Town of New Salem Selectboard
July 27, 2020
Held Virtually via Zoom
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; David Cramer, Planning Board; Nancy Slator, New Salem News; Claire McGinnis, Finance Committee; Jen Potee, Cam Dunbar, Board of Health; Carla Halpern, Village Ultra; Rosemary Lyman; Marny Ashburne;
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
- Payroll & Vendor Warrants
- Appointment Slip – Martha Nicoll, Library Board of Trustees; Ramona Hamblin, Cultural Council
2020 Village Ultra Event
Carla started off by noting that for the past three years this event has happened on the Town Common. This is a very small race and it is not a traditional race like the Rabbit Run. It’s usually just a handful of people with about two dozen people. This is an overnight race and so not all participates are involved throughout.
The race was started to fundraise for a child’s medical bills. The second year was fundraising for Swift River. Last year the fundraising was for an immigrant’s rights group. This year the fundraising would be for Swift River again. She asked that this be allowed to go again. They have always had strict rules about noise, respect for the community, and trash and have never had any complaints. This year there would be no communal food or drink. No camping overnight.
In the past they’ve used the bathrooms in Town Hall. This year they would not do so, but would rather rent a port-a-potty. This would be paid for by the proceeds of the race. Jean thanked Carla and the other organizers for doing this event. She then asked if there is a specific project or program this would go toward for Swift River.
Carla responded that this isn’t known yet, but would be open to further dialogue. In the past few years this has been managed well and they would do their utmost to do the same. Strict rules would be observed as to mask wearing and social distancing. Jen asked Carla to put this on the Board of Health’s next agenda as the Board of Health may be able to provide some assistance such as hand sanitizer and similar supplies. Carla agreed to do so and asked about the next meeting. Jen responded that the Board of Health would meet on August 3. It was agreed to add this to that agenda.
Carla then asked the Selectboard to approve this event with the understanding that it would be subject to the Board of Health’s additional approval. Wayne asked about the overnight part of this. Carla explained that nobody would be camping. They would either go all night walking or they would stay in their cars. Wayne suggested that camping could still occur as long as tents are sufficiently distant from each other.
Carla was open to that, but submitted that most who would stay overnight would likely continue to walk through. Cam noted he has no problem with the event, but felt that the meeting with Board of Health needs to occur. Jean had no issue with the event proceeding including camping, again assuming the Board of Health is comfortable with it.
Carla then went over the Phase 3 guidelines from the Commonwealth noting that there are no clear limits for this kind of outdoor event, but she felt it best to cap participants at no more than 25 at any given time. Wayne felt confident that with sufficient distancing it could be more like 30. Carla stressed that most of the time people would be running or walking. It was agreed the camping question would be decided by Board of Health.
A motion was made by Jean to approve and permit the Village Ultra Event for the Saturday and Sunday before Labor Day contingent upon meeting Board of Health standards. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed by majority vote with Randy abstaining.
Special Municipal Employee Status for Board of Health and Cemetery Commission, & Paying for COVID-19 Expenses
Nancy asked the Selectboard to consider granting the designation of Special Municipal Employee status to both of these entities. This would allow members of those entities to work for the town and receive payment. For Cemetery Commission this would permit Tamara Conde to use her expertise to do some work for the Cemetery repairing headstones. For Board of Health it would allow Jen Potee to work as a community nurse for the town. Jean asked about the scope of the roles and the responsibility of the town. She suggested obtaining further information on this status and readdressing this at a later meeting. Randy asked who made the recommendation that this be done. Nancy responded that this is recommended by the State Ethics Commission. The Commonwealth is not giving a lot of answers about the spending of COVID-19 funding, but it appears that the town has the ability to deficit spend to some extent with the expectation that the Commonwealth will provide some funds to cover such deficit spending using CARES Act funding. Jean asked about the capacity to pay such employees. Nancy responded that she was not sure if the Board of Health could sustain this from their budget or not. Jen responded that she felt confident that the Board of Health does have the capacity, but noted that she needs to follow up with FRCOG as there is the potential for funds through some other resources. Not necessarily through FRCOG, but perhaps otherwise from the Commonwealth. Jean had a few questions about where the responsibility then lies after this designation for such officials. Nancy responded that with Cemetery Commission responsibility would fall with the Selectboard as they are appointed, but with Board of Health as they are elected the responsibility would likely fall to them. Jean made it clear that she is neutral on this neither for or against but submitted that unless there is some urgency she wasn’t aware of the town should get more information before a decision is made. Wayne noted that he’s attended some meetings recently relating to COVID-19 and he’d heard the same information that Jen had. Randy reminded that the State Ethics Commission determined this was the appropriate way to compensate these employees. Still he acknowledged that there are questions that need to be addressed. Wayne suggested that Board of Health use its budget as needed and if more funding is needed the town can look into providing it. Claire noted there is some pass through funds that FRCOG has and they have sent through some letters. New Salem could write to the FRCOG to find out if it is accessible.
Wages not normally budgeted should qualify given COVID-19. She suggested that Jen reach out to Phoebe Walker at FRCOG. Jen then took a moment to elaborate on how she keeps her work as a Board of Health member separate from her public nurse work and outlined the reasons for doing so. This would continue. Claire noted New Salem has precedent on the conferring of this status. In the late 1990’s she as an employee of the town at the time obtained that status. Wayne responded that the designation isn’t a controversy. It’s mostly about ensuring there is funding. Nancy clarified that this would make all members of the Board of Health as it is the position not the person. So this would apply to Board of Health and the Cemetery Commission. Jean asked if this means that every member of the Board of Health, for example, who does work related to COVID-19 would be paid as well. Randy noted that while there is a question of responsibility and liability on one end, there is also the question of billing. Right now we are looking at one individual on that entity working, but there are some questions about other members of those bodies. He was in support of Board of Health and Jen dealing with COVID-19 but conceded the concern about other members. Nancy felt it likely that others would not just do work and be paid. Further, at any time the Selectboard can vote to change the status again if there appears in some time that there is some kind of free for all. She didn’t feel the concern to be founded. Randy asked if other members of the Board of Health would be doing any work they’d seek compensation for. Jen noted it would be likely the existing administrative support to the Board of Health who would step in if Jen was unable to do it. She didn’t feel other members of the Board of Health would be likely to do so and the administrative support is already budgeted for. Wayne stressed that everyone who does work must document their hours and work. It was agreed that this would be done. Nancy reminded that few people have clear answers at this stage, but she felt confident the town would ultimately recoup the costs.
A motion to confer upon members of the Board of Health and Cemetery Commission special municipal employee status was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Jean to permit discussion. The motion then passed by majority vote.
North New Salem Veterans Cemetery Plot
Nancy asked Wayne about this question. Wayne reported on his meetings with the Cemetery Commission. It was decided that if the town can get funding to set aside some plots for veterans who prefer to be cremated it should be done. There would be the potential for 16 cremation sites. A flag pole could also go in adjacent to the designated area. The cost would be around $3,200 with a potential $5,000 total for the flag pole and granite curbing. This would likely go into the Cemetery Commissions budget for FY22. Any New Salem residents with veteran status would qualify for burial if cremated in this designated space. Randy asked if the Finance Committee has been consulted at all. Wayne responded that he hasn’t spoken to the Finance Committee as of yet. He stressed that the figures are ballpark at this stage and they will need to be firmed up and put in writing. This is a proposal at this stage and will need to be considered as part of the overall FY22 budget process. It was agreed to discuss this further.
Theft of Bronze Markers from Veterans Graves in Mountain View Cemetery
Wayne reported that several markers have been stolen and he is no longer in favor of installing such markers preferring stone ones. Nancy agreed noting that roughly 10 bronze markers are missing. She noted that either aluminum or stone markers should probably be used in the future. Rosemary noted that it was bronze flag holders rather than markers that were stolen in this instance and noted the aluminum ones would probably fare better. Wayne felt confident the town had a number of aluminum holders that could be potentially used. Although those still have a cost, running about $17 a piece.
Mowing of Town Common – Hiring Replacement for the Lyman’s
Nancy went over the latest on this subject. There has been some interest from persons in town to be hired to do the mowing. This has prompted a question of whether the town owns the equipment for the mowing. Rosemary noted that the towns owns a trailer and a ride mower. It was agreed to put out advertisement and see if there is interest. Rosemary stressed proper care for the equipment to ensure longevity.
Heating Oil Bids for 2020/2021 Heating Season
Nancy reported the bids are one from Suburban propane at $1.80 per gallon and from Orange Oil the price per gallon was $1.59. Since Orange Oil is the low bid she recommended acceptance.
A motion was made by Wayne to accept the low bid from Orange Oil. Jean seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
Nancy asked for the appointment of Martha Nicoll, Library Board of Trustees and Ramona Hamblin, Cultural Council. The Selectboard agreed to approve the appointments.
Weekly Update from Selectboard Members
Jean started off by reporting on her attendance of the Police Chief Succession Meeting with Wendell. Wendell is moving forward with Leverett. She then turned to discussion she’s had regarding the Old Academy Building and the article from the Annual Town Meeting regarding that structure. She started with the Town Clerk and will speak with other officials such as the Town Treasurer. Wayne then briefly updated on the FRCOG meetings he’s attended noting some of this was provided in discussions earlier in the meeting with Board of Health.
Board of Health Update
Jen started off by reporting on the latest Board of Health meeting. At their latest meeting they discussed how to help the Planning Board with the hearing for the Barletta Project. There has been acknowledgement from the property owner’s attorney. David Cramer will follow up. In the meantime, Board of Health continues to plan the process for the Planning Board Hearing in this age of COVID-19. Cam and David will work to ensure proper moderation. The hearing will last for an hour and it is suggested people bring questions that can be dropped into a basket and answered by Planning Board. A big consideration is the ability to hear. Now, the Governor will not permit more than 100 people at an event of this sort even with social distancing and mask wearing. Still the Board of Health feels it more prudent to cap attendance at 80 people. It may be possible to have some kind of phone in option. Jen noted that a new travel advisory is going into effect by order of the Governor. That advisory if broken carries a $500 per day fine. Board of Health has been getting regular emails from concerned citizens and they are working to address those concerns. Jen then turned to Swift River Elementary and the planning around how to handle a return to school for students. The Commonwealth will be providing guidance for schools around August 10. In the meantime, the school has put together a plan that will be submitted to the School Committee soon.
Special Town Meeting
Nancy submitted that the consensus appears to be emerging that the town should start to look at a date for a Special Town Meeting. Depending on what happens in Orange relating to Mahar and Finance Committee is also talking about a local option tax for marijuana, we may need to address a shortfall in State Aid, and there are of course the Dog By-Laws. She suggested a September date. Jean noted some feedback she’s received for the Dog By-Laws and briefly outlined where things stand and what discussions she’s had with the Animal Control Officer. So far Gail, the ACO, appears to be happy with the final results.
The Selectboard considered the minutes for June 29 which were tabled at the last meeting. It was agreed to approve them and to table the minutes from July 13.
Wayne made a motion to approve the minutes for June 29. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed without objection.
A motion to adjourn at 8:05 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed without objection.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk