Town of NewSalem Selectboard
February 26, 2018
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, chair, Wayne Hachey, Lisa DeWitt, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Ken Bright; Carla Halpern, Rabbit Run; Kathy Soule-Regine, MaryEllen Kennedy, Broadband; Zara Dowling, Green Communities; Sarah Kohler, David Cramer, Planning Board; Cameron Woodcock, Athol Daily News Reporter
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Green Communities Grant
Zara started off by explaining she is present on behalf of the Energy Committee. There are a number of Green Communities grants that the committee is seeking to apply for. There is an application in process, but there is still some data that needs to be added to it. The grants would cover various energy needs in town. Wayne inquired about a lightbulb program that was done about three years ago. It wasn’t a big savings, but it was helpful. Zara noted some areas to double check some of the fixtures that were impacted by that program as part of this overall subject. The plan this time is to install LED’s. The prior program was for fluorescents. Wayne noted all the different buildings that were converted. Zara reported on specific fixtures that could be changed over to LEDs and the positive impact this could make. Other items include incremental costs for hybrid vehicles for Police and other departments. There’s only one patrol or pursuit rated hybrid on the market and it has passed various Michigan State Police tests. The Police Chief has indicated he would prefer a utility vehicle, and there is currently no hybrid police utility vehicle at this point. But it’s still an item worth pursuing and putting it forward as a proposed project won’t hurt. Wayne clarified that the grant would only cover the difference between the cost of a regular police vehicle and the hybrid. Zara confirmed. She noted that Hardwick has purchased a hybrid for police, but they mostly use it for non-patrol duties. The grant would cover a plug in hybrid. Wayne noted that the problem tends to be that a lot of people are worried about range anxiety issues. Zara responded that hybrids shouldn’t have that issue. Hardwick uses a Ford Fusion hybrid. Ken stated that although he hasn’t spoken with the Police Chief in a year or so, but as a retired Police Officer, the foremost concern for Police is often that a full sized utility vehicle is more visible and better able to provide the officer with better vision. Compact police vehicles in rural areas like New Salem are less advantageous on these fronts. He then outlined some reasons why a plug in can be problematic in the region.
Zara responded that this proposal involves a hybrid which still has a gas engine. Wayne agreed noting that the only thing that hybrids have that are less advantageous is less room due to the gas engine coupled with the electric one. Ken then outlined some other concerns, including battery issues and the potential for problems in a situation that involves possible gun fire. He also responded to the issue of room, noting that police vehicles carry a lot of equipment, much of which is radio related, would be constrained in a compact and if the hybrid has less room due to engine and batteries, that is a consideration. A lot of this kind of equipment requires charging. Further, the biggest wear and tear on police vehicles is not mileage, but idling. He expressed concern about whether an electrical vehicle could handle that kind of idle. Wayne noted that this is a hybrid, and the batteries can handle idling usually for at least 30 minutes after which the combustion engine would kick in. Zara interjected to state that this is just an application for a grant and any purchase decision would still come before town meeting and follow the normal procurement process for a police vehicle. Ken then expressed a few other concerns including capability to travel on country roads, many of which are dirt or gravel, as well as maintenance issues. In his opinion, the end result is that the cost is either pay now or pay later and he feels that a small vehicle would not make it through the conditions in New Salem. Zara reminded those present that the vehicle in question would be pursuit and patrol rated, and is a police vehicle. The question of what to purchase should at least be put before the public and let the voters decide what they want. Wayne noted that the Police Chief would probably be the primary driver of any new vehicle anyway. Zara agreed to do some more research on the topic of police patrol and pursuit rated vehicles. Ken inquired about the replacement cost of batteries. Wayne noted that most of the batteries are now being rated for 100,000 miles. Zara agreed and noted that the Prius battery replacement cost has come down to about $1,000 anyway. Zara then moved on to other green energy priorities. The town has seen a 20 percent reduction in fossil fuel and savings in other areas that now qualifies the town for a number of grant opportunities. She outlined some grant opportunities for water heaters, and related equipment that could benefit Swift River Elementary. One of the things that could be pursued would be solar equipment for proposed flashing speed signs outside the school.
Nancy outlined the signs the town is already considering. Ken noted that there used to be flashing signs outside of the schools but they were taken down. Lisa explained that the signs were taken down because in those days they had an electric bill and Wendell wouldn’t pay for their half of the bill. So the towns agreed to take them down. This prompted a question of whether Wendell would also have to be part of the application for anything school related. Zara was confident that they would not. Discussion briefly turned to some of the solar credits the town has, and what the departments are getting. Nancy reported that no departments have zero bills all the time, but some have indeed gotten zero bills. Zara finished up with a brief list of various other priorities for the committee. These include possible solar installations on town building roofs. Wayne had some suggestions about what roofs would be good targets. Zara agreed with most of them and suggested consideration of a solar project for Swift River as well. Unfortunately, this particular grant won’t cover solar installations of that sort. Randy had a few questions about how the grant funds would work, specifically if the grant funds require ongoing expenses or can be turned down by the town if it can’t afford to do the whole project after all. The town always has rising costs but limited revenue sources. Zara explained how contingencies would work and what options the town would have. So if the town, for example, votes against something like a new hybrid police vehicle the town wouldn’t be committed to having to buy one. Zara responded that no, the town wouldn’t be required to proceed if there was a no vote at town meeting on such a purchase. Discussion then shifted to the possibility of converting street lights in the town to LEDs. Current street lights in town cost about $240 a year per light. The cost of conversion might not be worth it, but it is still worth investigating. It was then determined that the Selectboard could empower Randy as Chair to sign the application once it is ready for submission.
Lisa made a motion to empower the Chair to sign the grant application upon its completion for submission. Wayne seconded the motion and the motion passed without objection.
Old Academy Building Lease
Nancy reported that Town Counsel has reviewed the lease. Counsel has some concerns about the proposed lease and would like to see some further modifications prior to any signing. Wayne noted that various options have been put forward including only renting the space used in the building to the Trustees rather than the whole building. This would essentially mean just billing the Trustees once a year for a single amount. Lisa was not opposed to the concept. Randy had some questions, including how comfortable the Trustees are. This proposal was put forward by at least one Trustee. Randy expressed some concerns about not having a lease and how things would work. A significant concern for the Trustees is issues with other groups using the building. Discussion briefly turned to the issue of the bats. Zara had some suggestions on how to deal with bats noting her prior experience with dealing with them. She suggested looking into the issue in the spring. Lisa agreed to arrange that with Zara. Few were concerned with the bats themselves, rather their droppings. Nancy returned discussion to the options. She suggested sending Town Counsels edits to Dan Hammock while still considering the alternative proposal put forward which would be no lease for the whole building. Randy suggested the best way forward is to just give the Trustees all options and ask them to make a choice. A set fee might be the best option. Discussion ended there.
Village Ultra Race
Nancy then reported on where things stand with the proposal for the Village Ultra. MIIA reports that if the town isn’t involved directly with the race, there are few options for the town to disclaim liability. But anyone suing would have to prove negligence. Given that this is only for 24 hours, with proper signage and liability waivers, there shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Wayne suggested that having the camping on the soccer filed would likely shelter them sufficiently. There was some brief discussion as to why any runners would want to run that many hours or camp out. Wayne shifted discussion back to the appropriate date for the event. It would appear that Labor Day weekend would work best. Lisa had a few questions about the fundraising and where it would go. Randy reminded that what Carla had articulated at the last meeting was that it would go to Mahar. As long as it is declared exactly where the funds go and they don’t go through the town, it should be fine as long as the funds are spent on a lawful purpose. Lisa outlined various ways funds may be donated to Mahar or programs that support Mahar.
A motion was made by Wayne to approve the Village Ultra for a 24-hour race to be tentatively scheduled for Labor Day weekend. Seconded by Lisa and passed by majority vote with Randy abstaining.
Update from Veterans Services District
Nancy reported on the programs the district is offering. The work off program doesn’t appear to be fitting with the towns so the district isn’t certain they’ll keep pursuing it. They will continue to pursue the option of tax benefits and other resources for veterans. The district is willing to send representatives out to talk to the Selectboard to report if requested. There are specific things that funds can be used on, things like food and fuel. Nancy outlined the various things that they can do and some of the possible burdens on the towns financial officers. She suggested having some kind of meeting with them and including the Tax Collector, the Treasurer, and possibly the Town Accountant. Wayne briefly shifted discussion to the issue of updating veteran’s plaques, maintenance, and beautification of veteran monuments. Lisa outlined some things that can be done with the funds the town has for those subjects. Nancy returned discussion to the Veterans Services District. It was agreed that having representatives come in to discuss the options for the town would be helpful. Having financial officers attend may be a consideration if timing works.
Call Regarding Insurance Claim on Moosehorn Road
Nancy reported on a non-action item. A person has reported some issues with Moosehorn Road. The individual in question experienced an accident that totaled his vehicle and he wishes to make a claim. Nancy has spoken with MIIA about the issue. MIIA reports that he can submit a claim, but under MGL, this claim is unlikely to succeed. The individual was belligerent in speaking with Nancy, but regardless she has given him the appropriate paperwork. If he wishes to submit a claim he is free to do so, but it is unlikely he will win.
Dangerous Dog Hearing Protocol from Town Counsel
Nancy went over some forms and notice requirements with the Selectboard as well as the statutory requirements. Discussion revolved around how a hearing would work. It is suggested that those testifying be sworn in, and that the hearing be recorded. The relevant MGL is very specific and outlines what the procedures are. Wayne noted that it appears that this case involves three or four German Shepheard’s and an attack on a neighbor’s dog. Nancy suggested a few dates for when the hearing could be done. It was determined to tentatively schedule it for a date about four weeks out with a clearer date chosen later. Concern was expressed about this process becoming adversarial. The difficulty is that there is no way that someone can’t be aware that there is a problem even if the owner is a perfectly nice person. And it doesn’t matter if the property is private property, the leash by-law requires that dogs must be leashed if they are not on the owner’s property. The ACO has attempted to work with the owner, but so far hasn’t made headway. Wayne noted that he has spoken with the UPS driver that delivers in that part of town, and he won’t get out of his truck on that street because of these particular dogs.
Flashing Speed Signs for School Zone Cost
Nancy reported the that the preliminary cost appears to be $1,700 each for the signs.
Tree Removal/Trimming Needed for Broadband Installation
Several trees need to be removed on Faye Road and on West Street. Three of the trees, those on West Street, are healthy and therefore require a hearing before removal. The hearing will need to be scheduled.
Chapter 90 Funding for FY19
The town got $146,733 this year. That amount has dropped a little from last year. Nancy has done some research into it to try to understand the subject better, but it remains elusive.
Capital Improvements Committee
Nancy reported that John Ryan has resigned from Capital Improvements Committee and all other appointments and offices he holds. This prompted some discussion about the need for the Capital Improvements Committee. Wayne noted that the town doesn’t have a lot in place regarding capital planning. Both Lisa and Wayne were interested in possibly serving. The appointments are made by the Town Moderator. Randy noted that no more than one Selectmen could serve due to meeting postings, unless each meeting is a joint meeting. If two or more Selectmen were to join it then a meeting posting has to be made for both the Selectboard and the Capital Improvements Committee.
Request Regarding a Possible Wedding at the Old Academy Building
Lisa had an inquiry about the possible use of the building for a wedding. It was suggested the Trustees be included in any request only because the wedding would be in the summer and by that time the Trustees might be renting the building depending on what happens. The Selectboard consensus was that otherwise there would be no issue with the request otherwise, at least on the towns part.
The Selectboard approved the minutes from February 12th, 2018.
A motion to adjourn at 8:08 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Lisa and carried without objection.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk