Town of NewSalem Selectboard
December 3, 2018
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, chair, Wayne Hachey, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Lisa Finestone, Tree Committee; Ken Holmberg, Working Assessor; Eric Hamm, David Briand, Jean Derderian, Board of Assessors; Zara Dowling, Green Communities; Ken Bright; Carla Halpern, Carl Seppala, Karen Briand, David Briand; School Committee; Barbara Doyle, candidate for School Committee
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Ø ABCC Liquor License Renewal
Ø Tax Classification Paperwork for DOR
Tax Classification Hearing
Randy started off by asking Ken how the Assessors meetings are going. He reported that the Assessors have been maintaining quorum and fully functioning as of late. He then turned to reporting on the hearing. The towns values have been approved and notices have gone out in the paper as required. As per usual, it is up to the Selectboard to decide if there is a single tax rate or a split rate. Ken then provided the Selectboard with some materials. He reported that the current position of the Board of Assessors is to have a single rate. It may be that the rate might go down a little from last year, but there have been adjustments from the Commonwealth as to valuations. This is mostly due to changes as to square footage, style, and other factors that were considered. Some were due to improvements or corrections. Randy noted that it is nothing really about the town itself, but rather more an issue of home improvements. Eric noted that some of it is the town as a whole, as values are heading upwards. Ken agreed generally, but noted that the increase isn’t as much as other towns. The likely rate that DOR will approve is $17.87 per thousand at a single tax rate. Ken stated that the levy decreased a little, by about $10,000. He wasn’t entirely sure as to why and has inquiries with DOR. Ken then went over a few of the other options, but stated that a lot of them don’t make sense for a town like New Salem. All a split rate does is shift the burden from one class of people to another. Sometimes a split rate makes sense, but currently it doesn’t make sense for New Salem. Randy inquired as to whether the town has approved any of the exceptions in the past. Ken responded that there have been none. That said he did note some work that was done on open space as well as valuations regarding DCR land. Unfortunately, DCR has changed the process for taxing the Quabbin land. But thankfully New Salem’s agreement with the Commonwealth has a provision whereby the amount cannot be decreased. So while no increases are currently available, the amount being paid by DCR won’t go down. Eric then interjected to suggest that a deduction should be considered for some in the case that broadband isn’t brought to their house. Any houses left out would be significantly devalued, so it is arguable that they ought to get something. Jean stated that to her understanding all houses in town were supposed to get broadband and expressed surprise that that might not happen. Eric noted that Eagleville, a neighborhood in town, gets one given the fact that it doesn’t get certain services. The Selectboard again affirmed its commitment to see all houses receive broadband. Discussion then concluded on the tax rate.
Wayne made a motion to accept a single tax rate and adopting a minimum residential factor of 1. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote.
School Committee Vacancy
Randy started off by reporting that the Selectboard became aware of a vacancy on the committee about a month ago. The Selectboard would like to facilitate the process of filling the vacancy as permitted by law. He then asked Barbara to speak about herself a bit. Barbara reported that she has lived in New Salem for 15 years. Her children have and continue to attend the schools in New Salem. She has long had an interest in serving in the School Committee. She is a licensed mental health counselor, which she thinks would be valuable to the School Committee. She values education and believes it is important. David had a few questions. He asked about a concern about possible conflicts of interest noting that Barbara has run as a write in during past election. He further noted that in those efforts she was supported by both the chair of the Selectboard and the chair of the School Committee. He asked if appointed to the School Committee whether she would have any conflicts or disagreement with her supporters. Barbara responded that she is not on a first name basis with either chair, and stated she would also seek to make informed decisions on all matters and that thanks to her profession she knows how to establish proper boundaries. When on any committee where a decision has to be made, one must look to the bigger picture. Therefore, she sees no conflict as she would not be influenced.
Randy responded for the record that he only knows Barbara as a mother in the community. Carl then spoke stating that given Barbara’s experience with children and mental health she would be a welcome addition to the committee. Carla then asked about the process of recommendations. Nancy responded that the meeting is properly posted and the School Committee as an elected entity would then recommend on the vacancy and the Selectboard would appoint. Karen interjected to request the recusal of Randy on the basis that that his wife is acting as the School Committee chair and the person making the motion of recommendation. Randy took the matter into consideration, but declined to recuse himself on the grounds that the Selectboard has only two members at this time and any recusal would therefore effect the ability of the Selectboard to function and carry out its duties under law. David then had objections as to the nature of the joint meeting and expressed the feeling that this matter should be dealt with at the School Committees ordinary meeting. Nancy responded that this appointment is only until the next election and this meeting was properly posted. Carla asked if this meeting was posted as a joint meeting and whether the issue of appointment to the School Committee was posted in the agenda. Nancy responded in the affirmative. Carla than asked if this is the proper procedure in filling the committee’s vacancy. Nancy responded that this is the proper procedure for filling a vacancy on an elected board. Carla then stated for the record it appears proper procedure is being followed.
She then further stated that she understands that there are difficult personal feelings here, but she would like to move forward with a working School Committee. There are a lot of common goals that are why the members are on the committee in the first place. She wishes to work together and recommends Barbara solely because she is someone that she knows as an acquaintance who is known to be intelligent and thoughtful and is respected by the public at large. She felt confident that Barbara would be capable of functioning as a member of the committee and to the discharge of her duties if appointed. As such she asked the committee to move forward with a vote. Karen again objected on the grounds that other persons may be interested in the position and should be allowed to be present. Wayne stated that this vacancy has been ongoing and he would have hoped that anyone else would have come to this meeting. It was his belief that the candidate is well qualified. David had some questions as to the process which Randy and Nancy answered. Carla agreed explaining how the recommendation occurs and how the Selectboard would act. Randy suggested that if there is concern about his serving on the Selectboard while his wife sits on the School Committee, that it should be noted for the record also that two members of the School Committee are married. Neither of whom have recused themselves regarding this matter.
Carla made a motion to approve the recommendation of Barbara Doyle to the School Committee. Carl seconded the motion. The vote had two in favor and two against.
Having received the recommendation, all though deadlocked, the Selectboard determined it could proceed with appointment. Carl agreed stating that in his experience as a former member of the Town of Amherst’s Selectboard, the Selectboard may move forward.
Wayne moved to appoint Barbara Doyle as a School Committee member to serve until the next election as permitted by law. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote.
Disposition of Old Highway Dept. Vehicle (F550) & Acquisition of New Vehicle
Nancy asked if a decision can be made on this. Wayne responded that it is still undetermined. Nancy responded that in terms of buying a new vehicle, she made a few recommendations as to using the Commonwealths bid list which might save the town the bidding process which can be extensive. Wayne reported that the problem could be the oil pump which might be replaceable. In the interim Brookside may be able to provide temporary relief. It was agreed to reschedule this matter for the next meeting.
Update on OSHA 7500 Class
Nancy reported on her attendance of the meeting. It was in the Town Hall in Athol. The presenter was entertaining and informative. In terms of what the town needs to do, the town will have a MIIA rep come out and do mock inspections in January. In the meantime, the recommendation is to have the town make a list of things that could have possible dangers and steps that can be taken to avoid. These include things like forms where employees can sign off as to training and comprehension of such training. Some of this seems daunting, but the best the town can do is start small and work its way through. Randy asked what kind of templates are available. Nancy responded that they don’t have a lot of them ready yet, but MIIA is working on it. Meanwhile the Commonwealth appears increasingly likely to push off the deadlines given the fact that so many municipalities are struggling. Wayne suggested contacting FRCOG to see if they have any boilerplate templates that can be adapted.
Upcoming Meeting Date – New Year’s Eve
Nancy asked the Selectboard about an alternative meeting date. It was determined that the meeting date would be changed to January 2nd, 2019.
Scheduling Special Town Meeting
Nancy reported there is an article from Broadband Committee that needs to move forward, and the Animal Control Officer will also have an article as well. There are also prior year bills that need to be paid. She suggested January 14th or 28th. Randy asked if there is enough time for January 14th. Nancy suggested keeping it open for the Town Clerk and Moderator, but January 28th, 2019 makes the most sense.
FRCOG Rural Plan Focus Area Survey
Nancy reported on a FRCOG rural advisory commission that is putting together a plan for priorities for the region. They are looking for issues that the Selectboard might be able to recommend. Nancy noted that this is extensive in scope, but read through them for the Selectboard. It was determined the most important priority as a rural community is broadband, followed by transportation, funding for roads and bridges, and support for small businesses. For municipal government a priority is staffing constraints and recruitment of volunteers for municipal boards, committees, and commissions. Other priorities should include funding for regional school districts.
MIIA 2-Year Proposal
MIIA is offering a 0 percent rate change if the town is willing to renew for 2 years. The Selectboard saw no issue with that.
Request from Matrix to Reconsider Meeting Regarding Broadband Proposal
Nancy reported that there has been a request for reconsideration. The Selectboard’s response was that the town has an agreement in place and thanks Matrix for their offer.
Green Communities Annual Report
Zara went over the report that she has prepared. It is a list of what the town has done this year and will make the town eligible for grants. She then reported on some things the committee would like to add. They’re looking to add Swift River which could open up more grants. Wendell already has done this and New Salem can as well. Having the school on the list helps the town considerably as the school has done a lot of work to reduce energy usage. The new windows the towns are paying for, the new boiler, and the new lights all help. Wayne noted the town certainly has helped pay for a lot of it, might as well get some credit for it. Zara agreed and went over a list of potential measures they can take to reduce even further. So if the Selectboard is onboard, they’ll add it. Obviously the school will have to agree as well, but they have done it for Wendell, so it makes sense that they will for New Salem as well. Zara noted that the overall letter doesn’t specifically commit the town and opens grant opportunities. Wayne asked about solar opportunities. Zara reported that there are issues about installation at Swift River on its roof as installation could void the roofs warranty. A parking lot canopy could be useful, but would be expensive. So these are concerns, in the meantime it may be easier to place solar on the highway garage. Zara asked who she should follow up with. Nancy suggested for Highway Garage that follow up can be had with Morton Buildings and suggested talking to Wendell’s Green Communities Committee as they have some plans in the works too. Seeing no issue with signing the letter, Randy signed in his capacity as chair.
Flag Purchase Through Veterans Services District
Nancy asked if it would be okay to take these out of a Selectboard account and make the purchase. 144 flags would be purchased at a reduced rate. The price is very competitive. Wayne noted that they will also usually take the old flags and burn them properly and suggested asking when making the order. He agreed to help with the swapping out of the flags. There was some discussion of also buying aluminum holders for graves.
ABCC Liquor License Renewal
Nancy reported on the liquor license in town. Randy asked how many licenses are issued. Nancy responded that there is only one and it is the General Store. Seeing no issue with the current licensee, it was determined to proceed with the paperwork and issuance of the renewed license.
The Selectboard determined to approve the minutes from November 5th & 19th, 2018.
A motion to adjourn at 8:09 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk