Town of New Salem Selectboard
June 29, 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; Sarah Kohler; Nancy Slator, New Salem News; Jackson Goddard; Jen Potee, Cam Dunbar, Board of Health; Mary Ashburn; Tamara Conde, Cemetery Commission; Gail Spring, Animal Control Officer; Rosemary Lyman; Ken Bright
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
- Payroll & Vendor Warrants
- FRCOG Contract Extension for MVP Grant
Utility Pole Easement for Broadband
MaryEllen reported that we finally have the proper paperwork for the easements. The request from the Commonwealth is for $31,000 for the easement. The poles have already been installed. About $11,000 was spent to get the appraisal for this. Randy asked if the funds are available. MaryEllen responded that they are indeed. Broadband will be getting last mile contingency funding as well for make ready overages. That will hopefully be finalized soon, but is still waiting for review. The town may have to go into some detail explaining why and where. But this bill can definitely be paid. She asked the Selectboard to authorize this payment. Nancy provided the proper wording for the motion. MaryEllen then finished by saying that installations are proceeding and most customers appear happy to date with the new service.
A motion was made Jean to approve the easement from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for utility poles installed by the Broadband project through DCR property on Michael Ln and North Spectacle Pond Rd. Also to approve the $31,000.00 expenditure submitted on the current warrant as compensation for the easement. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed unanimously.
Sale of Cemetery Plot
Tamara started off by asking Nancy some questions about deeds. Nancy responded that the deeds have been prepared and are ready for signature. Once signed by the Selectboard they will be passed to the Cemetery Commission. Tamara then turned to some grass concerns on the Town Common, reminding that the Cemetery Commission helps with mowing the Common. Glenn Lyman has spread grass seed on the area and hopefully with the recent rain there will be some growth. However, the best planting season won’t be until later in the year. She then turned to the cause. It appears that is indeed related to grubs as suspected, so there are a few products that can be used to deal with it. She felt confident a one-time treatment would be able to solve the matter. Tamara then turned to the pending retirement of Glenn and his wife Rosemary. Originally Glenn worked for the Highway Dept., but when he retired as a Highway employee he became an employee of the Cemetery Commission. So what he mows is more than just cemeteries, he does the mowing of athletic fields and other green areas like the Town Common. He also of course mows the Town Center Cemetery as well as the others. It has been suggested that the town replace the Lyman’s with a contracted service. This would save the town from having to buy new mowers as well as other employee related costs. Tamara noted that it had long been planned to explore this option as a way of relieving the Lyman’s to free up focus on the center. The Lyman’s will both retire at the end of June, so its short notice to find a company to pick up after them. Another option to hiring a company would be to have the Highway take backup some of the mowing. This would mean the town might only have to really pay for a contract for the cemeteries. Nancy noted that a contract would be an annual expense. Jean asked what the existing cost is. Tamara responded that the Lyman’s cost about $8,000 through wages and expenses. A contract for just the cemeteries would be roughly in the $6,000 range. Another cost for having this done in house again is having to replace the equipment every few years. Wayne asked the Board of Health about the mowing for the landfill. Jen responded by outlining what Board of Health has. Their company is very reasonable. That said Jen felt that the company Tamara has already spoken with is a very reliable and good company based on community reputation. Tamara noted that this company actually specializes in cemeteries too.
She’s seen bad things happen when random companies do cemeteries. Plus, this company is in the right price range. Cam noted the company that does the landfill was hired in part because they have a special mower for incline mows. So he felt that the company Cemetery Commission has in mind is a good one. Like Jen he understood them to be very reputable. Tamara then returned to the Town Common and the Town Center. Wayne agreed to talk with Highway Dept. about whether they could take that mowing over. Nancy noted that Wendell has a company that just handles their Town Common and surrounding area in the center and it’s been affordable. Randy asked about the shifting of the costs. It was agreed to look at that from a budget view in the meantime it was also agreed for Tamara to get a service contract. Randy stressed that we need to ensure that we have funding. Tamara suggested that any saved funds could be transferred from Cemetery at a Special Town Meeting or potentially as an End of Year Transfer. Rosemary interjected to assure that she and Glenn would keep mowing until the town is able to settle whatever or whoever the replacement will be. Wayne then asked Tamara about special arrangements for veterans. Tamara was open to having a designated veteran’s area. Tamara then asked the Selectboard if some kind of special recognition could be granted to the Lyman’s. They have served for many years with Glenn putting in more than 60 years. Wayne suggested a few ideas. It was agreed to consider the matter further. Nonetheless the Selectboard took a moment to thank Rosemary personally as she was in attendance. Tamara then turned to a request for her to do work on some of the stones in the cemetery. She specializes in these kinds of repairs. She asked the Selectboard to consider supporting a waiver to allow her to be compensated. Most of the costs are simply in tools and supplies. Nancy submitted that this would likely require a special status. It was agreed that Nancy would look into this. Wayne noted usually there is paperwork that has to be signed with the Town Clerk too. It was agreed to follow up. Randy suggested this be put on the agenda for the next Selectboard meeting. It was so agreed.
Highway Department Road Maintenance Issues
Sarah began by outlining the current situation from her view. She’s noticed dramatic changes in the plowing over winter in ways that have harmed the shoulders. To that end she noted a number of markers she’s put out on Neilson Rd on a parcel that is a corner lot that also abuts Wendell Rd and her bringing of this parcel to the attention of the Selectboard as an ongoing one of concern. In her opinion this particular area is protected by the Scenic Roads Act. She felt that this area was damaged. After the snow melted she has seen what she views as excessive mowing with heavy machinery. She also noted some roads that appear to be widened as well as stones and stonewalls that she felt to have been affected as well. She also noted a number of culverts that were dug out. In her opinion the culvert work caused dramatic erosion. One particular place being along some fencing by Swift River Elementary. Sarah noted that there have been harder rainfalls in recent years that are for more longer sustained periods so erosion is a concern that must be taken seriously. Sarah articulated that her main grievance is that the Town of New Salem enacted the Scenic Roads Act specifically to prevent this. The amount of harm in her view is severe and the worst in 30 years. She asked for the town to restore where possible. There was some discussion regarding some LIDAR that was done to the parcel on the corner of Neilson and Wendell Rd’s. Sarah then turned discussion to various culverts in town and erosion around them after work that was done to dig the culverts out some by the Highway Dept. Jean focused on the question of restoration wanting to be clear on what that would entail. Sarah was unsure at that time what it would entail. She was also unsure what expense there would be. It was agreed attempts to return stones should be made wherever possible. Randy noted that regardless of any damage the intention of the Highway Dept. was to remove sediment from the culverts to ensure they run clear. Sarah disputed that the culverts had much of an issue save for leaf debris.
She speculated that the methods used to clean them out, the equipment, is responsible for this going wrong. She conceded that Highway Dept. laborers were likely acting in good faith but perhaps were trained on roads that are not rural or scenic in character. Randy asked about the extent of the concern. Sarah responded that it would be town wide at this point. She then brought up some concerns regarding pole installations made by Broadband. In some places she felt the pole placements may have been harmful. Jean interjected to suggest that Sarah speak with Mollie on the Tree Committee. Mollie is pretty up to speed on the Scenic Roads Act and may be able to provide assistance. Wayne then brought up an incident where he understood Sarah to have been involved in where she got in the way of a mower. He cautioned that the towns mowers could cause severe bodily injury if a person gets too close. Sarah responded by providing her view of events regarding the mowing and again alleged issues with the corner of Neilson and Wendell Rd. Randy submitted that protecting the towns rural character and following the Scenic Roads Act is important, but suggested that for discussion purposes the Selectboard should consult with the Highway Dept. and return to this topic at a later time. Sarah conceded that the intention was likely good, but asserted that the results are egregious. Randy asked Nancy if perhaps another Highway Dept. in the region might be consulted for a second opinion. Nancy was uncertain. Randy suggested that resources should be found to try and determine how to ensure that there is no damage when ordinary work is done. Wayne interjected to remind that there have been a lot of changes in how roads are cared for, shifts between sand and salt for winter, and other various things. Nancy noted that FRCOG did recently look at all of the towns culverts and suggested that they could be consulted. It was agreed to pursue that as well as other fronts. It was also agreed that culverts must be cleaned out on a regular basis in order to prevent instances of flooding.
Randy noted that this topic has unfortunately had to sit on the back burner due to the pandemic and other technical difficulties. There has been a process that has been going forward and will hopefully proceed to a town meeting. He then went over what should be in the General By-Laws versus a Zoning By-Law. One particular by-law to consider relates to kennels. For that particular by-law Randy asked for a determination as to whether it is General or Zoning. He also asked Nancy to check with the Governor’s Office regarding the limits on meetings and if public hearings may be scheduled presently. This would likely be a Town Counsel question. Wayne felt that a lot of this needs to move forward as quickly as possible. Perhaps not the kennels piece of this but certainly the rest. Gail asked that this moved forward, but conceded that the kennel part likely still needs to go before the Planning Board. David noted that this topic is on the Planning Board’s upcoming meeting agenda. He felt that a lot of this really can fall under General By-Laws noting that many towns have done them as General By-Laws. Nancy then asked about newspaper publication and hearing process and the applicability to General By-Laws. Jean reported on what she knew on the subject but assured she would do research to determine that. She will also have information for the Planning Board at their next meeting. Randy submitted it might be useful if the town consults with Town Counsel.
Planning Board has a number of topics they need to have hearings on so having an official opinion in writing would be helpful. It was agreed to authorize consulting with Town Counsel. Randy returned to the kennel question. Jean responded that this will really be one document and felt reasonably confident that it would be a General By-Law that the Selectboard could proceed with. Randy thanked Jean for her work on this topic noting that her assistance has been appreciated. Still he felt the ACO should be driving this process. Jean noted that she has always worked very closely with Gail. She’s sought to get a lot of opinions and viewpoints on this with the aim to meet the needs of everyone. Gail turned discussion to some of the recent changes made to the document asking Jean a few questions. There was a particular section Gail wanted to make sure went into the final version. She gave several reasons for it including existing issues and consultations she’s had with other ACO’s. There were also a few minor language changes that Gail wanted to ensure are made. Other than those areas she’s happy with what’s been drafted. Jean then submitted that she would send Gail the latest copy she has and asked her to look it over to ensure each of those are addressed. Gail agreed to do so. Nancy then turned to scheduling a date for a public hearing should one be needed. Wayne asked about how to handle such a hearing and whether it could be done virtually. Nancy wasn’t certain, which is another reason to consult Town Counsel. Nancy suggested July 20. That date was agreed to on a tentative basis. Gail submitted that the desire is to get this right so we can get it done. This will allow her to do her job appropriately.
Old Academy Building Fire Alarm
Nancy reported that the alarm systems batteries are in need of replacement. These cost $325.10. Most of this is in labor. There is also travel time as the installer is coming from Agawam. Wayne suggested that the town might be able to just pick these up and install instead. Joe noted these are usually fairly easy to replace. The only concern is that the town might have to take responsibility if a failure occurs. There are other things to contemplate like scheduling to take the system offline for a while. Randy reckoned the actual cost of the batteries is $65. He suggested seeing if the town can purchase these and just install them. Joe felt that they could be found from many sources but we’d need the exact number of the existing batteries to ensure we buy the correct batteries so that it all matches. It was agreed to take a look and see if it’s feasible for the town to replace these. Wayne asked about life expectancy for these batteries. Joe responded that it isn’t very long just two or three years. Jean asked whether there is a required time period the town has to act in. Nancy responded it needs to be done with some immediacy. Joe agreed noting that alarm company has already been in contact with him about disruptions due to the low battery situation. Wayne felt that he could meet with Joe and take a look at it before the town commits to the techs being sent out. Jean also volunteered to be present.
Carry Forward Accounts from FY20
Nancy reported on the list of items. These can be carried forward from year to year, a process also known as encumbering. These accounts are things like the Tree Warden and Tree Committee accounts, the Stowell Building Architect account and a few others. Fire Dept. will also be seeking a few carry forwards as will the Library. This must be reported to the Town Accountant by June 30. She expressed the hope that if the towns books can be closed out quickly this year we will see a Free Cash amount certified on time.
FRCOG Stormwater Pilot Opportunity
Nancy reported on a letter from FRCOG for examining sustainable stormwater management in the county. They are looking for towns to be pilot communities for exploring best management practices for rural unpaved public roads. This would help showcase various technics that may be helpful. They would work with the Highway Dept. to pick the roads to experiment on with the goal of helping improve roads along the way. She asked if there was interest in participating in this. Wayne noted that Cooleyville Rd might be a good one to look at, particularly the bridge section of the road. Nancy asked whether that problem is a stormwater issues. Wayne felt that it would as the problem is in part caused by stormwater run-off. Nancy agreed to contact FRCOG and express the towns interest in participating.
Spring Loaded Traps
Nancy reported on this topic. These traps appear to be illegal in Massachusetts and there is concern about reports that some may be appearing in town. Sarah recalled that some traps that may be exempted for use with beavers. It was agreed to keep an eye out for any further reports.
Appointments for FY21
Nancy presented the list of annual appointments noting a few errors to be corrected. The Selectboard was willing to proceed with the appointments with the necessary modifications. It was agreed not to read the list aloud. Jean asked if these appointments are all renewals. Nancy responded that they are. There is nobody new.
A motion was made by Wayne to accept the appointments as listed and modified. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed unanimously.
Board of Health Update
Randy asked the Board of Health if they had anything new. Cam reported on the Transfer Station. There will be some changes made to paper recycling in regards to shredded paper. Wayne noted there are a number of reasons for this. Cam then reported that aerosol cans will also no longer be recyclable. Jen then turned to COVID-19. The virus is still here, and isn’t going away. So people still need to be mindful. She is part of the planning for re-opening for Mahar and stressed the work that will go into that. This won’t be easy and there is a lot that has to be done. The Commonwealth wants public schools to open. This is all so very complicated. She again stressed that people need to not become complacent. She remains highly concerned, particularly about public holidays and long weekends. Wayne returned to public school openings. Jen reported on the various moving pieces to this. Cleaning is going to be the biggest issue. Wayne asked about school children and teachers wearing masks. Jen responded that masks will be required. In classroom everyone will have to maintain at least 3 feet from each other and the full 6 feet in a cafeteria circumstances. Another concern is going to be students who live with high risk persons such as grandparents or immunocompromised parents or other relatives. The Selectboard thanked the Board of Health for their work.
FRCOG Contract Extension for MVP Grant
This is a grant and the town was not able to execute it as a result of the pandemic. The paperwork just needs to be signed by Randy in his capacity as chair. It was agreed to so authorize.
Question Regarding Holiday Observances & Observances for Veterans
Ken asked about observance of holidays and whether anything has been done to honor veterans after services and events for Memorial Day having to be cancelled. Wayne and Randy both expressed concern about any plans in the future right now with the pandemic still ongoing and concerns about a second wave persisting. Wayne then detailed what was done to try and still honor veterans on Memorial Day.
Emerald Ash Borer
Jackson asked about the Emerald Ash borer noting that the Tree Committee has been debating the idea of asking for a tab to be placed on the New Salem town website to provide information on the detection and treatment options. He wanted to know if the Selectboard had any knowledge of this. None of the Selectboard members had yet heard of that idea at the time.
The Selectboard considered the minutes for June 1 and determined to approve them. It was agreed to table the June 15 minutes until the next meeting. Jean asked about a requested change in the June 1 minutes. Nancy confirmed that the changes were made as requested.
Randy made a motion to approve the minutes as amended. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed without objection.
A motion to adjourn at 9:22 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed without objection.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk