such part, if any, of the expenses of such improvements, the district, in its discretion, unless otherwise mandated by the terms and conditions of the grant from such governmental unit, shall make all or any part of such appropriation available to redeem notes or bonds of the district and shall hold the balance, if any, to the credit of the district to be used for the payment of the expense of such improvements, facilities and for equipment. Bonds or notes issued under this section shall constitute general obligations of the district.
That portion, if any, of the budgeted expense for the initial fiscal year and for each subsequent fiscal year which shall be required by the district for the payment of principal and interest on bonds and notes issued or to be issued by the district and which will be due during the ensuing fiscal year together with amounts necessary to be raised by the district to maintain and operate the district during said fiscal year for capital outlay items, the costs of which is not otherwise funded, and all other budgeted expenses for which the district is authorized to raise money, the costs of which items the district shall have voted to raise by assessment upon land and improvements of the proprietors within the district shall be the subject of a separate vote at the initial district meeting. If the district so votes, the schedule of assessed valuations of land and improvements established by the board of assessors in the town of Cheshire for the same fiscal year under the provisions of chapter fifty-nine of the General Laws shall be relied upon as the basis for determination of the pro-rata share of the district budget voted to be raised and appropriated to be paid by the proprietors upon their lands and improvements lying within the district.
Following the adjournment of the initial district meeting and each annual district meeting thereafter, the clerk of the district shall certify to the assessors of the town of Cheshire all sums of money voted to be raised by district assessment and the method and means of assessment voted upon at such meeting, which votes will have been adopted by a two-thirds majority as provided in this act, together with the amount to be paid by each proprietor according to the determination made by such votes. Said assessors shall, without further vote, assess such amounts upon the lands of the proprietors within the district and commit to the collector of taxes of said town who thereupon shall have and exercise the same powers and duties in relation to the collection of such assessments as said collector has and exercises relative to the collection of town taxes. The collector shall remit weekly to the district treasurer all sums collected on account of such assessments. An assessment made hereunder shall be a lien upon the land assessed therefore, in the same manner as a lien for real estate taxes assessed by the town under the provisions of section thirty-seven of chapter sixty of the General Laws, and other related provisions of the General Laws.
SECTION 14. The fiscal year of the district shall be the same fiscal year as established by the General Laws for cities and towns.
SECTION 15. Unless otherwise specified in this act, or otherwise required by General Law, all actions permitted to be taken at annual or special district meetings shall require a majority vote of owners present in person or by proxy at said meeting and entitled to vote thereat, who shall constitute a quorum in accordance with this act or otherwise by by-law of the district. All actions permitted to be taken by the prudential committee shall require a majority vote of the committee members present at said meeting who shall constitute a quorum in accordance with this act.
SECTION 16. The district shall include in its initial and in all subsequent annual appropriations, compensation for the board of assessors and the tax collector of the town of Cheshire, as the district shall annually establish.
SECTION 17. Notwithstanding their membership on the prudential committee, neither the town of Cheshire nor any agency or department of the commonwealth shall be obligated for any debts of the district, nor shall they by virtue of this act be required to pay for any liability, obligation or expense made, suffered or incurred by the district. In like manner, the members of the district shall not be individually liable or obligated with respect to debts or other obligations made, suffered or incurred by the district except with respect to the payment of assessments upon their land as provided for in this act.
SECTION 18. No provision of this act shall be deemed to modify or amend any power, authority or jurisdiction now or hereafter vested in any agency, department or unit of state, local or federal government as it relates to the use, operation or enjoyment of Hoosac lake as a great pond available for use by the general public not only for recreational use but for other purposes now or hereafter permitted or required by federal, state and local law, regulation and local by-law.
SECTION 19. The district shall established in its initial budget and in all subsequent fiscal year budgets an overlay account and a reserve fund as provided for towns under the provisions of section twenty-five of chapter fifty-nine and section five C of chapter forty of the General Laws. The district is hereby authorized to establish and maintain a stabilization fund under the provisions of section five B of chapter forty of the General Laws. The district shall be subject to an audit of its accounts in the manner provided in section forty of chapter forty-four of the General Laws.
SECTION 20. Immediately upon the formation of the district and from time to time thereafter, the district clerk shall, in addition to the other duties to be performed by such district officer, cause a review to be made of the records required to be maintained by the board of assessors for the town of Cheshire including copies of deeds furnished to said board by the Northern Berkshire district registry of deeds, and shall otherwise take such actions as necessary to establish the real estate within the district and the owners thereof. The clerk shall further cause to be prepared one or more maps based in whole or in part upon the maps required to be maintained by the assessors of said town on which shall be shown the location of all real estate within the district. Thereafter, at any special meeting called for that purpose and not later than the next annual meeting, the district clerk shall furnish the prudential committee with a list of owners and such maps depicting the approximate location and boundaries of such parcels as well as the existing parcels within the district.
SECTION 21. Once established pursuant to this act, the district shall not dissolve without specific authorization by the general court, which authorization shall not be requested until provision has been made for the payment of the obligations of said district. Such dissolution may be initiated by a petition to the general court by two-thirds vote at a regular or special district meeting and shall provide for all assets to be transferred to either the town of Cheshire or to the commonwealth as provided in the dissolution vote.
SECTION 22. This act shall take effect upon its passage; provided, however, that if the initial meeting of the district shall not occur and the certified vote evidencing the establishment of the district shall not be filed with the attorney general within one year after its passage, this act shall cease to be operative.