Town of NewSalem Selectboard
January 29, 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, Planning Board; Dan Hammock, Trustees of the New Salem Academy; Jean Derderian; Cameron Woodcock, Athol Daily News Reporter
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Ø Standard Commonwealth Contract for COA
Ø Letter to MassDOT Director Regarding Tree Trimming on Rt. 202
Old Academy Building
Dan started off by explaining that the Trustees have been reviewing the materials sent to them regarding a lease since December. The Trustees feel that their materials are important and historical. The Trustees see this as a negotiation and are agreeable for the most part. They have put forward a proposed lease that has been reviewed by the Trustees counsel. Jean then spoke about her conversations with the Massachusetts Historical Commission regarding the endowment fund of that building. The New Salem Historical Commission can vote to allow those funds to be used for certain essential things relating to the buildings maintenance. She cannot promise that the Commission will approve the use of funds for that, but it will be put for a vote. Nancy then spoke about the elevator, the maintenance it requires, and the costs related to it. Dan then presented the Selectboard with some materials. There are a number of trustees, and working with them has been challenging since many have been out of town. He believes the majority of trustees are on board with the lease. The Trustees are not attempting to bring about an undue delay, rather they have been working on the lease. The proposal is for the lease to be no longer then 3 years. Nancy pointed out that Town Counsel has not yet looked at the Trustees proposed lease. Jean stated that the lease being proposed is substantially similar to the lease that was proposed by the town and that lease was reviewed by Town Counsel. Dan then went over some of the questions regarding liability around the building and a few other details. Lisa then inquired about what the Trustees understand as their responsibility for maintenance.
Dan responded that normal and usual maintenance is expected, but the grounds keeping is the towns responsibility. Any major maintenance is needed, such as damage to the roof from a tree branch or if a window is broken, that would fall to the town. Lisa inquired about basic things like fighting mold, running fans and humidifiers, dealing with pests like bats, as well as notification for any pest removal and the like. Jean noted that the tenant is usually responsible for all usual maintenance for exterior and interior of the building, but this can be clarified to address some of Lisa’s concerns as well as the Trustees as to major maintenance. Dan responded that the kind of maintenance Lisa is describing would be mostly minor maintenance and likely not be an issue. Jean suggested that some things will crop up that nobody expects, and so an ongoing dialogue between all parties needs to occur. Nancy clarified as to where some parts of the lease address the issue with pests like bats as well as remediation requirements. This prompted some further discussion as to what remediation includes or excludes. Dan suggested that things should work out reasonably and the lease is for 3 years, concerns, questions, and issues can always be resolved at the next lease term. Jean noted that as to pests like the bats, it may be best to word the lease to have the town be responsible for dealing with pests like the bats. Lisa was fine with dealing with this. Wayne inquired about if the Trustees would be willing to cover the towns legal costs for Town Counsel to review the proposed lease. Dan responded that the Trustees have not considered this and he is not authorized to agree to that. It was suggested that the cost for the town would be about $200.
Lisa turned the discussion to a question about use of the bathroom. Dan responded that the bathroom could be used by other parties like the 1794 Meetinghouse as long as such parties have an attendant there to make sure it remains clean and no harm comes to the building. Wayne noted that when the 1794 Meetinghouse used it last year, they had someone to monitor its use and ensure it remained clean. Lisa agreed that having people wondering around the building unmonitored is not desirable and the Trustees requests regarding monitoring are understandable. Dan went over how the building would be secured, including internally. He did not anticipate any significant issues. Nancy then requested that an electronic copy of the Trustees proposed lease be sent to her and to Jean. Dan agreed. Randy had a few questions relating to the insurance and the elevator. Dan responded that in the towns proposed lease the Trustees were required to have insurance on their own materials in the building. Nancy clarified that the town has its own insurance on the building, but that doesn’t cover the Trustees belongings or materials in the building. Dan stated that the Trustees don’t have to have the insurance, and in their proposed lease this requirement would be removed. The items are irreplaceable, so there is no sense in having insurance since again, the items are irreplaceable should they be destroyed. Randy clarified that there being no requirement by law and the town otherwise covered, not having this provision is acceptable. He then asked Jean to explain the elevator maintenance further. Jean explained that if the towns Historical Commission voted to allow the endowment funds to be used to pay for that maintenance the Massachusetts Historical Commission says it is allowable. Lisa then inquired as to whether the endowment fund can pay for this in perpetuity. Jean responded that with interest coming in each year, and assuming the funds are used for no other purpose, it might be able to, if authorized, for a period of time. Discussion then shifted to the rent amount.
That would stand at about $2,080 a year. The Trustees would like to pay annually rather than monthly. It was suggested that once the lease is signed, the first payment should be due about 30 days after and then annually on that same date until the end of the lease. Randy then made some inquiries as to the period when the Trustees paid rent through their sublease with the last tenant. Dan was confident that the Trustees had paid the last tenant through the end of the calendar year. What happened to the funds paid to those tenants remains unclear. Jean interjected to provide some more information as to the endowment. The endowment fund, including principle is about $46,000, but about only $10,000 of that is likely available. There is a secondary trust fund for a museum has about $8,800 in it. The town meets the requirements for funds for this fund. As a result, the cost for the elevator may not be sustainable from the endowment fund but could cover a few years. Nancy reported that the cost can be anywhere between $200 to a $1,000 a year. This is due to fees not only by the elevator maintenance company but also from the Commonwealth for inspection. Wayne clarified that the program is through the FRCOG. Nancy responded in the affirmative. Jean suggested that perhaps the cost should be shared. Lisa responded that the desire is for the building to be wholly sustainable. Dan was unsure as to what the Trustees would be willing to do, and suggested a settled amount be determined. The elevator company is Eagle Elevator and they are contracted through a FRCOG program. Jean suggested the Trustees seek possible grant sources for museums that might help defray this particular cost. Ken inquired as to how much the elevator is used. Randy responded that it unfortunately doesn’t matter how often the elevator is used, it has to be inspected and maintained by law. The consensus was that progress has been made, and that a few things still need to be ironed out, but hopefully a lease can be signed soon. Nancy agreed to try and settle the exact cost of the elevators maintenance and inspection and have Town Counsel review the proposed lease and any modifications made once the matter is settled. The date for attempting to have the lease ready to sign is the Selectboard’s next meeting.
Request for Access to Old Academy Building for a Wedding
Nancy reported on a request for access to the Old Academy Building for a wedding on August 4th, 2018. The limit for people in the building is 47 people at maximum on the first floor with the second floor maxing out at 17. Randy inquired as to the exact use. Nancy responded the wedding is planned for the Town Common and the Old Academy Building would be a backup. Jean suggested that with the lease, the Trustees would be the ones to okay use of the building for something like a wedding. It was suggested that a policy by developed. Dan expressed the belief that a policy could be worked out and makes sense, since the Trustees would hope to see some other groups use the building from time to time for classes.
Assistant Treasurer’s Position
Nancy reported that the Treasurer has requested the appointment of an Assistant Treasurer. She is willing to pay for the position out of her existing budget, agreeing to take less pay herself. Randy inquired as to how much, Nancy suggested it would likely be salary based and be a fixed number. There would be no increased cost for the town. The Treasurer has reported that Jake Voelker has already been doing a lot of work for her already and she requests the Selectboard consider the appointment. There were no objections and the Selectboard proceeded with the appointment.
A motion was made by Wayne to appoint Jake Voelker as Assistant Treasurer. The motion was seconded by Lisa and passed without objection.
Permission for Winter Bonfire at Swift River School
Wayne inquired as to where the bonfire is to be held. Nancy responded it would be at the Swift River School. Wayne noted that Swift River is in Wendell. Nancy stated that Wendell has already given permission, but since the school is regionalized between both towns, both towns need to grant permission. Lisa noted that the Fire Chief is shared between the towns and assuming it is okay with him, she saw no reason not to. Nancy reported that he is okay with it.
A motion was made by Lisa to allow Swift River to hold a bonfire for students. Wayne seconded and the motion passed without objection.
Update on Sodium Levels at Swift River School
Nancy reported that tests show that the sodium levels in the Swift River School well have gone down rather substantially. Whether this is related to fewer storms and therefore less salting on public roads in the vicinity is unknown.
Local Technical Assistance Project Requests/Prioritization
FRCOG has sent a listing of projects that they have receiving funds for it. The list is lengthy but Nancy went through it with the Selectboard to determine what should the town ask FRCOG to make a priority. Some of the topics included economic development in downtowns, help with zoning by-laws, land conservation, mixed use districts, marijuana cultivation or retail, short term rentals, open space development, natural resource protection, and the open space and recreation plan. Wayne noted that a number of these relate to Planning Board. It was suggested they be consulted. A few others included topics such as community food assessment, flood plan studies, creative place making for art installations, and similar. Wayne interjected to inquire about whether any of this relates to rail projects or other mass transit. Nancy responded in the negative. She then noted another topic has to do with the public water supply and wells. Lisa suggested that might be a topic for the town to inquire further about. Nancy then noted that the Planning Board is intending to send a representative to inquire about a marijuana moratorium by-law. Wayne responded that he is not in favor considering the passage of Question 4. Discussion then turned towards other resources being offered including for fighting the opiate epidemic, substance abuse prevention, and shared health services. Randy noted that a lot of these topics are good, but not all of them are relevant for New Salem at this time. Discussion ended with Nancy agreeing to report to FRCOG what topics the town is tentatively interested in.
The budget requests must be completed by February 13th, 2018. Nancy asks the Selectboard to look at what she’s put together for the lines that fall under the Selectboard.
Need for Special Town Meeting
A Special Town Meeting was scheduled for February for Broadband, but then canceled with Broadband wasn’t able to proceed. The Finance Committee has requested that a Special Town Meeting still be scheduled because they need to have an article regarding transfers of funds for some equipment repairs. Additionally, the Planning Board would like to put forward a marijuana moratorium. Wayne renewed his objections noting that the moratoriums are complicated and would only really be in place for a year under the current pace from the Marijuana Control Board. It would also likely take several months to put in place. Wayne asked whether his colleagues are interested in the moratorium. Lisa was not in favor considering the time line and the resources that would have to be expended. Randy expressed some concerns with legalization. Nancy suggested having Planning Board come to a Selectboard meeting to discuss the request further. She noted that a date doesn’t have to be set yet for a Special Town Meeting, but she suggested it be planned for March. It was agreed that a Special Town Meeting should be scheduled, but Planning Board should come in to discuss their request prior to a date being set.
Veteran’s Services District Letter Regarding Local Tax Options
Nancy reported on a letter regarding the Veteran’s Services District and what they’ve had success with. They would like to setup a tax work off program for veteran’s that would be similar to senior work off program. The other proposal would be a voluntary fund to allow for the offset on excise for veterans. Nancy stated she would attend a series of meetings to find out more about the proposals. Wayne inquired about the meetings and asked to be included.
Letter to MassDOT Director Regarding Tree Trimming on Rt. 202 & High Speed Rail
Nancy reported that a response came from Senator Rosenberg’s office suggesting that the same letter be sent to the local director for the MassDOT region that New Salem falls under. Wayne asked Nancy if she would be willing to draft a letter to MassDOT in support of high speed rail and other infrastructure for mass transit for the region. Nancy agreed to do so assuming the proper authority to send it to is ascertained.
Request for Dangerous Dog Hearing
Nancy provided the Selectboard with a letter regarding a dangerous dog compliant. The ACO has requested a hearing be held to address the matter. The dog is located at 52 Stonehill Road. There are four German Shepard’s at that address that are not licensed, and appear to be out of control due to several reported incidents. These include with neighboring dogs as well as with some individuals who live on the street. The ACO is concerned that children may be at risk given the situation. The dogs have also been reported to chase people who have utilized trails in the area as well. Nancy reported that the dangerous dog statutes are very specific and suggested that Town Counsel be involved in this process.
Recreation Committee Overdrawn Account
Nancy reported on how the account became overdrawn. It involved a request for funding from the Library that the Recreation Committee had agreed to. It was suggested by the Treasurer that the Recreation Committee should speak with the Library about the matter. Randy noted that the Recreation Committee needs to have a set budget and that the Finance Committee should be worked with to help set up a budget for them. Wayne inquired as to how many lines they have. Nancy reported that they have two. A revolving fund and a donation fund. Their only source of revenue appears to be the Rabbit Run and some donations throughout the year. The Library request appears to have been rather expensive and there appears to be a disconnect between what is spent and what is received for the funds. Wayne noted that the principle of not spending beyond one’s budget needs to be instilled. The concern became whether this is a matter of incompetence, inability, or a lack of comprehension. Randy expressed concern about where the money has been spent. A not so insignificant amount has been raised in the last few years and a not so insignificant amount has been spent. This prompted discussion regarding how to help the Recreation Committee budget properly and how to fix the current overdrawn situation. Nancy agreed to work towards seeing the budget issue fixed.
The Selectboard tabled the minutes from January 16th, 2018 until the next meeting.
A motion to adjourn at 8:21 pm was made by Lisa. The motion was seconded by Wayne and carried without objection.