Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
SECTION 1. There is hereby established a district within the town of Becket, the Sherwood Greens Road Improvement and Maintenance District, hereinafter referred to as the district, bounded and described as follows:
The land situated on the south side of Route 20, a state highway, in the town of Becket and bounded on the north by said Route 20, on the east by Johnson Road, so-called, on the south by the Massachusetts Turnpike, Interstate 90 and on the west by land now or formerly of Arturo Maceri, Mystic Isle Lake, so-called, other land now or formerly of said Maceri and one Palmer (and generally shown of Assessors' Map Nos. 213 and 214, plus lots 20 through 45 on Assessors' Map No. 407) and shown on plans recorded in the Berkshire Middle District Registry of Deeds, as follows:
1. A portion of Sherwood Greens, a subdivision in Becket, Mass., dated Feb. 6, 1970, Sheet 2 of 7 sheets and recorded in Book 417-F, Page 158;
2. A portion of Sherwood Greens, a subdivision in Becket, Mass., dated Feb. 6, 1970, Sheet 3 of 7 sheets and recorded in Book 417-F, Page 158-A;
3. A portion of Sherwood Greens, a subdivision in Becket, Mass., dated Feb. 6, 1970, Sheet 4 of 7 sheets and recorded in Book 417-F, Page 159;
4. A portion of Sherwood Greens, a subdivision in Becket, Mass., dated Feb. 6, 1970, Sheet 5 of 7 sheets and recorded in Book 417-F, Page 159-A, but excluding therefrom Block 43, Lots 1 through 12, inclusive, Block 46, Lots 1 through 19, inclusive, and Block 47, Lots 1 through 13, inclusive; and
5. Plot Recording Minor Changes in Blocks 1, 15, 27, 48 & 52 of Sherwood Greens, a subdivision in Becket, Mass., dated November, 1974 and recorded in Book 417-I, Page 13.
Long Bow Lane West, Long Bow Lane East, Long Bow South, Old Abbey Lane West, Surrey Lane, Squire's Road West, Red Knight Lane, Guinevere's Path, Red Lion Road, Deer Trail North, Deer Trail South, Deer Trail West, Robinwood West, Meadow Lake Drive, Meadow Brook Drive, Greenwood Drive, Mountain Meadow Road North, Mountain Meadow Road South, Fairway Drive, Green Lancer Drive, Silver Leaf Drive, Silver Leaf Way, Lancer's Walk, Silver Shield Drive, Shuttle Cock Drive, and Robins Walk and any other streets or ways as shown on the plans and maps described above.
SECTION 2. The district, upon establishment in the manner hereafter set forth, shall have the following powers:
(a) to upgrade, repair and maintain, including snow and ice removal, the streets or ways within the district, or such portions thereof, as the district shall determine in accordance with this act;
(b) to adopt an annual budget and to raise and appropriate money by taxation in an amount necessary to carry out the purposes for which the district is formed;
(c) to sue and be sued in its own name, and to implead 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 258 of the General Laws;
(d) to adopt by-laws for the regulation of its affairs in the conduct of its business, which by-laws shall be consistent with the powers conferred by this act;
(e) to appoint a superintendent of streets who, unless the district by-laws provide otherwise, shall be a resident of the commonwealth and have the same powers and duties with respect to the streets and ways of the district as a superintendent of streets now has with respect to town ways under the provisions of section 68 of chapter 41 of the General Laws and who shall be a public employee for the purposes of said chapter 258;
(f) to make and enter into all contracts and agreements necessary or incidental to the accomplishment of its purposes subject to appropriation by the district;
(g) to employ such experts as may be deemed necessary in its judgment and to fix their compensation;
(h) to receive and accept from any federal agency, the commonwealth, any municipality, or from a charitable foundation, a private corporation or an individual, grants, gifts, loans and advances for, or in aid of the purposes of, the district, including, but not limited to, revenue sharing funds and community development block grant funds;
(i) from time to time, to borrow money in order to carry out the purposes of this act to the extent permitted for districts under the provisions of chapter 44 of the General Laws;
(j) 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 a town;
(k) 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 and from such insurers as it deems desirable;
(l) to enter upon the streets and ways within the district in order to carry out the purposes of the district;
(m) to purchase and lease equipment, materials and services necessary or appropriate for carrying out the purposes for which the district is created to the same extent subject to the same limitations as shall apply to towns;
(n) to acquire, dispose of and encumber real and personal property for the purposes of the district, including the power to acquire real estate or a limited interest in real estate by eminent domain under the provisions of chapter 79 of the General Laws; provided, however, that the power of the district to so acquire real estate by eminent domain proceedings shall be subject, in each instance, to a prior vote of the town in which the affected parcels lie to see if the voters of the town will approve, by majority vote at a regular or special town meeting, the exercise by the district of its eminent domain power for the purposes set forth and with respect to the real estate in said town to be so acquired;
(o) to reimburse the town of Becket for any monies expended on behalf of the district, as agreed between the town and the district; and
(p) to do all acts necessary or convenient to carry out the powers expressly or by necessary implication conferred upon the district by this act.
SECTION 3. The district shall consist of all of the owners from time to time of one or more assessed parcels of land lying within the district and each such owner shall be known as a proprietor. For the purposes of this act, a proprietor shall be deemed to include not only natural persons, but also other entities empowered to own real estate in the commonwealth, including corporations, partnerships and trusts but not including entities which are otherwise exempt from taxation such as federal, state and local governments and the district itself. Also, any mortgage of record in possession of any one or more separately assessed parcels shall be deemed a proprietor under this act. Persons or entities who shall jointly own one or more separately assessed parcels within the district shall collectively constitute a proprietor for all purposes hereunder.
SECTION 4. Within 45 days of the effective date of this act, the selectmen of the town of Becket shall call the initial meeting of the proprietors of the district. The board of assessors shall furnish the selectmen with its then current listing of all proprietors within the district, which shall be updated, by a proprietor, according to the records at the registry of deeds. Upon receiving such list, the selectmen shall prepare and mail, by certified mail, a notice to each proprietor, signed by the selectmen, and setting forth a time and place of a meeting to occur within said 45 day period but not less than 14 days from the date of mailing of 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 further clearly state that the purpose of the meeting is to consider the organization of the district. The selectmen shall, not later than 14 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. At the initial meeting of the district, a selectman shall preside and shall call the meeting to order. The selectman shall determine whether or not proprietors constituting a quorum are present or represented by proxy. A quorum for purposes of the initial meeting shall be two-thirds of the proprietors who were mailed notice and are present or represented by proxy; provided, however, that the number of proprietors is not less than 20. Lacking such a quorum, the meeting shall have no power to act, but the selectmen may in the manner above provided call additional meetings for the same purpose within a further 45 day period.
SECTION 5. Provided that the number of proprietors, present or represented by proxy, constitute a quorum, the initial meeting of the district shall then proceed to the following order of business:
(a) election of a moderator and a temporary clerk;
(b) certification by the moderator that such quorum is in attendance;
(c) the taking of a vote to determine whether or not the district established by this act shall be organized, which shall require an affirmative vote of two-thirds of proprietors present or represented by proxy. If such vote shall be in the negative, the meeting shall thereupon terminate and adjourn. If such vote shall be in the affirmative, the meeting shall then proceed to consider the order of business set forth in clauses (d) to (g), inclusive;
(d) the adoption of district by-laws and a form of district seal;
(e) the election of a clerk, treasurer and a prudential committee. If the district shall so elect, one person may serve as both clerk and treasurer. Neither the clerk nor the treasurer shall be a member of the prudential committee;
(f) the adoption of an initial budget including compensation for officers of the district for the remainder of the fiscal year and the appropriation of monies to be raised by taxation in support thereof;
(g) the consideration of such other business as shall be consistent with the power and authority conferred by this act.
The clerk shall 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 selectman initially presiding at the meeting thereon. Such certificate shall be forwarded to the attorney general of the commonwealth within 30 days following the adjournment of the meeting.
SECTION 6. At the initial district meeting and at all subsequent annual and special district meetings, voting by proprietors shall be governed by the requirements of this section. Each proprietor shall be entitled to cast one vote on any matter or issue to be voted upon at any such meeting notwithstanding the total number of parcels owned by such person, persons or entities. Entity proprietors and tenants in common shall designate in writing to the clerk prior to the commencement of the meeting, the person authorized to vote on behalf of the proprietor at such meeting and such person shall be presumed as qualified and authorized to represent the proprietor if such person shall be listed as a record owner of such parcel or parcels or if such person shall, as evidenced by any public record maintained under the laws of this commonwealth be listed as a partner or trustee of a proprietor. A person owning one or more parcels together with his spouse or another person, jointly, shall not be required to furnish a written designation from his spouse or joint owner and either shall be presumed to be qualified to vote.
The authority of a person to cast a proxy vote on behalf of a proprietor shall be determined by the by-laws. All proxies shall be tendered in writing prior to the commencement of any 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 notarized 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 requirements of this section. The duration of a proxy shall be as established by district by-law.
All actions permitted to be taken at annual or special meetings of the district shall require a majority vote of those proprietors present or by proxy at said meeting and entitled to vote thereat, in person or by proxy, who shall constitute a quorum in accordance with this act or the by-laws of the district. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the following actions shall require a two-thirds vote of proprietors present or represented by proxy and constituting a quorum: (a) a vote to organize the district; (b) a vote to petition for dissolution of the district; (c) a vote to purchase or otherwise acquire real property; (d) a vote to finance any undertaking which is to be financed in whole or in part by the issuance by the district of long term notes or bonds; and (e) to vote to adopt or change the budget.
SECTION 7. The number of proprietors necessary to constitute a quorum for annual meetings and special meetings of the district shall be ten proprietors present or represented by proxy.
SECTION 8. Annual meetings of the district shall be held on the first Saturday in June or at such other time as the district shall establish from time to time in its by-laws and shall be held at a public place. Annual and other special meetings of the district shall be called by a warrant of the prudential committee, notice of which shall be given at least 14 days before such meeting. The warrant shall be mailed first class, postage prepaid to each proprietor of record in the district and a copy of the same shall be directed to a constable of the town or to some other person who shall cause a copy of said notice to be posted in one or more public places within the town or advertised in a newspaper published at least weekly within Berkshire county and having a general circulation in 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 for the annual meeting all subjects, the insertion of which shall be requested of them in writing by ten or more proprietors of the district and in the warrant for every special district meeting all subjects, the insertion of which shall be requested of them in writing by 12 or more proprietors. The prudential committee shall call a special district meeting at its own request or upon the request in writing of at least 12 proprietors. Special meetings shall be held not later than 30 days after the receipt of such request. No action shall be valid unless the subject matter thereof is contained in the warrant for such meeting. Two or more district meetings for distinct purposes may be called 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 39 of the General Laws except as otherwise provided in this act.
Each January, the town assessor shall forward a list, with addresses, of the then current proprietors in the district. The assessor's list shall be updated by the clerk of the district according to the records at the registry of deeds. The proprietors entitled to vote at annual and special meetings shall be those proprietors on the assessor's list and constituting a record owner of property in the district as shown at the registry of deeds as of 60 days prior to such meeting. The prudential committee or district clerk shall make the list available at all reasonable times, including the annual meeting and all special meetings of the district, to proprietors and the general public. The board of assessors shall likewise maintain a list of proprietors by separate list or special designation on their list.
At each annual meeting, the district shall elect in the manner provided for in its by-laws the members of its prudential committee as herein set forth and a clerk and treasurer of the district. Upon their election, the prudential committee, clerk and treasurer shall serve in accordance with the by-laws and until their successors shall be elected and qualified.
At each annual meeting, the district shall approve a budget for the next fiscal year, which shall be deemed to constitute an appropriation for the expenses enumerated therein, the clerk shall certify to the assessors of the town all the votes of the district relative thereto and all sums of money voted to be raised and provide the town assessor with the budget and minutes of the meeting.
The district shall include in its initial and in all subsequent annual appropriations, compensation for the town assessors and tax collector and, as necessary the town treasurer, pursuant to the provisions of section 108B of chapter 41 of the General Laws, with respect to their duties and expenses hereunder.
SECTION 9. The prudential committee shall consist of not less than five nor more than seven persons, to be elected by the proprietors and shall serve from the date of the initial meeting until their successors are elected and qualified. Each member of the prudential committee shall serve for a different term so that their terms are staggered three year terms.
Immediately upon its election at the initial meeting of the district, and thereafter immediately following each annual meeting of the district, the prudential committee shall meet and shall take the following actions:
(a) the election of a chairman and vice-chairman, who shall preside at all meetings of the prudential committee in the absence of the chairman or in the event of his inability to act or because of a conflict of interest;
(b) the adoption of rules for the general conduct of its business;
(c) the appointment of a superintendent of streets who shall serve at the discretion of the prudential committee;
(d) to conduct such other business as shall be authorized by this act or by the by-laws of the district adopted pursuant hereto.
The prudential committee shall otherwise meet as necessary, but in no event less frequently than every six months. A quorum of the prudential committee shall be required at all meetings for the conduct of any business thereat and shall consist of a majority of the members elected.
All actions permitted to be taken by the prudential committee shall require a majority vote of its members present at said meeting who shall constitute a quorum in accordance with this act or the by-laws of the district.
Meetings of the prudential committee shall be governed by chapter 39 of the General Laws except as otherwise provided in this act.
SECTION 10. 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, annually, a budget for the management and operation of the district and for submission to the annual district meeting for approval;
(c) to apply, in the name of the district, for grants, loans and other assistance from both governmental and nongovernmental entities;
(d) subject to prior appropriation therefor, to enter into agreements and contracts involving the purchase or lease of services, equipment and supplies consistent with the powers granted by this act;
(e) subject to prior appropriation therefor, 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; and
(f) to take such other actions as they deem reasonably necessary or appropriate to effectuate the intent of this act.
Without limiting its powers as set forth above, 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 such other authority conferred upon it by district by-law, except as otherwise expressly provided in this act. Such expenditures shall include, but not be limited to, compensation and benefits for the superintendent, officers of the district and officers of the town of Becket.
The prudential committee shall, in addition to the other duties specified herein supervise and advise the superintendent of streets and the clerk; decide by majority vote on all contracts, expenditures, investments or any other actions necessary for carrying out the purposes of the district. No monies shall be drawn from the district treasury except upon signature of the district treasurer and upon prior authorization by the prudential committee. In addition, the prudential committee shall appoint an auditor who shall have the powers and duties set forth in section 51 of chapter 41 of the General Laws.
SECTION 11. The district treasurer shall 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 person 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. The treasurer shall annually render a true account of all receipts and disbursements and a report of the district treasurer's official acts to the district. The treasurer shall give bond annually for the performance of the treasurer's 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 the treasurer fails to give such bond within ten days after election or appointment, or if within ten days after the expiration of said bond or any renewal of said bond, the treasurer fails to file a renewal thereof, the prudential committee shall declare the office vacant and the vacancy shall be filled in the manner set forth in this act.
SECTION 12. Unless otherwise provided by district by-law, the 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 the manner provided for the maintenance of records of minutes of town meetings and of meetings of the boards of selectmen in the commonwealth. 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 13. Vacancies occurring in the office of clerk, treasurer or member of the prudential committee shall be filled by the district for the remainder of the unexpired term at a special meeting called for that purpose. In the case of a vacancy in the office of the clerk or treasurer or disability affecting 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 during the appointee's tenure thereof. A temporary treasurer appointed to fill a vacancy, as above provided, shall give bond in the same manner as the treasurer.
In the event that no member of the prudential committee shall remain in office due to resignation or otherwise, the treasurer and clerk shall issue a warrant for a special meeting of the district to elect new members of the prudential committee and shall, in the interim, appoint others to act on behalf of the prudential committee until the successors shall be elected at such special meeting. At the special meeting, if there are not proprietors willing to form a prudential committee, the district shall be dissolved in accordance with section 21.
SECTION 14. At its initial meeting, and at the annual meeting each and every year thereafter, the district shall adopt, by two-thirds vote, a budget and each separately assessed lot within the district shall be taxed based on the total assessed value of land for such separately assessed lot in order to finance the budget.
Following the adjournment of the initial district meeting and each annual or special district meeting, the clerk of the district shall certify to the assessors of the town of Becket the minutes and budget voted upon at such meeting which shall be used to determine the amount to be paid by each proprietor to finance the annual budget. The assessors of the town of Becket shall without further vote, assess such amounts upon the land of the proprietors in the district and commit to the collector of taxes of the town wherein the property is situated, who thereupon shall have and exercise the same powers and duties in relation to the collection of such assessments as the 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 property assessed therefore, in the same manner as a lien for real estate taxes assessed by the town under the provisions of section 37 of chapter 60 of the General Laws and other related provisions of the General Laws, as from time to time amended.
The town treasurer shall perform such duties as necessary regarding tax title in the district. Reference elsewhere in this legislation to treasurer shall mean district treasurer.
SECTION 15. The district may agree upon appropriate compensation for its officers and employees, including the prudential committee members.
SECTION 16. The fiscal year of the district shall be the same fiscal year established by General Law or otherwise for the town of Becket.
SECTION 17. The town of Becket shall not be obligated for any debts of the district nor shall it by virtue of this act, be required to pay for any repairs and maintenance of streets or ways within the district including, but not limited to, snow and ice removal; provided, however, that nothing in this act shall preclude the layout and acceptance of any street or way within the district by the town or by the county as provided by law or the expenditure of monies by towns for private ways open to public use, if the town shall so vote pursuant to section 6N of chapter 40 of the General Laws.
SECTION 18. Neither the town of Becket nor any agency or department of the commonwealth shall be obligated for any debts or liability of the district. If a person sustains bodily injury or damage to his property by reason of defect or want of repair in or upon a listed street or way within the district, claims for such injury or damage shall be governed by the applicable provisions of chapter 84 of the General Laws relating to damages for defects in ways.
SECTION 19. The district, at a meeting called therefore, may annex adjacent territory and its real property owners, if a majority of the real property owners of said territory petition the district, through its prudential committee, and define the limits thereof, or may, on the petition of any person, to the prudential committee, exclude that person's estate from the district; provided, however, that such exclusion shall not be granted by the district if the estate of the petitioner is so situated as to be able to benefit from any listed street or way which is improved or maintained by the district; provided, further, that no estate shall be subject to any tax assessed on account of the repair and maintenance of roads under this act if, in the judgment of the prudential committee, after a hearing, due notice of which shall be given, such estate is so situated that it can receive no benefit from the repair and maintenance provided in the district. The petition for such exclusion from taxation shall be in writing and filed with the prudential committee of the district not later than the date set for the filing of petitions for the insertion of articles in the warrant of the district meeting and shall state the petitioner's reason for seeking exclusion from taxation. The prudential committee shall cause an appropriate article to be inserted in the warrant for said meeting, shall examine the reasons stated, shall conduct such investigation as it deems necessary and shall report its findings, with recommendations to said meeting. Any such petitioner, aggrieved by the action of the district on the petition, may appeal to the superior court sitting in equity within the county in which the district is located within 20 days for a remedy. Upon such appeal, said court shall, if the reason set forth by the petition is found to lie within the intent of this section, grant such exclusion. The grant of exclusion from taxation shall exempt the person and his estate from any tax levied by reason of any appropriation made by the district after the filing of the petition as provided herein.
SECTION 20. The district may establish in its annual budget a reserve fund under the provisions of section 5C of chapter 40 of the General Laws. The district is further authorized to establish and maintain a stabilization fund under the provisions of section 5B of said chapter 40 of the General Laws. The district shall further be subject to an audit of its accounts in the manner provided in section 40 of chapter 44 of the General Laws.
SECTION 21. Once established, the district shall not be dissolved without specific authorization of law and satisfaction of all outstanding obligations. If there shall exist in the district treasury surplus funds remaining after the payment of all outstanding obligations as aforesaid, said funds shall be distributed by the prudential committee to the proprietors based upon the percentage that the most recent assessed valuation of the land and improvements for each proprietor shall bear to the total or aggregate assessed valuation of all the proprietors within the district. No such distribution of surplus shall be made by the prudential committee until it shall have first published in each week for three successive weeks in a newspaper of at least weekly publication within the county of Berkshire a notice of intent to disband the district which shall afford reasonable notice to all creditors and possible claimants against the district of the intended action. Within ten days of an affirmative vote to dissolve, the district clerk shall file with the Becket town clerk, with the secretary of the commonwealth, the commissioner of revenue and the attorney general's office an attested copy of said petition and a certified copy of the district vote. Upon completion of the aforesaid actions and subsequent passage of an act authorizing the same, the Sherwood Greens Road District shall cease to exist.
SECTION 22. This act shall take effect upon its passage.