The town-gown relationship between the Town of Easton and Stonehill College, which has been rocky over the last few years, is improving.
Last month, Stonehill College presented a $30,000 gift to the town. The amount is an increase over previous years' gifts by $10,000. The college also said it would increase the gift amount in coming years ($35,000 next year and $40,000 the following year).
Stonehill is allowing the town to use the money any way it chooses.
"We’re very grateful of them for doing that," Town Administrator David Colton told selectmen last week. "This year is the first time they did not ask us to allocate it in any particular way."
Colton said he plans to use the first $20,000 received in the same way it has always been used:
- $8,000 for Easton Public Schools
- $5,000 for the Ames Free Library
- $3,000 for the Recreation Department
- $4,000 for the Council on Aging
The remaining $10,000 will be split between the fire department and the recreation department. The fire department will purchase communication headsets and the Rec Department will receive $5,000 towards a new shed at Edwin Keach Memorial Park.
The increase in payment comes after years of debate as to whether or not the school should provide the town with more funding than, with Town Officials arguing that it costs more than $20,000 to provide public safety servies for the college. As a religious and educational institution it is exempt from estate taxes. However, as customary in most college towns, the school provides a "gift in lieu of taxes."
Selectmen credited Stonehill Vice President for Advancement Fran Dillon for working with the town to increase the payment.
"I’m thankful of everything he’s done with working on the town to improve the payment they make to us," Board of Selectmen Chair Colleen Corona said. "It’s just been great to work with Fran and I have a lot of respect for everything he’s done to make everything work so much more smoothly."
Dillon, in a letter to Corona, expressed belief that progress is being made.
"Strong Town-Gown relations are important to the success of the College and we want to be good partners with our Easton neighbors," he wrote. "I believe we are back on track in terms of a better Stonehill-Easton relationship and I look forward to working with you, and others in the Town, to ensure that we continue building on this progress."