Town of NewSalem Selectboard
January 14, 2018
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, chair, Wayne Hachey, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Kathy Soule-Regine, MaryEllen Kennedy, Broadband; Joe Cuneo, Fire Chief; Ken Bright; Nancy Slator
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Special Town Meeting Article Regarding MLP Board
MaryEllen started off by outlining what the articles would be. The primary goal would be to form a Municipal Light Plant Board. Kathy explained that by default without one the Selectboard serves as one. But with the level of activity going on it makes sense to formally create the MLP Board. Many of the towns have continued to have a Broadband Committee and they usually meet jointly. The goal being to oversee operations. The MLP Board would be a 3-member board. Those who serve would have to expect to put in a lot of time. Perhaps in the future it might be a less demanding position. Most of the responsibilities and powers are defined under MGL. They would oversee the MLP Director. Once operational, you really do need the MLP Board since they have some special responsibilities to the rate payers that might conflict with the Selectboard’s duties and therefore it is important for them to be separated out. So this has to be voted in at town meeting and the board members would be elected officials. Randy clarified about any filling with appointments. MaryEllen responded that the Selectboard can fill the positions until the next election. Wayne asked if there are people willing to serve. MaryEllen responded that they do. They would be existing members of the Broadband Committee. Kathy explained that there isn’t really time to bring people up to speed so that makes the most sense. Wayne asked about the composition as a 3-member board. Kathy explained that was for quorum reasons. Kathy responded that right now a lot of people might want to sit on it, but in the future it might be hard to fill. MaryEllen agreed stating that it is 3-members with staggered 3 year terms. Randy asked about the rates and plans. Kathy responded that they haven’t gone out for procurement yet, so they aren’t totally certain. But all the towns have been falling in around the same rates. So there should be a good idea for that pretty soon. There are three crews out every day doing pole setting and a tree crew following them around. Joe noted that there has already been an accident from a driver not paying attention. The accident damaged a new pole which had to be reset. Kathy noted that thankfully the town owned poles are insured. Kathy wrapped up by noting some of the advantages that New Salem got from Shutesbury’s experience.
FRCOG Local Technical Assistance Survey
Nancy updated on where this stands. This is a for DLTA and includes planning projects. Joe noted that regionalization of fire departments, if it is part of that, should be included. Nancy responded that DLTA does allow for exploring new services or the continuation of regionalization services, so that can be put down. She then went over some of the planning projects. These would include a variety of topics for planning such as commercial zones, housing plans, housing needs assessments, assessment and analysis of food supply chains, downtown center development, flooding, town wide pollination coordinator, art installations, culvert assessment, and the like. Wayne noted that some of that might make sense. Such as art installation which might be of use for the Old Academy Building and the New Salem Academy’s Museum. Nancy then noted that another assessment item would be for infrastructure. Wayne noted that could be useful for some of the towns bridges. Nancy then brought up another item, which would involve an abandoned building taskforce. There were also items involving marijuana, zoning development, clean energy, and land conservation. Randy clarified that much of this being planning would fall under Planning Board. Nancy confirmed. She then asked about regional projects which can include new shared services. Wayne noted that would fall under Joe’s interest in fire regionalization.
Randy followed that we’re already in talks with Wendell about possible future sharing of a Police Chief. Nancy then went over some of the other topics on the survey including substance abuse programs. Wayne suggested that the Police Chief be scheduled for any discussion of substance abuse programs. Nancy responded that this is about support of county wide programs for combating substance abuse. Wayne then asked about transportation. Little appears to be happening to improve things. The town has poor public transportation options, and this isn’t just a New Salem issue, it’s pretty much a countywide one in Franklin County. Nancy recalled that when the Commonwealth tried to create a bus service out here it didn’t really survive. Wayne responded that program wasn’t really advertised well and had a strange schedule and it ran an unusual route for the region. From there discussion shifted to the culvert assessment. It was agreed that an assessment would be a good idea. Assessing vegetation, sign reflection, and improvement of sight lines for intersections should be part of things too. Ken suggested that invasive plant species should be looked into as part of the assessment of vegetation. Nancy agreed to be the contact person for FRCOG relating to this.
Nancy reported on the budget sheets from Finance Committee. She asked if there is anything particular the Selectboard would like to see modified or changed. This could include building repairs, legal expenses, and the like. Wayne noted a few areas that should be considered. Nancy reminded that these need to be done by the end of the month. Jake asked if the Selectboard would be interested in making his position a stipend one. Nancy responded that Wendell’s Selectboard Clerk is paid a stipend and it makes a lot of sense to have it setup that way rather than as an hourly position. Wayne asked if a raise would be looked for. Jake responded that certainly that could be considered, noting that he is paid a bit over $12 per hour. Nancy stated she would talk to the Town Treasurer to determine the exact hourly wage paid, how many hours are worked on average a year by the position and sort out what the usual yearly wage ends up being. It was agreed to consider the matter further.
Meetings with Wendell Selectboard
Nancy reported on her discussions with Wendell on how to handle these meetings. Wendell would like to have a meeting once a month. Randy asked how this would work. Nancy explained that they would rotate with each Selectboard going to the other’s meeting. So one month New Salem would go to Wendell and the next Wendell would come to New Salem. At the first meeting they would like to discuss the sharing of a Police Chief and what funding for the process. Nancy stressed they aren’t looking to do this right away, but they want to have plans in place for when the two chiefs retire. Randy agreed that this is a good idea to explore, but there are outstanding questions like how to handle evidence storage. Nancy agreed and suggested that FRCOG’s help on this topic will assist in answering those kinds of questions. The first such meeting would be February 6th. It was clarified that this would be New Salem attending Wendell’s meeting and would not otherwise be an ordinary meeting of the Selectboard. Although it will still be posted.
Rural School Advocacy Letter
Nancy then reported on a letter to Governor Baker regarding the educational funding formula. The General Courts discussions have centered on population centers and they have not focused on rural school districts. There is concern that rural districts will be left behind. School enrollment has declined significantly since 2000 in rural districts, and Chapter 70 funding has remained flat. Despite efforts to consolidate and economizing costs have increased. This has created a growing financial crisis in rural schools. Funding models are designed for urban schools, and clearly something must be done. It is recommended that the General Court and the Governor consider the model in Wisconsin. The Selectboard had no issue with signing the letter and was supportive.
Surplus Cellphone Equipment
Joe brought up a question of whether he could buy the towns old phones. Nancy clarified that these phones are not worth very much as trade ins given their age. Joe agreed saying that the networks don’t usually want to take them back as they are old models. Sprint unlocks them and they can be used. Nancy stated they are surplus equipment and are not currently in use. Wayne asked if there is an estimate of the value. Joe responded that he doesn’t have an estimate, but that he would be willing to pay $50 for both. Randy asked if there are any ethics rules implicated. Nancy responded the value is likely under $20 each so there shouldn’t be an issue.
Wayne made a motion to define the phones in question as surplus equipment and to accept the offer of $50 for both. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote.
2018 Annual Town Report
Nancy reported on where things stand with the report. She hopes to have reports from departments, committees, boards, and commissions in hand by April. Randy urged proof reading by multiple eyes to ensure that reports are error free.
Prior Year Bills for Town Meeting & Free Cash
Nancy updated on where some of the prior fiscal year bills are and what the state of Free Cash is. Unfortunately, the Town Accountant hasn’t yet been able to certify Free Cash with DOR. There are some outstanding issues that still need to be sorted out there. That said the Town Treasurer and Tax Collector report things are healthy on their end.
The Selectboard determined to approve the minutes from January 2, 2018.
A motion to adjourn at 7:45 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk