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Willliamstown Sets Housing Board, Fills Empty Seats
By Stephen Dravis, Special to iBerkshires
10:55PM / Monday, August 13, 2012
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The Williamstown Elementary School Committee and Selectmen combine to review applicants for a vacant position on the elementary school body.

Tom Sheldon and Catherine Yamamoto are sworn in to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Williamstown Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Selectmen on Monday evening filled vacancies on two existing town boards and named the first five members of a brand-new body.

In a joint meeting with the town's Elementary School Committee, officials selected Dan Caplinger to fill out a mid-term vacancy on the committee.

The Selectmen also appointed Mary Beebee to a spot on the Sign Commission and named the first board of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund that was created in May at town meeting.

Caplinger was approved by a vote of 8-0. Four current members of the Elementary School Committee and four members of the Selectmen (Selectman Tom Costley was absent) joined in the decision to appoint Caplinger over Gary Fuls, who also applied for the position.

"I want to thank both gentlemen for applying," Elementary School Committee Chairwoman Mary McComish said. "It seems like they both would be qualified."

But McComish cited Caplinger's professional experience as a financial planner and a corporate analyst as helping to earn her vote.

"Given the importance of our work with budgeting — not just for this year but also into the future ... Dan's experience would be a helpful asset," McComish said.

Caplinger is a writer and editor for personal investment website He came to Williamstown with his family from Montana when an opportunity arose to telecommute for the Virginia-based firm.

"When I started working for the Fool, I was able to pick where I wanted to live," Caplinger said. "My wife went to Williams College. I knew several alumni. My best friend from high school went to Williams. Given the choice of being able to live anywhere we wanted, we picked here."

Caplinger said the town's elementary school was a major factor in that decision. And he looked forward to helping serve the school, which he said is critical to the town’s efforts to attract young families.

McComish reported that Fuls sent his regrets, but he was unavoidably detained by a business commitment that kept him away from Monday’s meeting.

"Gary is an integral part of the community," Elementary School Committee member John Skavlem said prior to the vote. "He's certainly a very good candidate, and I know he would have been here if he could have."

All but one member of the newly appointed Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board of Trustees attended Monday's meeting.

Above, Kathy Poirot swears in Dan Caplinger to a position on the Williamstown School Committee. Right, Mary Beebee introduces herself to the Selectmen before being appointed to the town's Sign Commission.
Fred Puddester, Stanley Parese and Affordable Housing Committee Chairwoman Catherine Yamamoto each had a chance to address the Selectmen. The other two spots on the trust fund's board are held by Richard DeMayo, who could not attend, and Selectman Tom Sheldon.

Puddester last year was named the vice president for finance and administration at Williams College, and he has a long history of public service, including four years as budget secretary in Maryland. Parese has served as Williamstown's town meeting moderator and worked as a real estate attorney.

"I have an exquisite knowledge of how delicate land use issues can be in the town of Williamstown," Parese said. "Even before [Tropical Storm Irene], there was a serious need for moderate and low-income housing in town. It's a great challenge for the town, and I'm looking forward to being part of the effort."

Yamamoto took the opportunity to thank the residents for approving the trust at town meeting. Among other things, the trustees will have the power to solicit grants and gifts, invest in Trust property and borrow money against Trust assets, according to the article approved in May.

Sheldon noted that the Board of Trustees, while approved by the Selectmen, cannot actually meet until the commonwealth OKs the town meeting warrant article. The town is still awaiting that approval.

In other business on Monday, the Selectmen:

• Approved a water and sewer warrant in the amount of $136,976.79.

• Accepted the resignation of Kim Burnham from the Affordable Housing Committee.

• Approved a permit for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's annual Bike and Hike the Berkshires event on Sept. 22.

• Approved four one-day wine and malt beverage licenses for Williams College football home games at Weston Field: Sept. 15, Sept. 29, Oct. 13 and Nov. 3.

• And invited two alcohol license holders to attend the next meeting on Sept. 10 after their establishments failed compliance checks on Aug. 9. Twenty-five establishments were tested on that date, and Taconic Golf Club and the Williamstown Theatre Festival each served underage customers without checking identification, according to Police Chief Kyle Johnson. Neither business had been previously checked for compliance, Johnson said in a memo to Town Manager Peter Fohlin.
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