Town of NewSalem Selectboard
May 7, 2018
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, chair, Lisa DeWitt, Wayne Hachey, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Sharon Tracy, ATM State Seal Request; Tom Swan, Highway Chief; Sarah Kohler; Ken Bright; Dan Hammock, Trustees of New Salem Academy;
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Ø Letter to Girl Scouts
Sarah spoke to the Selectboard about an issue she is having with a member of the Selectboard. This involved an allegation regarding trespass on her property that she claims damaged her property and which she asked him to stop. Wayne responded as the Selectmen concerned with the matter by explaining that he did not trespass but was within the public easement over the road. His work was to restore and repair a catch basin. Sarah admitted she does not own the road itself but the frontage and again claimed it was on her property. She noted that towns ordinarily have easements or rights of way. Taking the soil, sand, and other materials in her opinion is a violation of MGL Chapter 40A. She further stated that erosion bringing soil from one place to another does not provide a right to remove. She then claimed that irreparable harm was done to her property. Wayne asked what part of the property was damaged. Sarah elaborated further on the area she felt was damaged, which involved a stone structure. Wayne responded that he did not move stone, rather his work was solely to repair the catch basin which did not include moving any stone. Sarah stated she was willing to provide pictures. Randy asked for further explanation trying to understand what the purpose of what was intended and whether Wayne was acting on behalf of the town or as a private citizen. He noted it is important to understand the distinction. Wayne stated that it is the towns responsibility to maintain the catch basin and asked whether the work had been done by the town Highway Department, if there would still have been an issue. Sarah contended that if the work caused the same damage that she alleges, it would be. Wayne again put in contention any assertion that he damaged any stone structures.
Wayne stated that the town is supposed to do it, but that it has not been done and so he was doing it. Randy asked if there is a benefit to the culvert or catch basin working. Sarah admitted that there are benefits to the road to having it work properly. Obviously keeping culverts and catch basins clear is something that does have to be done, but her issue is with how it was done. There was a question of when this happened. Sarah admitted it occurred about 10 days ago. Randy again sought clarification on the issue with Wayne including whether this is on a private basis and not a matter for the town. Sarah submitted that a private individual does not have the legal right to take earth moving machinery on to their neighbor’s frontage and property and excavate. She is willing to accept, for the most part, that what damage is done is done. But asks that in the future she be consulted before any further action of this type is done. She further volunteered that she would be more than happy to clear out the catch basin herself. Wayne noted that he does this nearly every year because the town rarely gets up there and if he doesn’t do it the road becomes icy in winter and eroded in warmer weather. Sarah noted that she purchased the property in that area specifically for the preservation of the property, at no small cost to herself. Randy asked if there is a way to reach a conclusion in private between citizens. Sarah was uncertain, noting she thought they had an agreement in the past that was neighborly and it was not kept. She then again alleged that stone is missing. Wayne contended he did not move any stone and called for the town to delineate the perimeters of the road and public way. Randy suggested that the Highway Chief be consulted. It is important to preserve both the rights of the private citizen as well as the safety of the road and the public. Sharon asked what it is specifically that Sarah is asking for. Sarah responded that what she wants is what she has always asked for, a dialogue prior to any action so that she can be involved in the process and see to the preservation of her property. Sharon suggested that some kind of agreement needs to be hammered out between the parties that both sides can agree to. Sarah turned discussion to adoption of the Scenic Roads Act and how that act protects stone walls. Randy brought discussion back to what the town and the Selectboard can do. He suggested any damage was likely unintentional. Regardless, the question is how to resolve this issue in such a way that all involved feel their rights are preserved. Sarah responded she is willing to maintain the culverts and catch basins on her properties. And if need be, she asked that she be given notice prior to any action being taken. Randy asked Tom to answer some questions about culverts, catch basins, and the rights of way the town has for roads.
Tom responded that this road is three rods wide, which is 50 feet approximately. He stated that the town owns to the surveyor’s pin, so typically the pins are placed in the walls, so the town usually owns up to the wall. The pin is in fact placed in the wall in regards to this property, therefore the town owns to the wall itself. Wayne again stated he has not damaged the stone wall, and when need be he has repaired stone walls. Tom noted that the stone walls on that road were already damaged in some places. Randy suggested that the question is whether or not a citizen living in the vicinity has the right to protect the wall. Tom suggested he could take a look and determine if any damage was done. He noted that the culverts and catch basins were installed in the 70’s and the work around them would date from that period. Sarah reiterated her opinion that it is not the place of her neighbor to do this work. Tom clarified whether Wayne went beyond the pin. Sarah admitted that he did not. Tom then suggested that no damage was done to her property as he would have been on the town road. Regardless, he promised to take a look at it. Randy suggested that it would be best if the private parties can work this out to respect each other’s opinions even if they don’t agree. Wayne was amendable, but asked that the Selectboard proceed with its agenda. Sharon reminded those present that one of the best ways to resolve this kind of issue is mediation and recommended Quabbin Mediation.
Signed Old Academy Building Lease & Payment
Dan provided the Selectboard with a copy of the signed lease and presented the Selectboard with the first annual lease check. He also presented a certification of insurance as required by the lease. He then provided a quick history regarding the building and a sign for the building. Lisa was pretty sure a sign was already commissioned and paid for. Dan wasn’t so sure, but asked Lisa if she could confirm either way. Lisa agreed to look into the matter as she had thought it was paid for. Wayne had thought he saw a bill for such a sign in the vendor warrant. Nancy noted there were several Lyman Signs bills on the warrant. It doesn’t look like any of them were for the Old Academy Building. Regardless the Trustees are willing to pay for a sign unless the town has already done so. Dan then provided the Selectboard with a thumb drive of pictures showing the building as it was when the lease was adopted to ensure that no damage is erroneously attributed. Wayne then asked some questions about some concerns the Trustees had expressed over the possible serving of alcohol on the property. Dan outlined some concerns the Trustees had over possible liability and noted that the Academy just doesn’t want to put itself at risk. Wayne and Lisa agreed suggesting that this isn’t just an issue for the Trustees but also for the town and if the Trustees don’t want to serve, they don’t need to. Sharon noted that special licenses can be gotten for serving and special insurance purchased. Nancy agreed, but noted that those are usually expensive and the only reason for alcohol to be served would be as a fundraiser and they would lose too much. Discussion ended there.
Proposed Annual Town Meeting Article Regarding State Seal
Sharon started off by providing the Selectboard with some materials about the Commonwealth’s Seal and Flag. She noted some historical and offensive issues surrounding how the Native American on the seal is depicted as well as the unfortunate choice of a disembodied arm with a sword held over the Native American’s head. She thinks it is time to address these issues and would like to see change. The Massachusetts House of Representatives has taken up the matter and she is requesting that the town adopt a resolution at the Annual Town Meeting to call on the General Court to study modifying the seal. In 2020, the Commonwealth will mark 400 years since the first colonists landed in Plymouth. It is time to consider this, and to support change. Sharon noted that other towns have already done this, most prominently the Town of Gill. Wayne had a question about the star in the seal and wondered what it stands for. Sharon noted that it wasn’t mentioned. Randy stated the star represents Massachusetts’s status as one of the first 13 States and original colonies. The bow and arrow held by the Native American is pointed downward, which was intended to signifying peace. The sword its blade up, is to remind that it was through the American Revolution that independence was won. That stated, Randy suggested that what is being requested is simply a resolution to ask the General Court to consider studying whether a change is appropriate and there is no harm in putting it on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant. That said the town cannot make the Commonwealth act, but it can surely ask. Sharon then asked about how the procedure will work at town meeting and what the limits would be for her to talk. Randy suggested that she keep it brief and put the information out before the meeting. Nancy agreed recommending putting information at the Library and other places.
Highway Department Update & Clarification of Bidding Process for Repairs to Front End Loader
Tom started off by updating the Selectboard on the Highway Departments work. Currently work is being done on spring clean-up, including road sweeping. Most things are good, the Special Town Meeting authorization is allowing the department to make necessary equipment repairs. He reported some mold in the Highway Garage near the chimney. He’s keeping an eye on it to determine if there is a leak there. Wayne asked some questions about some exterior maintenance. Tom outlined what is being done. Discussion then shifted to the towns flag pole and veteran’s monuments which may require some Highway assistance. Tom then returned discussion to some black top work that will be done in June. Lisa asked how dangerous tree removal is going. Tom responded by outlining what has been done so far this year and reported that a tree hearing is scheduled for some trees on Blackington Road. He then reported on grading that is being done for town roads that are dirt and some possible repairs that might need to be done to the backhoe. Randy asked if there are any vehicles leaking. Tom responded that that would be the backhoe. He’s waiting for the funds to fix it, the money for that repair is part of what was authorized at the Special Town Meeting. Nancy then went over the other equipment repairs and how the bidding and quotes will be handled for that work. Tom outlined the process and agreed to get Nancy the proper specs. Randy asked Tom if he’s been working with the Tree Committee. Tom responded that he has been working with both the Tree Committee and Broadband Committee. Nancy noted that Finance Committee has sought clarification over whether the Highway Department has any monies for tree removal. Tom responded that the department does not currently have such funds earmarked. He further noted that any additional funds for tree removal should be put on its own line item under Tree Warden.
Lisa stated that she has been told that the money used to be in its own line item but supposedly was folded into the Highway Department’s budget. That said, it appears better to have it be its own separate line under Tree Warden. It was suggested that Finance Committees suggestion of allocating funds for Tree Committee like last year, and allocating the funds for the Tree Warden. There was some brief discussion about signage near Swift River Elementary. Discussion then shifted back to future work planned for the warmer months. Tom reported on some upcoming projects that will be done including necessary mowing. Wayne then asked if there have been any beaver issues. Tom reported that there are currently no beaver problems. Ken then asked if a guardrail on North Prescott Road can be replaced. There is a section of rail that has deteriorated. Tom noted that portion of the road is set to be blacktopped this summer and saw no reason why it can’t be repaired as part of that work. There was then a question about non road vehicles used by the Highway Department. Tom elaborated further on the law, what is checked, and what inspections are done. Off road vehicles receive an “off road” sticker. The cost is about $35 per sticker. There was then some discussion about worn out license plates. They do wear out over years of service and replacement is done with the RMV. Randy turned discussion back to the inspection of off road vehicles asking follow up questions about what is specifically required and how the inspections would occur. Tom explained that they would have to be transported to the inspection site. The only alternative is to have a company come out and do it, but that is costly. Nancy agreed noting that when Wendell has had such a service it can cost up to $100 per vehicle. Discussion ended with Tom promising to take a look at the matter brought up by Sarah.
Wayne made a motion to recommend the allocation of funds in the proposed FY19 operating budget for tree removal as a line item to fall under the Tree Warden separate from the Highway Departments budget. The motion was seconded by Lisa and passed without objection.
Request for Use of Town Hall
Lisa Finestone is requesting use of the Town Hall. Her son is getting married and they would like to use the space. The date would be June 30th, 2018. The Selectboard had no objections.
Letter Regarding Girl Scout Silver Award Recipient
Nancy reported that a letter has been received requesting commendation by the Selectboard be issued to the Girl Scouts who have received the award. One girl from New Salem has earned the award. A Morgan Barnes. Nancy typed up such a letter in case the Selectboard was willing to sign. The Selectboard signed the letter and congratulated the recipient.
Proposed Annual Town Meeting Article Regarding Aggregation of Electricity
Nancy reported on this request. There are a few samples of what this would look like. It would authorize the Selectboard to purchase electricity and create opt outs for citizens who don’t want to participate. The Commonwealth has to approve the entire thing. Nancy outlined how the program would work. She noted that Wendell has managed to do well with the program saving their citizens money. Wayne asked if the town would have the ability to choose its type of energy. Nancy responded that the town can and Wendell is 100 percent green energy. The Selectboard was in favor of including the proposed article.
Selectboard Annual Report
Nancy provided the Selectboard with a copy of the draft report and asked that the Selectboard provide any comments or edits for the next meeting.
Tree Committee Budget Request
Nancy reported briefly on the request by the Tree Committee and how it related to the matter of a specific line item for the Tree Warden for removal of dangerous trees.
Municipal ‘Popper Scooper’
Lisa reported on a popper scooper she would like to have installed on the Town Common. She would like to have it placed near the bike rack. It is just on a post and can be moved easily if people don’t like the placement. It’s only about $211 dollars and would help people to more properly dispose of such waste. Nancy suggested taking it out of one of the Selectboard’s line items that has sufficient funds. Tom felt confident that the Highway Department can set this up, and might be able to do it cheaper than the priced quoted. Ken asked who would pay for the trash bags and who would change them. Nancy suggested the Selectboard could buy the bags. Tom was willing to potentially have Highway change the bags.
Other Topics Raised at Candidates Night
Lisa reported on some issues that arose at the Candidates Night. One involves the posting of minutes in a timely fashion. Nancy noted that this is sometimes her fault, things can get busy and minutes aren’t always posted with immediacy upon approval. Lisa then asked about dog licensing and enforcement. Some citizens have asked about how to enforce the rules better. Nancy responded that the licensing is a matter of state law, and enforcement unfortunately can involve more resources then are recoverable through fines and fees, and ultimately involve the courts. The point of the law is to ensure that dogs in town are vaccinated for rabies. Wayne noted that currently the system is operating mostly as an honor system. Nancy suggested that the Town Clerk and Animal Control Officer can pursue people, but it isn’t easy. Wendell goes after people, but it is hard. Lisa felt that there are likely more unlicensed dogs then most people think, and it is a legitimate issue. People should be able to jog, ride, and use public land for recreation without fear of neighborhood animals. Wayne noted that there are steps being taken by the Town Clerk on the matter. Lisa agreed, but suggested that knowing the dog’s status helps people who are on occasion injured to know if they are possibly exposed to rabies or not.
The Selectboard tabled the minutes from April 23rd, 2018 until the Selectboard’s next regularly scheduled meeting.
A motion to adjourn at 8:30 pm was made by Lisa. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed without objection.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk