Town of New Salem Selectboard
July 13, 2020
Held Virtually via Zoom
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Joe Cuneo, Fire Chief & Emergency Management Director; Mary Ellen Kennedy, MLP Director; David Cramer, Planning Board; Nancy Slator, New Salem News; Claire McGinnis, Finance Committee; Jackson Goddard; Jen Potee, Board of Health; Phil Delorey, Building Inspector; Sarah Kohler, Steven Schoenberg; Lisa Finestone
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
- Payroll & Vendor Warrants
- Thank you to Glen & Rosemary Lyman
- Appointment Slip – Amy Fagin as Franklin County Solid Waste Management Rep.
Highway Department Road Maintenance Issues
Nancy started by reminding the Selectboard of concerns raised about some maintenance done by the Highway Dept. for culverts in town. Randy then reported some feedback he’s received which has mostly been positive. Wayne interjected to note some conversations he’s had with the Highway Chief. One of the cuts he did was at the request of a property owner. There was also at least one culvert that was cleaned out by a private citizen and not Highway Dept. Wayne then reported on some bales of hay that have been stuck out from private property into a public right of way. He expressed concern about potential issues to occur from runoff and snow in winter. This is also an obstruction to the public way. The owner of that property should be contacted about this matter. It also appears some of the concerns that were also expressed about plowing were the result of the department having new employees plus some issues with leaf cover under the snow. Sarah noted she has some knowledge of the bale issue. Those were temporary and are scheduled to be removed soon. They were specifically purchased and placed to stem some erosion and were always of a temporary nature. Wayne responded that he’s lived in that area for 26 years and has seen no change. There has always been run off in that area due to the topography, but to his memory nothing has changed. Lisa then addressed some complaints that Tree Committee received about shredded foliage. At least one member of that committee was concerned about potential damage to trees, but it is conceded that this kind of cutting is common. There is clearly a learning curve for Highway Dept. right now, but that can be addressed through awareness and sharing of knowledge. Wayne reminded that people really need to be careful not to plant within the road easement. It is important to keep the line of sign open on rural roads. Especially with the deer population the town has. This is well within the Scenic Roads Act.
Randy submitted that Highway Dept. simply needs positive feedback and the dialogue should remain respectful. This is challenging because there are different things and different opinions. Some residents have wanted culverts cleaned and mowing done, while others have been worried about erosion and damage to plantings and trees. So we have to strike a balance. Entities like Tree Committee who have concerns should submit them to Nancy’s office. Lisa expressed the feeling that dialogue is good because it can also be a two-way street. Residents can alert Highway Dept. to things while also learning about things like how many feet plantings should remain from the road and so forth. Jean then took a moment to thank everyone for their feedback. Clearly there has been good and bad to talk about, but everyone has stayed positive. She then asked about the question of rocks that were alleged to have been moved and if any progress was made on that front. Wayne responded that the rocks appear to have been located elsewhere and he is still looking into that matter. Sarah submitted that the precise rocks to be returned can be identified by the LIDAR data that she has. Wayne inquired as to how that would work. Sarah elaborated on how that data can be utilized. The LIDAR is a 3D representation of what was there. MaryEllen asked in what form that would be, if it’s a drawing or something else. Randy concurred asking whether that can be provided to the town in some form. Sarah agreed that once she has the data in hand in a format the town can use she will provide it. She hoped to have that in the next two weeks. Wayne asked when this particular area was identified as a sensitive site. Sarah responded that she identified it in 2012 and brought it to the attention of the town in 2015. She maintains that the land is an archaeologically significant site. Randy then interjected to move discussion submitting that the town can’t proceed until it has the data. Sarah agreed.
Update from Town Counsel
- Process to Pass Zoning By-Laws versus General By-Laws
Nancy reported that this is specifically related to the Dog By-Laws. If these are general by-laws, they don’t require a public hearing.
- Public Hearings Under COVID-19
Town Counsel says that the town cannot have more than 10 people per thousand square feet. If more than that show up, you can’t turn them away. Thus Town Counsel recommends trying to hold such hearings virtually and is confident that doing so would be lawful.
- Cemetery Commission Special Municipal Employee Status
This requires more consultation. If the town was to elevate one or more persons to this status, that would go with the position not the person holding that position.
- Local Declaration of State Emergency in Response to COVID-19 – Review & Modification
Town Counsel has sent wording for the town. It is suggested the town make a modification to its declaration. Randy then recounted the emergency meeting of the Selectboard regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 16, 2020, after a request from the Town’s Emergency Management Director, the Selectboard held an emergency meeting regarding the risks posed by the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. At that time, the Selectboard voted to Declare a State of Local Emergency in the town. As it was an emergency meeting, the March 16 meeting was held on less than 48 hours’ notice. The Selectboard has continued to treat the town declaration of emergency as in full effect, and has not taken any subsequent vote in regard to the declaration. As the state-wide Declaration of Emergency by Governor Baker on March 10, 2020, remains in effect and as a local declaration of emergency may help the town qualify for federal relief or funding that may be available to offset costs or damage resulting from COVID-19, he believed it to be appropriate to maintain the Selectboard’s declaration of emergency and to keep it in effect. Therefore, Randy asked for a motion that the Selectboard ratify and confirm the Declaration of a State of Local Emergency voted on March 16. Jean recused herself from the matter.
A motion was made by Randy to ratify and confirm a Declaration of a State of Local Emergency starting March 16 and remaining in present effect. The motion was seconded by Wayne. Jean recused herself and the motion passed by majority vote.
Update on Police Succession Planning
Nancy then provided an update. Wendell has been going full steam ahead on this and is very close to signing a short term agreement with Leverett for Police. They are hoping a Selectboard member from New Salem would join their next meeting. This is not something New Salem has to join in, but it could be a possibility. Leverett has funding for this and will likely be drawing up an agreement soon. This meeting will be on July 15. Jean noted she’s been attending meetings relating to this and agreed to attend the meeting on July 15.
DCR Easement for Installation of Broadband Related Utility Poles
MaryEllen started by providing some information and background on the easement with DCR. The easement is necessary to connect different parts of town. The poles in question run across DCR land and the town had to pay the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for this easement. There was a question about whether the easement should be reviewed by Town Counsel. Wayne saw no need for that since the poles have been installed already and it’s unlikely that the town would have much leverage. Randy asked MaryEllen about her opinion. She responded that she really didn’t see a reason to at this point. She felt things are okay but didn’t want to make the decision without consulting the Selectboard. Randy then asked about changes regarding accuracies as to acreage. MaryEllen responded she’s put in for those changes. Randy submitted if MaryEllen and the rest of Broadband are comfortable there is no reason not to proceed. Jean and Wayne agreed.
Barletta Project – Cease & Desist Order
Phil started off by updating the Selectboard on the current situation. He has sent around some memos to address some confusion that he’s seen around town. Things are moving towards a special permit. He is looking into whether or not a variance is needed in regards to the elevator’s tower as a height issue in zoning has been presented. Otherwise things are moving forward. Randy then asked about the cease and desist that was issued on part of this project. Phil responded that the original application did not include two extensions on the non-conforming part of the structure. They put in a small concrete piece for the sprinkler system as well as a door. These weren’t on the building permit application. So when they applied for their special permit these were absent. This will require Planning Board. He confirmed that the work has been stopped and the project is holding off on that subject until Planning Board can determine if these are detrimental or not. Jean asked if this is the only issue. Phil responded that clearly Planning Board needs to be involved. The questions about the construction as well as the expanded use of the property need to be addressed by Planning Board. There are a lot of considerations that need to be addressed by Planning Board beyond construction and those have to do with use. Phil then reported that he has directed the contractor to also contact the Zoning Board of Appeals specifically to address that elevator tower matter. The ZBA will need to give an opinion as to whether this might be an exception or whether it might require some action by the ZBA to grant a variance or address otherwise. Randy then asked about the sprinkler issue. Phil gave some history as to that noted how the evolution of the project resulted in extension. These extensions don’t make the building more nonconforming, but they do extend the building a certain number of feet and must be addressed. Randy clarified that the sprinklers with this are for internal fire suppression. Phil confirmed they are sprinklers for fire suppression. He and the Fire Chief went over this with them and they needed to have the fire suppression.
Jean asked about water use and septic capacity. Phil responded that from what he understands, the septic system that is present is the same system that was in place prior to the project. There’s also a concern about the water supply in that area with some residents reporting that wells can run dry there. It therefore may require an engineer to look into that. Whether these systems are adequate is another matter for Planning Board to resolve. Jen noted Board of Health will be looking into this from a Health viewpoint at their next meeting. Right now it looks like the septic system should be upgraded and a water analysis done. Randy asked about any current plans regarding parking. Only 8-10 spots had been authorized. Phil responded that this would be part of the special permit request with Planning Board. It appears they would like to see as much as 29 parking places total. That said if events are held there they may require more parking. Randy clarified that they cannot build more than the 8-10 spots they are current authorized. Phil responded that they cannot unless Planning Board allows for the 29 within the special permit. Sarah submitted the parking issue has had some discrepancies. She noted some agreements that were reached to prevent tree removal and modify where things would go. She was aware that the parking could be as high as 16, but to her knowledge from Planning Board it should not reach 29. Phil noted that several numbers have been listed so there definitely are some discrepancies. Sarah conceded that 29 might have been what they originally asked for, but they would get roughly 8 spaces with 3 handicapped and 2 for residents. So that total shouldn’t exceed 16. Randy reminded this isn’t a hearing on the matter and all discussion is purely informational. Jen asked when Planning Board would hold the public hearing. Sarah responded that Planning Board doesn’t have a date yet. This is appearing to be a sensitive situation and Planning Board would prefer an in person hearing, but virtual may be necessary. Jen expressed the feeling that the longer the town waits the more difficult this will get.
There was then a question about the applications completeness. David reported on conversations he’s had with the lawyer for the project and is working on that matter as well as the hearing part. Jen stressed that the hearing really needs to happen and asked Planning Board to talk to the Board of Health Agent. Sarah confirmed that Planning Board will discuss this at their next meeting. The town was able to hold its Annual Town Meeting and so it is clearly possible. Still this is a volunteer board doing its best to make this happen while maintaining safety. Jen agreed to provide resources to Planning Board and agreed to attend the upcoming meeting. Randy then asked about the notice for a public hearing. David responded that it has to be advertised at least two weeks ahead. Randy asked if this could be scheduled within the next three weeks. David was uncertain if that would be feasible. Nancy noted that Town Counsel has reported that a lot of towns have been doing this virtually. Wayne expressed reservations about holding this hearing virtually. Especially since this could result in as many as 70 residents attending. Randy clarified as to the outdoor meeting idea’s feasibility as such. Nancy responded it would be something that would have to be looked at carefully. Jen felt an outdoor hearing would be feasible suggesting it be done on a Saturday and done during daylight hours. Randy stressed that this has to proceed and expressed hope that Planning Board would be able to ascertain a way forward. Sarah stressed that this will be carefully considered at the Planning Board’s next meeting. She then took a moment to thank Board of Health for offering assistance.
Randy asked a question of his fellow board members about consultation regarding tax issues that may arise regarding this property. This may incur some costs. Wayne asked for clarification. Randy responded that the permit is complicated and has some inconsistencies. This would seek to assist the Assessors. Wayne asked if this project has obtained non-profit status or is running as a business. He noted that the Assessors can always seek a ruling from DOR. David noted the application to Planning Board says they will set up both, a non-profit entity and a for-profit entity. To his knowledge those haven’t been setup as of yet. He was unclear as to what impact that would have on the property’s value. Jean briefly reported on her discussion about the tax issue with the lawyer for the project. He told her that the educational piece requires donations and fundraising to support it. So that would be the non-profit. She felt that before the town consults experts on this that further discussion be had to obtain more specifics. Otherwise she felt analyzing the tax questions to be a good idea. Once all of that is in hand she agreed an expert could be consulted. Jean also stressed that her impression is that the owner of the property does intend to continue paying property taxes. Randy then noted that his question regarding a consultation comes from recommendations from the Town Treasurer. Wayne felt that before the town spends money, the project needs to do its filings. They may not be able to do what they have proposed. Discussion concluded there.
Mowing Town Common
Nancy reminded that at the last meeting the Cemetery Commission proposed mowing the Town Common fall under the Highway Dept. post the retirement of the Lyman’s. It appears that Highway would have difficulty finding time to do this and so she has asked Cemetery Commission if they could inquire with their proposed contractor as to whether they might also do the Town Common. It was agreed to review this further once that has been done.
Assessors Request to Consult Town Counsel Regarding Boundary Issue
Nancy reported that the Assessors are asking for permission to consult Town Counsel. They have been asked to get involved with a private boundary issue by a resident and they would like to consult Town Counsel as to their responsibilities regarding this request. Wayne recused himself from this matter noting he knowns one of the property owners personally. Jean felt it likely an easy question for Town Counsel to answer and had no problem with them getting this opinion. Randy agreed and it was the consensus of the majority that this be authorized.
FRCOG Stormwater Pilot Opportunity
Nancy reported she has told FRCOG the town is interested and should have more to report on this front with the Selectboard at its next meeting. Wayne asked about the Cooleyville bridge. Nancy was unclear, but noted that it is one of the things that she will discuss with them.
Request for Updates from Selectboard Members Regarding Town Related Activities Since Previous Meeting
Jean updated on this topic. She is trying to explore ways to improve communication about what happens in between meetings. So she suggested a meeting topic be adopted that allows each member of the Selectboard to provide updates on what they’re doing and what projects they may have in town that should be noted. Randy and Wayne agreed this would be a reasonable topic to include.
Board of Health Update
Jen gave a quick update. Board of Health has a new agent; this is the same person as Greenfield so he’s very qualified. They will be meeting with him soon to discuss the Barletta Project as well as potential discussion regarding the reopening of Swift River Elementary. She is also assisting with the reopening of Mahar. Jen then reported briefly on the spending that has been done. FRCOG initially sent $1,000 to help. Jen asked the Selectboard to consider further funding. She then finished by reminding residents to get flu shots and to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Randy suggested the town could look at its budget and consider what might be used. He was not opposed to providing further funding. Joe noted that there may be a way to fund this through the CARES Act. Jen noted there may be other ways to fund Board of Health in this as well. Continuing to have a public health nurse will be critical if we have a second wave in the fall. Nancy stated she had a question out on this to the Town Treasurer and felt confident that the CARES Act funding would indeed cover this. She will also put a call in to the Commonwealth. There is a professional services line in the budget that might be available to utilize, but she needs to confirm that. It was agreed to come back to this request once follow up has occurred. It was also agreed to keep this for the next meeting of the Selectboard. Jen then reported on attempts to revive the foot clinic. She noted that this is a service that is vital, especially for diabetics. Obviously there will need to be very strict protocols, but towns have been able to navigate that. Nancy asked that if this is done the town find an appropriate place to host it. It was agreed that these must be under very controlled circumstances. Jean expressed support for this. Wayne echoed submitting that as long as this can be done properly he is in support. Randy concurred feeling that if its done right and no bigger issues are created by it he is in support. It was agreed that Jen would help supply the guidelines. It was agreed to look at the Stowell Building.
The Selectboard considered the minutes for June 15 which were tabled at the last meeting. It was agreed to approve them and to table the minutes from June 29.
Wayne made a motion to approve the minutes for June 15. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed without objection.
A motion to adjourn at 8:33 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed without objection.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk