Town of NewSalem Selectboard
May 21, 2018
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, chair, Lisa DeWitt, Wayne Hachey, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Cam Dunbar, Board of Health; Ken Bright; Steve Blinder, Planning Board; Jean Derderian, Historical Commission; Sue Dunbar, MaryEllen Kennedy, Kathy Sole-Regine, Broadband; Arthur Adams,
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Ø Permission to Contract on Behalf of Town (FRCOG)
Ø Pole Hearing Paperwork
Ø Budget Transfer Form
Planning Board Update on Marijuana Regulation & Proposed Survey
Steve explained that regulations are being drafted for cannabis use and control in town. The Planning Board is of a diversity of opinion and would like to get some direction from the town. They want to put out a survey and would like the Selectboard’s approval. They think a good time to do it would be at the Annual Town Meeting, but are open to other times. Wayne asked for clarification on whether a moratorium is still being sought. Steve explained that the moratorium is written and ready for adoption, but in the meantime the Planning Board needs to plan for when the moratorium will no longer be permitted by the AG’s office in 2019. Randy noted that the first assumption should be that people won’t have pens and pencils. He recalled that there should be a table with various papers for the meeting, and the survey could be put there. That said, it already looks like the meeting might go two nights and as a result it seems unlikely that there would be time to discuss the matter. Nancy suggested the Town Moderator could make some kind of announcement. Steve agreed suggesting it could be along the lines of, “by the way there is a survey,” etc. Randy felt this was a good idea as long as it is made clear that there won’t really be time to go deeper into the matter at the meeting. Lisa suggested results could be printed in the New Salem News. Steve then provided the Selectboard with samples of the survey. Randy made some suggestions about the survey form elaborating on some ways to make tabulating the data collected easier. That said, the Selectboard was in favor of permitting the survey suggesting that people take the survey’s home, think about the questions asked and then return them.
Highway Department Questions
Cam expressed some concerns he’s had with the Highway Department. He reported that he witnessed a town truck unloading an excavator on private land. He thought it might have something to do with paving, but it appears that it did not. He also believes he’s seen it unloaded in various other towns. He was hoping to get more information about the topic. Nancy responded by elaborating that the equipment in question is rented from Brookside Equipment. She then provided Cam with a list of all the times it has been rented by the town since 2008 through 2018. When it is rented, it is paid for with Chapter 90 funds. She then provided an invoice demonstrating it is rented. Nancy then explained that rather than return it to Brookside, Brookside asks the town to bring it to its next site after the town has rented it. Cam clarified that the cost is $450 a day. Nancy confirmed that. Cam then asked about liability risks for the town in using the equipment. Nancy reported that the town has insurance and there was one incident when the town used it and it was damaged. Randy explained that delivering the equipment to its next closest location actually saves the town money. He then elaborated on how that savings is realized and how bringing it back to Brookside each time would cost more. Cam renewed his concern about the use of town equipment. Randy noted that this arrangement does save the town money quite a bit of money and makes sense. Cam expressed some concerns about ethical grey areas.
Randy explained how the liability would work and noted that town officials are aware of the arrangement, including Town Counsel. Cam noted that he’s rented machines before and usually they’re delivered and picked up by the renting company. He had concerns about public perception along with the concerns about liability. He also felt that there may be some conflicts of interest for the town employees involved. Randy noted again that the arrangement is beneficial to the town and cost effective. Doing otherwise would be expensive. The existing agreement is mutually beneficial to all parties. It is understandable that some people may be concerned by the perception, but the best way to handle concerns like this is to ask. Cam then asked further questions about the equipment including who is doing the maintenance. Asking if there are any records about periodic maintenance, parts, and other maintenance noting that if he rents equipment the vender comes and fixes it should it require repair. Wayne responded that one of the advantages of dealing with Brookside is that the town doesn’t pay for a lot of maintenance. Lisa noted that it was like renting a car or anything else, the maintenance is taken care of by the company that owns it. Cam finished by making it clear that he was not “put up” to his questions and noted that his concerns were based solely on his observations.
Pole Hearings for the Installation of Poles for Broadband Project
Nancy started off by explaining that the pole hearings are combined and cover Faye Rd, West St, Neilson Rd, Blackington Rd. and Wendell Rd. On Faye Rd, four poles need to be installed. On West St one new pole. On Neilson Rd, fifteen poles. Blackington Rd is three poles. Wendell Rd is two poles. All poles to be placed are new. Lisa inquired as to whether these are all the new poles that need to be put in. Kathy responded that these poles are only the ones that need to go on public roads. Private roads have an entirely different process. She then explained some of the challenges. The town has energy being fed into the town from other towns in different directions and up until now they were not all connected. So this effort in part, is to connect them. Kathy then reported on the pole assessment. There are a number of poles that need to be replaced. So Broadband has been focused on ways to avoid replacing some of the stretches of poles that would otherwise need replacement. Some poles are owned by DCR. Kathy then spoke about some of the streets specifically. Outlining in particular the issues with West St and Wendell Rd. In Wendell Rd.’s case there are some high tension wires that cross the roads. One of the issues is the limited ability to move wires near and around high tension wires. Some engineering as a result was needed.
Issues were avoided in most places, but Wendell Rd.’s proposed poles will solve the problems there. MaryEllen responded to questions about how the electric lines and fiber poles work in regards to high tension lines. All options were considered. There were some questions about how much can be put on any particular series of poles. Kathy elaborated on various challenges and what solutions have been found so far. Nancy asked about leeway with high tension wires. Kathy responded that there unfortunately really isn’t any. But she agreed to check again with the engineer and National Grid. MaryEllen gave some background on the expertise of the engineer. Kathy noted that the same engineer has assisted the Town of Shutesbury as well. This is not a one off, he has worked with other towns on broadband. There were some questions about a few specific pole locations and whether or not any existing poles would be removed or not. Kathy explained that in most situations, existing poles would not be removed. This is more about the utilities not having room to allow the town to add the fiber to the pole or no pole existing in the first place, so the town has to set its own pole. There were some questions regarding the easements. Kathy elaborated further on the process and what has to be done. This prompted some discussion about notary services in town as some of the documents will need to be notarized. Discussion ended with Nancy providing the Selectboard with the pole hearing paperwork which the Selectboard signed.
Memorial Day Events
Nancy provided the Selectboard with information regarding what has been planned so far for Memorial Day and asking if there is anything else that is needed. It was then determined who would read the rolls of veterans at each cemetery, and there was brief discussion of who should be added. Randy then reported on a meeting with various department heads and stakeholders involved with organizing Memorial Day events. Wayne then reported on the setting of a new stone and plaque. Discussion ended shortly thereafter.
Invitation to Mahar Commencement Exercises
Nancy reported on the Mahar Commencement, including invitations sent out by the high school to the Selectboard. Randy then reported briefly on the related matter of an upcoming meeting he has scheduled with the Superintendent.
Animal Control Officer Budget Questions
Nancy reported on discussions she’s had with the ACO about licensing and the costs related to it. The problem is the that there is a cost of pursing people who refuse to license. This includes court costs and the costs of the ACO having to go to the court. The ACO is doing the best she can to stay on budget. Randy asked if more money needs to be added to the budget. Nancy felt it isn’t, but noted that mostly the ACO just wants to know if she can touch some revolving fund money. Clarification would need to be pursued with the Town Accountant and Town Treasurer as to whether these funds can be used.
Update on Latest Tree Hearing
Nancy reported on a situation that has to be investigated to ensure that it is not a historic site. A tree needs to be removed, but there is some concern about possible historic value so that has to be determined before further action is taken. The take away is that all parties will work together to achieve the best result.
Electrical Aggregation Project Update
Nancy reported on plans to work towards aggregating the towns residential and commercial electricity supply. She went over a draft contract that has been reviewed by Town Counsel and determined acceptable. Nancy then went over how the process works noting that the Town of Wendell has done this and it worked out very well. The topic will be on the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting. Wayne clarified that the town can pick what kind of energy supply is used. Nancy responded that is in fact possible explaining that Wendell was able to get the stipulation that 100 percent of the energy supplied is from renewables.
Permission to Contract on Behalf of Town (FRCOG)
Nancy explained this is simply a form that allows FRCOG to do bids on behalf of the town for the Highway Department. This involves various needs such as bids for pavement and guardrail materials. The Selectboard determined to sign.
Nancy reported on four transfers approved by the Finance Committee. These involve emergency medical services, highway salary lines, retirement contributions, and Medicare. Randy inquired what the justification for the salary expenses were. Nancy was not sure, deferring to the Finance Committee.
Paid Elected Positions & Conflicts of Interests
Randy asked for clarification as to the number of paid elected positions. Nancy reported on the various positions that are paid. Randy asked if there could be any limits on the ability to access multiple stipends from holding more than one such elected office. He wondered if rules could be adopted or not. If too much of a centralization of people occurred, a few people could gain access to those funds. He suggested adoption of rules to enforce, ultimately, good ethics. Wayne noted that it often has to be cleared with the Town Clerk for conflicts of interest. Randy was uncertain that there is any law in place. But felt that it would be reasonable to see if rules could be adopted by the town. Nancy suggested consulting with Town Counsel. There are no rules under MGL that prevent people from holding multiple offices that are elected which might also be paid. Lisa noted that what this is about is the adoption of good practices. She elaborated on several situations where she has had to recuse herself. Randy felt that it is important in a small town like New Salem to have good ethics in place and enforced. At the very least, people need to be thinking about conflicts and how to avoid them.
The Selectboard adopted the minutes from April 23rd, 2018, and tabled the minutes from May 7th, 2018 until the Selectboard’s next regularly scheduled meeting.
A motion to adjourn at 8:06 pm was made by Lisa. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed without objection.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk