Members of Select Board and library board of trustees elect new trustee

By William Perkins

 Members of Amherst’s Select Board and the town’s Jones Library Board of Trustees Monday night appointed a longtime town resident and college professor to a vacated library trustee post.

Austin Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College, received eight-of-nine votes cast by Select Board and trustee members at a joint meeting between the two boards. Sarat was one-of-three residents who vied for the position – the other two were Carl Erikson, a library volunteer with a background in non-profit financial management, and Richard Fein, the director of placement at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts.

The position became open after Kathleen Wang resigned from the library’s board of trustees in January. Wang left the post after the ballot deadline for the annual town election, so the Select Board and trustees, by law, were charged with electing someone to the post.

Each of the three candidates at the onset of Monday night’s meeting gave the members of the Select Board and board of trustees short pitches as to why they felt they would be best suited for the position.

Fein, who noted that he is retiring from UMass this June, said he felt that serving on the board of trustees would be a way that he could give back to the community. He also said that he feels the Jones Library is a gem in Amherst.

“The Jones Library is one of the treasures of our community,” Fein said, adding that he feels that the edifice is a point of pride in the community.

Erikson, who voluntarily re-shelves books at the library, said he likes tackling financial issues, and added that he feels the library instills knowledge in members of the community.

“The library’s important to me because it creates a sense of knowledge and understanding,” said Erikson.         

And Sarat, who has lived in Amherst since 1974, said that he wanted to serve on the board of trustees because of his love for books, library and the public. He noted that the library should also be thought of as a community center.

After each of the candidates gave their opening statements, they were questioned by Select Board and trustee members on a variety of matters that pertain to the library.  Some questions involved how the candidates would go about increasing donations to the library, how they feel representatives from the library should approach the public and what they feel about the physical standing of the library.

Additionally, the candidates also gave closing statements before the members of the two boards took a vote on who to appoint.

All five Select Board members and three out of the four current board of trustees members voted to appoint Sarat to the post, as newly-elected trustee Michael Wolff voted to appoint Erikson to the position.

Sarat will serve as a library trustee until the town elections of 2012.

Elsewhere Monday night, Town Manager John Musante reported to Select Board members that roughly 64 emergency medical services were placed from Friday night to Sunday morning – the majority of which were related to drug and alcohol issues, pertaining to the Dayglow events this past weekend at the Mullins Center. The town, Musante said, relied on mutual aid services from Sunderland, Belchertown and Northampton to respond to all of its calls.

Additionally, Musante said that he spoke to UMass officials about the matter, and noted that they said they will look into the issue further. 

In other business, Select Board members Monday night also unanimously approved a resolution that will call on state representatives to support legislation that would institute a progressive tax aimed at increasing funding for public entities.

The resolution, known as “An Act to Invest in Our Communities,” calls for increasing the state income tax from 5.3 percent to 5.95 percent. However, the bill also calls for increasing tax exemptions for those defined as middle-class individuals, which the authors of the legislation perceive will offset the tax increase.

Additionally, the resolution aims to increase the tax rate for those perceived to be wealthy investors.

The Select Board approved of the measure after Max Page, the vice president of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, urged them to support it.

William Perkins can be reached at [email protected]