Town of NewSalem Selectboard
July 30, 2018
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, chair, Lisa DeWitt, Wayne Hachey, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Ken Bright; Eric Hamm, David Briand, Ken Holmberg, Assessors; Jean Derderian, Historical Commission
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Ø Selectboard Policy Regarding Cell Phone Purchases
Ø Chapter 90 Project Request Forms
Board of Assessors Vacancy
Ken provided the Selectboard with official minutes of the Board of Assessors recommending the appointment of Jean Derderian to the Board of Assessors to fill the existing vacancy. Eric spoke briefly about the need that the Assessors have. He is facing surgery in the near future and David cannot act alone. Jean has served in the past and as long as she can attend the meetings and is willing to make the commitment to attend meetings the Assessors see no reason not to appoint her. Jean expressed her commitment, noting she has reviewed past materials and is willing, ready, and able to attend meetings and serve at least until the next election.
A motion was made by Wayne to appoint Jean Derderian to the vacancy on the Board of Assessors until the next annual election of the town in May 2019. The motion was seconded by Lisa and passed unanimously.
Carry Forward Accounts
Nancy reported on a list of FY18 budgets that could be carried forward as carried forward accounts. She went through a few specific accounts that wouldn’t need to be carried forward and could be released over to Free Cash. The Selectboard signed off on the appropriate paperwork for the Town Accountant.
Fuel Oil Bids FY19
Only Orange Oil put in a bid. The price was $2.55 per gallon. This is an increase from last year, but not substantially so.
Lisa made a motion to accept the bid. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed unanimously.
MIIA Cyber Liability Insurance
MIIA is offering at no charge to the town cyber liability insurance. If the town gets hacked and tax payer information gets released, the town has insurance for any liability. This coverage only applies to this fiscal year and any prior years would require a slightly modified insurance that would be at charge.
Upcoming Tree Hearing
There is a tree hearing on August 20th, 2018 at 1 pm. It’s regarding Shutesbury Road and is at the request of National Grid. National Grid would like to remove about 40 trees.
Wendell Police Succession Planning Committee Questions
Nancy reported on some questions about Police Chief succession by Wendell. The consideration is if New Salem might consider sharing a Police Chief as the two towns share a Fire Chief. Wayne expressed disinterest in seeing the towns share a Police Chief. Nancy noted that the current Wendell Police Chief isn’t interested in retiring at this point anyway and this committee is concerned with future events. Further, New Salem’s Police Chief is several years away from retirement. She was not fully aware of the line of reasoning, but noted that this is something that isn’t going to happen for 3 to 4 years. Randy suggested the questions seemed benign. Lisa followed by stating that she isn’t in a place to advise Wendell on what it should do for its Police Chief planning. Discussion ended there.
Information from HUD regarding Housing Choice Initiative Program
There is a new small capital grant program for towns under 7,000 to build diverse housing stock. Sadly, New Salem doesn’t have the means or plan to build such housing in time for the deadline. Jean ask a few questions which Nancy responded to explaining the program and the intention behind it.
Request Regarding Oldest Citizen
There was some discussion regarding who the oldest citizen is. According to the Town Clerk, the oldest citizen has changed given a resident who moved into town two years ago who is 96. Randy asked if there was any harm in making this designation. Nancy reported there is none and it is likely not going to be offensive to anyone. It was determined that there being no harm it would be permissible to designate this citizen as the oldest in town.
Selectboard Policy Regarding Cellphone Purchases
Randy read the drafted policy and explained its purposes. At the Annual Town Meeting a citizen suggested that the town has been paying too much for its cellphone plans. Thankfully, the Commonwealth had just concluded a new state contract with the towns provider and that change to the contract has substantially lowered the towns cost. In the course of investigating this matter the Selectboard concluded that for the sake of propriety and to add clarity, a policy should be adopted regarding how frequently departments with cellphones are able to update their phones. This keeps departments to a normal schedule such as the 22-month schedule used by the Fire Department. The Selectboard determined to sign the policy.
Update on Town Hall Restoration
Jean spoke about her efforts to find funds for repair and renovation of the Town Hall. She has spoken with nonprofit historical advocacy groups whose designations might open doors. They can also provide technical support and help with any grant writing. She would like to seek out these groups and to get a listing of “endangered historical resource,” but she requires a letter of support from the Selectboard. This does not commit the town to anything beyond the designation and help at finding funding for repairs. If it doesn’t work out the town is not otherwise committed. The deadline is August 15th, 2018. The letter would be simple and brief. Wayne asked what the vision for the future of the building is and whether it takes into account the most recent architectural design that included required upgrades of the building. Jean responded that this is a public building and she would not be the sole decider, but rather it would be a collaborative process. She felt that to bring it up to handicap accessibility would be a small addition with an elevator and some additional office space. She isn’t laying out a specific plan. At this point the goal is to identify resources. Most would have to come from the Commonwealth. The more it is highlighted the more the town can go to the General Court and list the historical reasons to save the building, the better the chance at that funding. Getting this designation was a game changer for the Old Academy Building and could be for the Town Hall. She didn’t know if it would work twice, but there is no cost to submit the applications but her time. Nancy noted this would have to be done by the Selectboard’s next meeting. Lisa expressed some thoughts noting that one of the issues going forward is all the things that need to be addressed infrastructure wise. That said, the emphasis has to be on the cost, which in this specific case is nothing as of yet. Wayne had some thoughts regarding all the things that have to be done to make it a usable building again noting that it will require some major money.
Jean was undaunted. She felt that there are many opportunities that can be tapped and that the Town Hall has more going for it then the Old Academy Building. It is the actual cultural center of the town and the place for the government. Further, historically the building is special for a number of reasons to do with the Quabbin. Randy had some questions about the costs that went into the Old Academy Building. Nancy noted the amount the Commonwealth provided and the amount a grant paid for. Wayne suggested that the building has had ongoing maintenance and the Old Academy Building has struggled to find steady tenants. There was a question of whether such a building could ever be sold. It appeared unlikely. Nancy noted that they usually have clauses in grants and historical funding to maintain the building in perpetuity. Jean conceded this is no small thing, but because it’s no small thing it is even more imperative. She was of the mind that there is no time like the present and felt confident that funds can be found for restoration. Randy stated that a concern is that the building not end up at a half way point with considerable costs. The last projected cost was close to $4 million. Jean noted that she’s told every official she’s spoken to that it would cost about $5 million. Wayne asked how the designation would be achieved. Jean responded by outlining how it would work. Randy had some concerns about historical organizations and funding and what rules might apply. Jean felt all of these could be addressed. Wayne thanked Jean for her obvious passion, but noted a few problems that have persisted. The biggest two of which are the well which runs dry and the other being the septic tank. Both will require substantial sums to fix. Jean stated she was aware of both problems. Lisa had some questions regarding the restrictions and what this specific designation would help.
Jean explained that it doesn’t commit the town to fix it, it simply helps in making the appeal for funding. Not everything that’s designated under this program gets saved. This is purely a support, marketing, and visibility vehicle. Randy, speaking for himself, said that if there is no risk there is no risk. But personally he is nervous about the chance of a partially done project or it falling to tax payers to bail it out or pay for it. The town has limited funding sources and many needs. With all of that in mind if a fabulous plan is found that gets the town $5 million to fix the building, nobody is going to say no. But if the plan brings only $3 million, the town can’t be expected to come up with the shortfall. The schools need funding, the roads need maintenance, and the town simply can’t afford it on the tax rate. Further, there is the chance at social strife, as the Old Academy Building being fixed did create some disharmony in the town as a community. Still, if a plan can be found and sufficient funds procured, the community will likely be united in saying yes. Jean accepted all of that and restated her case and how strong she feels it can be made. This can be managed in her opinion, but it will take persistence. The building has things going for it and a case can be made as to its importance. Lisa expressed agreement with Randy, but noted that she uses the building and thinks it’s has great spaces, but there are other buildings in town that need funding. Swift River, for example, needs work. And the school is a priority. Jean understood that, and made no specific promises except that she will try her best to find resources. Wayne agreed with Lisa noting that the Stowell Building Annex project needs to continue going forward in order to get the Police a new Police Station. Wayne stated that in his experience as a builder, a building as far gone as this one would likely cost more to rehab than tearing it down. Nancy interjected that Swift River in particular will require some substantial funding, its windows alone will be expensive to replace and could be hundreds of thousands for both Wendell and New Salem. That subject will come up at the Selectboard’s next meeting. Randy brought it back to the fact that ultimately, what Jean is asking for does not commit the town to any expenditure. That being the case it seems reasonable to support Jeans request in this specific instance.
Osborn Road & North Prescott Road
Ken spoke briefly about Osborn Road and its need for some repairs. He then briefly spoke about some dangerous conditions on North Prescott Road near where it meets Shutesbury Road. This involves a patch of sand and gravel that could create a wipe out situation. Lisa promised to contact the Highway Department to ask for maintenance to be done. Wayne noted that the department is low on equipment at the moment with several pieces out of repair so it might take a few days to see the work done.
The Selectboard adopted the minutes from July 16th, 2018.
A motion to adjourn at 8:00 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk