Town of New Salem Selectboard
June 15, 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; Phil Delorey, Building Inspector; Jen Potee, Cam Dunbar, Board of Health; Mollie Freilicher, Lisa Finestone, Sue Dunbar, Tree Committee; Mary Ellen Kennedy, MLP Director; David Cramer, Planning Board; Claire McGinnis, Finance Committee; Ken Holmberg, Assessors; Nancy Slator, New Salem News; Jackson Goddard; Ken Bright; Sandra Tobin; Leo Sakellarion; Judith Northup Bennett
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
- Payroll & Vendor Warrants
- Liquor License for NSGS, Inc.
Coronavirus Response Update
Nancy started off by reporting on some meetings she’s attended regarding re-opening of public buildings. Re-opening requires special rules, materials, and plans. She hasn’t had anyone clamoring to come into town offices and felt it possible to wait until July. Joe agreed noting that there is a lot that needs to be put in place before re-opening can happen. Jen then asked a few questions about various events like the foot clinic. It was agreed that such events should continue to be on hiatus. Jen then briefly reported on the current status of the town from a Board of Health viewpoint. The town is doing a pretty good job. The Transfer Station is functioning, as are other various essential services. Wayne then asked about the town meeting. One question in particular revolved around the potential for taking temperatures. Jen responded the town doesn’t have an inferred thermometer but Board of Health does have an oral one. Still she didn’t think that was going to help. She stressed that social distancing is preferable with mask wearing. Anyone who feels ill should not attend. Joe agreed feeling temperature monitoring would be difficult. Fire Dept. has thermometers, but to his mind social distancing and mask wearing is the best option.
Status of Junkyard Properties in Town
Phil started off by providing some documents to the Selectboard which he summarized. He met with the Board of Health and has been talking to them about a number of properties over the past year. He’s also met with some of the property owners. It used to be that Building Inspectors could appear in court on their own and present cases, but the courts are no longer allowing that. They won’t accept non lawyers presenting the case as they often consider it the unauthorized practice of law. So if the town wishes enforcement Town Counsel will have to be involved. The first property is 100 Blackinton Rd. That property has as many as 30 vehicles strewn about the property. Some in good condition, others torn apart. His hands are becoming tied without Town Counsel. Wayne asked about some construction debris on the same property as the vehicles. Phil responded that he hasn’t seen that particular material. Jen expressed the belief that this property was already taken to court. Phil responded that he’s sent this to Town Counsel but he hasn’t acted upon it so he’s bringing this back to ask that the Selectboard approve and make that approval known to Town Counsel. It was noted by Sandra, a neighbor, that this one property has slowly gotten worse with mattresses being reported there as well. Phil proposed that Town Counsel be asked to respond to him so that this can proceed. Wayne was in favor, but asked Nancy whether the legal budget could sustain this. Nancy felt that it could. Jean was in favor of finding out what the town can do for next steps. Phil then went over the notices and orders he’s sent in the past. Some people respond better to face to face versus written notices. So he’s gone down in the past. He hasn’t seen evidence of improvement in all cases. Randy noted that all attempts have been taken to deal with these cases without involving the courts, but it appears that the town has gotten to the point where the courts are necessary. Phil agreed. He noted that the Zoning By-Laws could use some review. Better definitions of junkyards should be developed among other provisions. Jen stressed the importance of working on both of these properties.
The second property is 210 Wendell Rd. which is across the street from Swift River Elementary and the owner has trespassed on school property during school hours. That person has also been arrested in the past. Phil and Jen both felt it unlikely that this person will be cooperative with the town. The fact of the matter is that there is a mental illness involved. This person needs services but will likely resist. Wayne responded by detailing some of his discussions. He is not a veteran, and is younger than he appears. Wayne was willing to try and offer resources if the Board of Health has them to offer. Jen responded that they do. There are services that will assist with mental health as well as to help him clean up his property. Jean noted she may be able to reach out to the other property with the vehicles. Leo asked about the potential for progress to that property noting he is a neighbor. Jen interjected to say the Blackinton Rd. property has been an issue since 2008 and little has changed over the years except that it has slowly gotten worse. There were a few things that they cleaned up, but sadly the problem continues to persist. Leo noted that the amount of traffic that goes to that property, including those with out of state plates, has been increasing. Wayne recalled this property has gone on for a long time. Phil then provided his own observations that the problem does appear to be worsening and he didn’t feel that the property owners are really responding. Jean noted that by the time we talk to Town Counsel and get more information it will be time for the next meeting. So there is no reason not to proceed. Randy then asked if there are any more properties. Jen noted a developing problem on the corner of Fay Rd. and Elm St. She felt more confident that the property owners in that case will be cooperative. Phil agreed to send a notice of compliant and see if they will let him view the property and determine the actual scope. He agreed this property could become a junkyard if no further action is taken. Jean asked Phil about Zoning By-Law changes, noting she could provide some assistance. Phil promised to send over what ideas he has at this time.
A motion was made by Wayne to authorize Town Counsel to assist the Building Inspector in pursuing zoning enforcement on property at 100 Blackinton Rd. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed unanimously.
A motion was made by Randy to authorize Town Counsel to assist the Building Inspector in pursuing zoning enforcement on a property at 210 Wendell Rd. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed unanimously.
Proposed Building Permit Sign-Offs Related to Trees & Stonewalls
Mollie started by briefly going over the history of this topic and why the Tree Committee is presenting these recommendations for additional sign offs for building permits. The main intent is to reduce the likelihood of the cutting of trees that are protected and prevent damage to stonewalls that are also protected. The main change is to add a sign off for the Tree Warden. They are also recommending a printed name line be included with the sign offs for legibility. Wayne noted that one of the challenges of this is that a person could buy a wooded lot and they could cut trees and cut access through a stonewall and do all of that without pulling a building permit. He has called into FRCOG to seek counsel. Phil noted that the fact of the matter is that most homeowners the first contact is with Board of Health for a septic permit. This stems from the building code as folks have to have an approved septic design and source of water before they can get a building permit. Still, many people buy their property years before they build and often do things like clear trees and build driveways. Nonetheless he supported the changes. Phil then asked the Tree Committee about any brochures or pamphlets he could provide explaining the sign off requirement. Wayne was hopeful that FRCOG might have such materials. It was suggested that perhaps something could be sent by the Assessors to people who buy land. Another potential would be Planning Board. Phil suggested multiple sources. Lisa agreed that there are some challenges but figured that other towns must have some way of approaching this. Mollie noted that some towns have documents like Phil is asking for and Tree Committee could certainly put something together. Another thing is to utilize the Tree Warden to that end. Since the Tree Warden is also the Highway Chief, he can be asked to keep an eye out while driving around town as he may see someone cutting trees they shouldn’t or may notice clearing that occurs in some circumstances. Lisa then suggested avenues to disseminate the information such as placing it on the towns website. In the meantime, Phil agreed to incorporate the changes for the building permit. Jackson then asked about the Emerald Ash Borer and asked for follow up from Cam. Cam responded that he’s reached out to the Commonwealth, but with the pandemic the response is slow. He suggested calling the DCR offices in Belchertown. Mollie noted she’s worked for DCR and offered assistance to Jackson in relation to this matter. She is unaware of any current action but would be happy to assist. Claire then asked about legacy trees and whether one has been planted for Mr. Henderson. She noted that one was done for the Winters family and would hope to see one for Bob Henderson. Lisa promised to have the Tree Committee to take up the matter. Wayne suggested also dedicating a tree to Paul McGinnis. Jean recalled that a tree may already have been dedicated for Bob Henderson, but regardless felt it a wonderful idea for him and for others.
Thank You from Andrew Ohlson Regarding Eagle Scout Project
Nancy reported that Andrew has expressed his thanks for the towns generous donation to his project and for the towns support in general for the project. The Selectboard was pleased to receive the thanks from Andrew.
Review of Annual Town Meeting Warrant – Support of Articles
Nancy began by discussing the “consent” motions which lump articles into groupings for passage. These would mostly cover annual things that are voted on every year such as authorization to the Treasurer for borrowings and the like. Cam then spoke as Town Moderator. He will proceed with the consent packages and he will read these and will have a process in place for people to call out questions and so forth. Like articles that are boilerplate can be done together and there’s no reason not to try that. He felt that this would streamline the meeting. Wayne noted that most of these are just housekeeping items. Nancy asked about recommendations. Cam responded that he’s asked Finance Committee for their recommendations and would appreciate the Selectboard’s as well. Wayne suggested the Finance Committee recommend first and then the Selectboard can follow. Cam agreed to that. Claire interjected to note that it would be helpful for Finance Committee to see the groupings so that they can prepare for issuing their recommendations. Nancy agreed to send them off. Nancy then asked the Selectboard to put forward any objections or opposition on the articles noting this will be the last meeting before the Annual Town Meeting. Randy had a concern about article for the Old Academy Building. His main concern being with the plans. Wayne expressed similar feelings wondering why the work being done to the basement wasn’t done in the past. The basement was shored up in the past and he wondered why that wasn’t included in the renovations that were done. He made recommendations years ago about this and they weren’t addressed. Jean stressed the work that has been put into this building and noted that to protect the building this article makes sense. This will bring this up to a point where all the maintenance has been done.
She was in favor of having more people looking at it if that is what is needed. Otherwise she supported this article. Wayne asked who did the original restoration work and why they didn’t address this as well as issues with the entry way. He expressed confusion about how that was done. Jean noted that there are very good records that were kept and all of this is on file in the Stowell Building. She urged her fellow members of the Selectboard to support this article. From there Jean detailed various work that was done including the tackling of a mold problem and the bat problem. Both matters have been completed. There has also been some work done to fix the roof line and paint in a few areas. There was also a window project that completed full maintenance on all of the windows. The entity that did the work did so at a significantly reduced cost out of appreciation for the building and its historical significance. All of this work has been covered by the trust fund for the building that was setup after the initial renovation and restoration. The Historical Commission has put in so much time and money for this and this article will finish the work. Randy noted the concern is that the town has an awful a lot of buildings and it is hard to know where to spend money. He was not opposed to doing repairs, but the town has put a lot of funding into buildings that are in many cases lightly used. Such as is the case with the Old Academy Building. He called for a capital improvement plan for the building. While the town does have tenants for that building, it is impossible to speculate how long those tenants will remain. Thus he suggested that this article receive neither support or lack of support. The idea being to simply say the Selectboard has no official position. It was agreed that the Selectboard would have no opinion on the article. Nancy clarified that the Selectboard is in favor of all articles but that Article 30, with Article 30 having no official position. It was so agreed.
Information Related to Aggregation of Electricity
Nancy started by providing a brief overview. This Friday the letter will be sent out to all power customers in New Salem telling them they will be automatically enrolled in this program unless they decide to opt out and they will have to opt out on July 15. The letter will also tell them about the power products that have been selected and they will have the ability to choose local options for energy but those will be a tad more expensive. The letter should be pretty clear and a public service announcement will be put out in the New Salem News. This will be a 3-year contract and the price is a pretty good one. News of this will also be put in the Greenfield Recorder. A lot of towns in Franklin County are doing this so it shouldn’t be entirely a mystery or a surprise. Still there will likely be public attention on this once people get the letter as many may have forgotten approval of this which happened at a town meeting as this took a while to make its way through proper regulatory channels.
Request from Tax Collector
The Tax Collector has asked about sending out a notice with taxes reminding people of Broadband signups. The Selectboard had no objections. Wayne asked if this would be for specific people or not. MaryEllen responded it would be for specific people, those who haven’t signed up as of yet.
Permission to the Friends of the Library
Nancy asked the Selectboard for the grant of permission for the Friends of the Library who are holding an event outside with social distancing who also wish to serve wine. It was agreed to grant such permission.
Borrowing Paperwork for Broadband
Nancy asked the Selectboard to come in and sign some borrowing for Broadband. It was agreed to permit the signing of this paperwork outside of the meeting.
Randy briefly reported on what he’s learned. He didn’t have specific numbers, but reported there were discussions about trying to have a level funded budget. That would result in a cut in funding to Mahar. There was concern about both Orange and Wendell’s ability to pay the assessment. Many parties had ideas, but many of the towns are worried about potential cuts to state aid and the Commonwealth has remained tight lipped on that subject. There was talk about support for the first draft of Mahar’s budget. That would result in an increase for New Salem that wouldn’t be unsustainable, but could be unsustainable for Orange. Wendell would likely struggle heavily as well. Nancy noted that Wendell has a little more room through Free Cash, but it will be a problem next year if they do use Free Cash. The elephant in the room is the state aid issue. The towns may have to readdress this again in the fall once that is known.
The Selectboard considered several sets of minutes including revisions. This included the minutes from April 6, April 20, May 4, and May 18. The minutes for June 1 were tabled. It was noted that the slowness in this is mostly to do with the pandemic. There was discussion regarding the proposed revisions. Randy had some concerns about a few of the edits noting that they usually don’t involve changes in fact, mostly style and personal preference. Jean felt the edits to be minor. Randy felt it more appropriate to accept the minutes for April 6, April 20, May 4, and may 18 as written.
Randy made a motion to pass the minutes as written. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed by majority vote.
A motion to adjourn at 8:51 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed without objection.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk