Town of NewSalem Selectboard
August 27, 2018
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, chair, Wayne Hachey, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Ken Bright; Jean Derderian, Historical Commission; Asa deRoode, Captain of the Wendell Fire Department; Zara Dowling, Green Energy Committee; Judy Jewett, Council on Aging
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Ø Special Town Meeting Warrant
Grant Signatures – SAFE Grant
Asa spoke briefly about the grant, explaining it is for $10,000 and pays for education at the local schools, smoke alarm installations, and funds the Senior Safe program. Wayne asked how many times a year they do visits to the schools. Asa responded about 3 to 4 times a year. Usually it’s a half hour program that can include various other items like smoke simulators and the like. The program was started in response to a high child fire death rate throughout the country. Since the program was started a significant drop in deaths has been reported.
Clean Cities Program
Zara started off by explaining that the program involves funding for several towns to trial a special type of software that goes into town vehicles that can help track patterns of fuel usage. This would help determine fuel usage and help determine what vehicles are idling too much and how to prevent idling in vehicles where it shouldn’t be occurring. Vehicle usage is particularly hard to address for towns. New Salem like many communities has improved building energy use and efficiency, but vehicles are harder. This would be free for a year to try it out with an annual monthly cost in the second year. Zara recommended only doing the free year trial to try and figure out where to improve things. Department Heads might have some reluctance given the tracking nature of the software. It isn’t meant to police activity of employees. Randy inquired as to how many vehicles would be covered. Zara reported it would be sufficient to cover the majority if not all of the towns equipment. Wayne was concerned about doing it only for one year noting one bad winter could affect the data. Zara conceded this point, but noted the usefulness for the likely information. While five years would be ideal for data, this is a start that would direct the town in the right direction. Wayne noted some areas that electric and hybrid vehicles might be introduced into the town, and this could help with that potentially. That said, some vehicles need to idle and are generally exempt from fuel controls for that. Those are mostly police vehicles which often must idle when on patrol, particularly in winter, as well as some off duty detail situations.
Nancy noted that sometimes when off duty details are done, the work is for other parties such as utility companies or other towns and those parties pay for the use of the officer and vehicle. Zara then went over some of the other fuel tracking benefits. Wayne then interjected to inquire as to who would pay for the installation. Zara responded that the costs would be covered by the program and shouldn’t tie up the town vehicles to install. Randy asked how available the data is and who gets it. Zara explained that the town would sign an agreement with Mass Clean Cities Initiative which is administered by the Department of Energy. It would then be UMASS Extension that would do the analysis. The data would be collected every few minutes and transmitted. The software company would then work with the town to determine how frequently the data should be analyzed and sent to the town. There isn’t a firm deadline for signing up, but sooner rather than later would be preferential. Wayne asked if the Chiefs had been consulted. Zara responded that she had not yet approached any of them feeling it more appropriate for the Selectboard to do so. Randy asked what this means for Mass Clean Cities. Zara explained that this is overall part of the Green Communities Program and Mass Clean Cities is affiliated with the Commonwealth, again, as part of the Mass Department of Energy Resources (MassDOER). Randy clarified what the ultimate result would be, further funding to solve issues or whether it would just be data. Zara felt it would be recommendations for ways to reduce usage and promote greater efficiency.
Solar on Swift River School
Zara spoke about the recommendation for solar at Swift River School and on the Highway Barn’s roof. The most cost efficient way to do it is on a roof. Otherwise the incentives are to do it as a parking lot cover like what UMASS Amherst has done by the Mullins Center. Wayne inquired as to whether the town would have to buy the panels outright. Zara noted it might have to be, but she outlined ways to finance them including through third party groups. Still the Commonwealth does have incentive programs for public entities and so the town may be able to pursue some, some of which are special loan programs. Wayne noted that Swift River uses a lot of energy, so putting some kind of solar would help reduce energy usage. Zara agreed and went over some back of the envelope numbers. For a roof top system, the monthly loan payment would likely be lower than the current monthly usage. For a canopy over parking lot design, it would likely be barely breaking even. Nancy noted some challenges for Swift River since it is a school district shared with Wendell. Zara suggested getting measurements and having some consultants come out and price out the costs. Wayne felt that a roof top system for Swift River would be a challenge given the way the building is structured and how the roof was done. Nancy noted some agreements would likely have to be made between the school and the towns. Still, Wendell might be willing to be part of installation. A shared cost between the towns could be beneficial. Discussion shifted back to the Highway Barn, as well as ancillary buildings around it that could host solar panels. Zara noted that one possibility is to have a private developer that puts the system in on town property and sells the electricity to the town at a reduced rate. Zara noted that there are extra incentives for private solar to sell to public entities. Wayne asked how much kW would be needed. Zara felt about 100 to 110 kW would do it.
Judy began by reporting that the Council is in need of new members. She noted that there have been some new members, but the group is getting much older and most of the members are 80 years old or over. They don’t have to be Seniors to be on the Council on Aging. Only participants in Council programs must be Seniors. Hendra Reidy would like to step down from her duties on the Council. Like many members she is up and down with her health. The Council has had meetings and no other members are willing to take on the chair or treasurer’s job. Currently the Council is hoping to recruit Donna Ballantine to be on the Council and take the treasurer’s role. This only solves part of the problem if she agrees, as they still need more members. One of the things the Council would like is people who have talents with computers. Nancy suggested putting out an advertisement in the New Salem Newsletter. Randy suggested giving people clarity as to expectations and making it clear that one doesn’t have to be a Senior to serve on the Council on Aging. Judy agreed noting that the person should be someone with the time and availability. Randy reminded that the town is struggling across the board to fill committees and boards, so the Council on Aging is not alone in this. Still, having a clear mission and goals for the group should help interested parties figure out how they can contribute and be a positive part of the group. Nancy agreed noting that the Cultural Council has struggled, especially because it has term limits, which is unusual, in its applicable MGL. Wayne made some inquiries as to the grant funding from the Commonwealth that the Council gets. Judy responded that there is grant funding, and several volunteers have been critical to that success. The funding is Federal funds that are distributed through the Commonwealth. The amount is flat at $5,000 a year. Judy then finished by saying most of the members have held on because they don’t want to see it die. They want to see vital services continue.
Response from Town Counsel Regarding Questions from Previous Meeting
Nancy reported she’s spoken with Town Counsel on two issues, one being a grant for the Library. Counsel has reported on how the Library’s grant would work and will write a letter that will elaborate on the issue. The work will be under $10,000. Thanks to how it works, the town won’t be paying them, the grant will so the Library won’t have to use prevailing wage. The town is only accepting the labor through the grant. Another question related to dogs and licensing. Town Counsel reports that this is a harder issue. A lot of towns have adopted MGL which allows the town to beef up penalties and fines. Unfortunately, it does not appear that New Salem has done this. Wayne asked how dated the current dog by-law is. Nancy was uncertain, but was sure it wasn’t up to date. She then elaborated on by-laws adopted in other towns and how they are handled. One of the best practices is to have a primary issuing officer for any penalties and fees. But before the town can do this, the town needs to better understand the towns by-laws. This question has brought up questions about the towns by-laws being compiled. New Salem appears not to have done this in some time, and this question about the dog by-law should be addressed. Nancy then went over a sample letter that Wendell uses for reminding people to get their dogs licensed. Nancy then went over her discussions with the Town Clerk regarding getting a list of dog owners who have been licensed and determining with Gail Spring who have dogs that are unlicensed. The Town Clerk does get some idea of dogs in town from Veterinarians who comply with MGL and send rabies vaccination records to the Clerk’s Office. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear likely that the town can adopt an improved by-law this upcoming Special Town Meeting. It appears likely that only the Swift River project will be on the Special Town Meeting Warrant.
Mold in Highway Garage
There have been some complaints about mold in the Highway Garage. Wayne noted this has been that way for a little while now. Lisa is the liaison from the Selectboard to the Highway Department and she has inquired as to ways to deal with the mold including special fans among other solutions. Wayne stated he had some special paint that would treat the mold and eliminate what is there. That said, it would not eliminate the overall problem if there is a leak. Nancy reported that such paint is used in Wendell and it does eats away at the mold. But if the roof is leaking, the problem will ultimately persist. Wayne agreed to provide the special paint
Police Department Appointments
Chief Camden has requested some changes to the structure of his department. This requires some appointments including one officer becoming a lieutenant, another a detective, and one a sergeant. Randy had some questions about what this means. It appears that one officer would be bumped down in rank and another promoted. Nancy reported this is in part because one of the officers just wants to be a plain officer and not have the responsibilities of the higher rank. Randy clarified that all the officers have been appointed, just to a different constellation of duties. Nancy responded that that is correct. There were some questions as to the positions and how they rank relating to each other. Wayne thought that the different positions come with different pay rates as well. Nancy was uncertain, but noted that Chief Camden could likely report on the topic further to the Selectboard directly. The Selectboard determined to proceed with signing the new appointment slips.
Mental Health Training
Jean had some concerns about mental health training and whether the Police Department has the proper training. She asked that the Selectboard investigate whether the department is up to date on mental health issues. This would include how to deal with people suffering from mental health conditions who police may encounter through their duties. The department should be well aware of how to handle situations and ensure that they don’t escalate. Wayne noted that the department is required to do some training on suicide prevention, so it may be something they are already dealing with. Jean noted that people can be put out of sorts through trauma and it is critical that police know how to handle these situations. Nancy noted that there may be some training programs through the towns insurer that can help on this subject.
Special Town Meeting Date & Signing of Special Town Meeting Warrant
The Special Town Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 13th, 2018 at 7:00 pm. The only articles on the warrant pertain to the Swift River building improvement project for the windows and doors. The Moderator, Treasurer, Town Clerk and other relevant officials are available for that date. The Selectboard seeing no reason not to sign the warrant determined to do so.
Nancy noted that due to a lot of heavy rain, a number of town dirt roads are washing out and there have been a number of complaints. Some residents have requested the paving of some of these roads. Nancy felt that paving some of the roads might be justifiable, but not all of them. Wayne noted that Chapter 90 has been flat funded for a number of years and the cost of asphalt has been increasing by huge amounts. The Highway Department is doing the best it can. In the meantime, Nancy is passing all complaints and concerns to the Highway Chief and he is responding as quickly as he can. She further noted that part of the problem is that equipment has been down. So the department is doing the best it can with the funding and equipment it has available. Randy suggested that one of the ways to help make citizens happier would be a better reporting structure for what is being serviced. This might include some indication of what the rotation is and a schedule or log of sorts that says when this road was repaired and projecting when a road might be addressed. That way if someone asks when this was last done, the town can say. Wayne responded that with the weather, it can be as simple as the road was repaired yesterday and needs it again today. Randy submitted that it would still help. Nancy generally agreed noting that the public perception appears to be that the department will only fix roads when asked. That isn’t the case, but people don’t always realize that the department does have priorities and a rotation and acts accordingly.
There was some discussion regarding whether the Selectboard should hold its regularly scheduled meeting set for September 10th, 2018 given Rosh Hashanah observance. It was determined that the Selectboard that would otherwise be held on September 10th would be rescheduled for September 13th, 2018 at 6:30 pm just prior to the Special Town Meeting.
The Selectboard adopted the minutes from July 30th, 2018 and the minutes from August 13th, 2018.
A motion to adjourn at 8:05 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk