Town of NewSalem Selectboard
June 18, 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; MaryEllen Kennedy, Kathy Sole-Regine, Broadband; Jean Derderian, Historical Commission; Calvin Layton, Lisa Finestone, Bruce Spencer, Tree Committee; Tim White, Sandra Tobin, Robert Fritch and Cathy Fritch, Fay Road
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Ø Accounting Services Agreement with FRCOG
Ø Pole Hearing Paperwork
Ø Singing of Annual Appointment Slips
Update from Tree Committee
Lisa Finestone started off by elaborating on some categories to discuss. The first being the budget and the second being Tree Hearings. The committee feels that it should be informed when there is a Tree Hearing and it should be involved. There was recently a hearing that they heard about as a courtesy from a non-town official. This caused the committee to realize that they were not included in the formal process. Nancy promised to look into it and see to it that the committee is added to the list of parties to be informed. Lisa Finestone then noted some concerns about proper posting of such hearings. Bruce stated that some of the trees were not identified correctly and it appears the Tree Warden may not have been present. Calvin suggested that if the Tree Warden cannot be present, the Tree Warden can deputize another person for such a hearing. Further, the posting for the trees is a stringent requirement under MGL. And MGL is such that the process is complex and cumbersome. A lot of times, this means that the Tree Warden has to use a few different methods. He elaborated on how the methods used work and how the town defines it. Lisa had a few questions about how trees are defined by law and what precautions the town can take to ensure compliance. Calvin suggested that the town has to at least attempt to follow the spirit of the law. Still, if there is someone there that is experienced with the subject matter, a lot of harm can be prevented. He then explained the appeal process. The appeal simply goes to the Selectboard who then decide. Calvin then suggested that the committee can volunteer to help the Tree Warden navigate the process. Wayne took the opportunity to ask some questions about a few trees that appear dangerous. Calvin responded by outlining what trees require a hearing and which ones don’t. Most clearly dangerous trees do not if they threaten a home or power line. Lisa Finestone then spoke about the inventory of trees in town that helps determine which trees are dangerous and which ones are not. Discussion then shifted to the cost of tree removal. Calvin suggested that some tree removals are easier than others. The easier ones might be doable by the Highway Department while others would require removal by outside help.
Nancy noted that the town does not have a substantial budget for tree removal. So priorities have to be identified. Calvin outlined how the inventory highlights a number of dangerous trees that are a priority for removal. There appear to be 52 trees that need to be removed with 10 trees under watch. Not all of these must be removed immediately, but they should be a priority. Lisa Finestone then sought clarification for budget. The committee has $5,000 for pruning, planting, and so forth with $5,000 allotted for the tree removal. Nancy noted that FY19 is where the $5,000 for tree removal will be available. It is a separate budget line and not part of the Tree Committee’s budget. Lisa Finestone suggested that it was previously understood that the funds would fall under the committee’s authority. Randy explained why the Finance Committee budgeted in the manner it did and why the funds were put as its own line under the Tree Warden. Nancy then spoke briefly about a bill for pruning that the Town Treasurer received and paid. Lisa Finestone then sought further information on how things are monitored. Wayne suggested giving the Tree Warden their list and checking them off as they are removed. Calvin suggested the format can be adjusted. The idea is to help not hinder and the list is doable. In order for the town to remove liability, the work should be done in priority. As long as the Tree Warden does that, the town is protected if something unfortunate happens. Once the town gets through the list the first time it should get a clear idea of what the ongoing minimum maintenance cost is. This will aid with budgeting. Lisa Finestone then finished up by elaborating on some plantings. A pink dogwood is suggested for planting near the war memorials. Lisa had some questions about the plantings which Calvin responded to. Bruce then had some questions about funds which were allocated by the committee for tree removal that they were pretty certain the Tree Warden had not used. Lisa suggested that the Tree Warden may not have been aware of the funds being available. Nancy noted that these particular funds could be ones that qualify for encumbering with the Town Accountant and kept available for next year. Calvin then spoke about the planting plan and how things will be moving forward. The committee finished its report there and the Selectboard thanked the committee for their work to date.
Nancy went over the maps and process. Several residents from Fay Rd were present concerning the hearing. Kathy then started off with an introduction along with MaryEllen and explained the purpose of the hearing. There is a gap on Fay Rd with poles coming from different directions meaning that different sides of the road are feed from different directions. Fay Rd is emblematic of the towns issues with building its broadband network as these kinds of gaps are all too common. Tim White expressed sorrow at seeing the gap changed given his view. Kathy noted that if the gap isn’t bridged then a substantial chunk of the town would be without broadband. Sandra Tobin suggested that the broadband be brought in via existing poles. Kathy explained how that would be unworkable. MaryEllen explained how the network would be kept within the town and why. Kathy then went over the map showing other gaps and what the town is doing. Sandra noted that she has an unobstructed view that she values. Kathy explained that the town has attempted to take this into account as much as possible. Cathy Fritch noted that the unobstructed view is valuable for property and is part of why she built her home where she did. Kathy elaborated the various methods available for addressing these concerns. Tim White asked what the time frame is. Kathy explained that for new poles, it would be this summer if possible. Other poles may go in late spring. Wayne interjected to state the goal is to have the town connected with broadband by 2019. Tim White asked whether fiber optic would be the only thing strung on the pole. Kathy responded in the affirmative. Sandra Tobin then expressed further confusion about how power feeds into her home and the need for the pole.
MaryEllen explained that New Salem has a unique situation in that area. Robert Fritch then had some questions about the costs. Kathy explained that the goal is to do this the fairest way possible as well as the most affordable. Tim White stated that he is disappointed to lose the view, but high speed internet needs to come. There was a question about whether it could be buried. Unfortunately, that would be cost prohibitive. Cathy Fritch had some questions on how deep the poles would be placed and what the road easement is. Lisa explained how the measurement is calculated from the center of the road out. Wayne elaborated a bit further on the subject. Cathy Fritch asked if there are any examples of existing fiber and what the diameter of it would be. Kathy explained that fiber optic cables are pretty skinny. Jean asked about the underground option again. Kathy explained that the cost truly is prohibitive, which is why it isn’t being considered. Wayne followed by noting there is a lot of ledge in town. Tim White noted that his property is mostly sand and a trench would be easy to dig across. Kathy asked some questions about how the houses are currently fed electricity. Tim White elaborated on the subject. Kathy suggested a cost comparison could be done to see if it could be feasible to bury the line there. Especially since this expanse would not be very long. Robert Fritch asked what the cost of putting up the pole would be. Wayne stated it would be likely around $4,000. Kathy thought it might be closer to $2,500. Kathy then asked for contact information in order to ensure that communication remains open. Nancy asked that the hearing be continued until the cost is determined as to underground versus a pole. Tim White stated that he doesn’t speak for his neighbors, but if it is truly cost prohibitive to bury the line, then the need for internet should take priority in his mind. Nancy suggested the paperwork could therefore be signed by the Selectboard with the understanding that Broadband would look at both options.
Update on Broadband Project Including Tree Removal & New Utility Pole Placement
Kathy reported on the recent Tree Hearing and the latest Pole Hearing. It has been determined that one of the trees that there was concern about removal actually won’t need to be removed so that eliminates one issue. They’ll also be able to move a pole on Fay Road sufficiently to avoid a sensitive area highlighted by Sarah Kohler. Lisa then asked that the Tree Committee be kept in the loop for further Tree Hearings. Kathy and MaryEllen were willing to do so. Kathy stated that Broadband intends to have a handout that will be provided at the Annual Town Meeting. MaryEllen noted it’s a summary with information. Broadband finished its update there.
Award Loader Bid
Three quotes were submitted. The first one was from Brookside Equipment for $33,373.80. The second was from Raymond’s Repair for $34,226.76. The third was from Schmidt Equipment $29,822.18. Schmidt was the lowest bid.
A motion was made by Wayne to accept the bid from Schmidt Equipment for $29,822.18. The motion was seconded by Lisa and passed unanimously.
Final Review of ATM Warrant & Motions with Selectboard Recommendations
The Selectboard determined which articles it was in support of and which ones it was not. On the whole it was determined that most of the articles are necessary and uncontroversial. Randy expressed some regrets that Franklin County Tech does not have an agricultural program as this forces students to have to school choice out and it costs the towns thousands. This particular provision falls under the towns budget as found under Article 4 of the warrant. The consensus was that something should be done. Article 12 was highlighted given the likely questions about how snow and salt bills are handled. Nancy elaborated on the way the article is written and why. Most prominently so that deficit spending is permissible during unusual winters. Articles 22 and 23 involved some repairs to the Library. Wayne elaborated that the Library got a consultant to look at the building for free and determined that the damage is not as bad as the town had thought. Lisa noted this is good news considering some of the issues that need to be addressed. Articles 25 and 26 include the police cruiser. Randy noted that the emphasis should on the necessity of working vehicles. Article 26 will allow the town to just pay for the cruiser and not have to have a long term loan on it. Article 37 is the Marijuana Moratorium. Randy suggested that the Selectboard take a neutral position. He further suggested the Selectboard also be neutral on Article 38 which is the zoning proposal. Wayne noted a few concerns. Lisa echoed with similar concerns. Article 42 is related to a request for the Commonwealth to modify its flag. It was suggested that the Selectboard remain neutral on that as well. Nancy clarified that it will be two articles that the Selectboard will have no opinion on. The consensus was that the Selectboard would be neutral on Articles 37, 38, and 42.
Cannabis Regulation Meeting & Update
Wayne gave a brief update about where Cannabis stands. There are seven categories of licensing. These categories include transportation, cultivation, and retail. That said the meeting focused mostly on business related licensing. Kopelman & Page did the presentation. There was a mandate for things to start on July 1st, but that appears unlikely to be achieved.
Letter from DEP Regarding Recycling Markets & Impact on Municipalities
Nancy reported on a letter receive from DEP. Board of Health maintains the Transfer Station, that said the Selectboard should remain aware of ongoing issues. DEP is concerned about recycling given the situation with China and the ability to dispose of glass in particular. DEP is also focused on ensuring that people are aware of proper recycling as pollution of recycling is a big part of the problem. Nancy was concerned that this will cause increased costs. Lisa noted that China was the country that was taking a lot of Americas recycling and since they’ve tighten restrictions this problem has arisen.
FRTA Appointment Letter
Nancy asked Randy to sign a conflict of interest form. By default, he is the Selectboard’s representative to FRTA.
Wayne reported on a problem with the towns solar panels. He’s checked the monitoring equipment. The town is at about half power. The panels themselves appear to be working. He thinks the inverter might be malfunctioning. He’s attempted to reset the inverter, but it appears to persist. The Energy Committee is looking for repair work to be done. The town makes enough from SREC sales to justify repairs. It is worth getting the equipment up and running again as soon as possible. This time of year is the highest for productivity so it is essential to preserve SREC profits. Nancy noted that the installing company has since gone out of business so they aren’t available to do repair work. Wayne then spoke about some possible changes to the mounting of the panels and made some suggestions about reorientation to increase productivity in the winter. The mounting was supposed to track, but the tiny motors that were supposed to do that have long since burned out. Wayne then spoke about some suggestions for further panels, such as mounting some on the Highway Barn.
Regional Planning Meeting
Randy asked for volunteers to attend the meeting as he is unable to attend. The committee’s goals are to find scraps of money in different places. The current plan is to have Petersham regionalize K to 6 Grade with Orange. This should save money for both communities. New Salem’s only concern is in ensuring that there is no impact on Swift River. The meeting will be at the Mahar Library. Lisa volunteered to go.
Review & Sign Appointment Slips for FY19
Nancy provided the Selectboard with the annual appointments which they signed. There was a question about whether the Chief of Police could be appointed for a 4-year term. Nancy promised to look into the MGL further. Ordinarily the longest appointment is 3 years, with 5 years being possible if the appointee is an employee with a contract. But there may be some exception for Police Chiefs.
Parking in Town Center & on Town Common
There were some questions about parking for events in the center of town such as Old Home Day. Lisa Finestone suggested a formal policy be adopted. Lisa responded about how the parking is being handled and had some thoughts on how to accomplish the goal suggesting that it be published in local news sources that no parking is permitted on the Town Common. Randy suggested that when people are permitted to use the center for events, they be given something in writing explaining parking. Discussion finished on the note that the 1794 Meetinghouse has been very cooperative with parking.
Renewal of Accounting Services Contract with FRCOG
Nancy asked the Selectboard to approve the renewed contract with FRCOG for providing the town with a Town Accountant as well as software for the Accounting Department. The Selectboard saw no reason not to do so.
Telecommuting to Meetings
Lisa requested that the Selectboard consider adopting a formal policy allowing for telecommuting. It was noted that a telecommuting member would not count towards quorum. Jean recalled that usually they can’t vote either. She then elaborated on the experience of Historical Commission on the subject. The main issues are with hearing. She suggested that the town, if such a policy is adopted, invest in proper equipment. Doing it by computer or cellphone won’t work well. The consensus was in favor of exploring the matter. Nancy stated she would get the regulations and relevant MGL for the next meeting.
Historical Commission Update
Jean reported that she has been working getting grant funds for the town. She’s met with Representative Whips about possible ways to get funds. Her main goal is working towards saving the Town Hall. Jean had a few dates for holding a meeting on the topic. Such a meeting would be about beginning the process and discussion. Randy noted the biggest stumbling block the town has had on this front is that the town is afraid to jump into a project it can’t finish. If looking at the Town Hall is a goliath, the town shouldn’t go into it if it can only half finish. Lisa suggested that the town may not be in the position to do something, but it should be explored. Wayne noted that touching the building would require bringing it up to code. Jean conceded that and suggested that funds can always be found. She felt that a hiatus has been taken on worrying about the Town Hall, but people are starting to be interested in saving the building which is a great asset for the town. Wayne asked if a scope of work has been determined. Jean responded that it should be completely brought up to code with an investment in the building to bring it back to a baseline for use. The building has been neglected for years and that should be addressed. Randy noted that the previous quotes the town has obtained for repairing the building were around $3 to $4 million. Jean again conceded that the costs are high, but she’s made that clear to Representative Whips and other parties she’s spoken to. She expressed the feeling that losing the building would be a tragedy. The building may not be very old, only built in the 1930’s, but most of the materials used were from public buildings torn down in the towns lost to the Quabbin Reservoir. In fact, this Town Hall was built to pretty much copy a public hall the town had in Millington, a village of New Salem lost to the Quabbin. At the end of the day the discussion is worthy of being had.
Board of Assessors
Jean expressed willingness to rejoin the Board of Assessors if the Selectboard would be willing to appoint her. Such an appointment, since the office is elected, would only run until the towns next Annual Town Election in the spring. Jean was willing to make a yearlong commitment. Wayne briefly commented on the pending retirement of the Working Assessor. Ken Holmberg is expected to continue for at least another year.
The Selectboard adopted the minutes from June 4th, 2018.
A motion to adjourn at 8:40 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk