Town of NewSalem Selectboard
November 5, 2018
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, chair, Wayne Hachey, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Lisa Finestone, Tree Committee; MaryEllen Kennedy, Kathy Soule Regine, Broadband; Gabriele Voelker, Town Treasurer; Barbara Doyle; Ken Bright
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
New Selectboard Liaison to Tree Committee & Trees in Front of Stowell Building
Lisa started off by explaining two concerns of the Tree Committee. One of them was addressed by some work done by the Tree Warden. The other being safety by town employees who are removing trees. It appears that some training needs to be done to alleviate any kind of liability to the town. Nancy noted that there is a special Tree Warden course that the Tree Warden has enrolled in and in all likelihood Highway employees will be able to enroll in special chainsaw classes in the spring. Lisa noted that this is about safety, and isn’t just a New Salem issue. A number of towns have experienced some injuries and have been held liable. Another concern regards the liaison. Lisa DeWitt was the liaison to the committee, but since her resignation from the Selectboard, there is now no liaison. Lisa asked if one of the remaining members of the Selectboard would do it. Wayne expressed interest, noting that he already is the liaison to the Highway Department and since the Tree Warden is also the Highway Chief, it makes sense. Wayne requested that the committee make him aware of their next meeting.
Discussion then shifted to a tree planted at the Veterans Memorial. Lisa reported that a weeping pink dogwood was planted. Randy noted that this was planned. Lisa agreed. She then spoke about future plans for plantings, including one in front of the Library. In January on or around the 16th of that month the committee hopes to hold a public meeting to get input for other plantings that would mostly go on South Main Street. The committee has spoken with the Fire Chief and hopes to also plant around the Fire Station. The hope would be to get a broad base of ideas from the public as well as to do some teaching to inform people about various plantings that can occur in town. Wayne inquired as to whether some shrubbery could be planted. Nancy interjected to note that there is an invasive species of pears that needs to be removed from in front of the Stowell Building. Lisa responded that the committee will take a look into the matter. One of the main objectives of the committee is to address South Main Street so this would fall under that goal. Lisa then spoke about the gypsy moths and the fact that a lot of trees may be impacted come spring time. The town should be prepared.
Speed Limit Sign on South Main Street
Lisa noted that the placements of the speed limit signs on South Main Street. Drivers are coming from 202 and appear not to be seeing the signs. The sign on the entry to the Town Center is almost hidden given its location and proximity to the larger historical district sign. She suggested moving both signs to be in more apparent locations. She also inquired about the possible placement of an electric sign, perhaps one of the ones that can be moved. She understands the town has one that the police could use. Nancy noted that she has observed people speeding in the Town Center. Wayne agreed suggesting that the police may be able to help as they were with new signage over by Swift River Elementary School and it may be worth pursuing such options in the Town Center. Lisa noted that a lot of people walk South Main Street, so there is liability there. Never mind the matter of public safety. Nancy suggested that perhaps rather than changing the speed limit or moving the signs that the solution might be to install more signs and increase police presence. Randy suggested follow up with the Chief of Police and the Highway Chief.
Lisa noted that for a while the town website appeared to be having issues, including missing minutes. Nancy reported on her discussions with the towns webmaster and noted that there have been some issues but work is being done to resolve them.
Broadband Update & Signing Easements
Nancy started off by reporting that the two holdouts on easements have finally signed. Kathy noted that it was getting a bit down to the wire, but thankfully things are settled. Randy asked if the agreements are the same as the others or are different. MaryEllen reported that the easements are the same as the rest. There were a lot of interesting requests, but ultimately things were settled to the norm. Kathy then reported on the manner by which the easements are handled with the Registry of Deeds, how things are proceeding generally. These easements came in the nick of time, so things can be finished up with the poles. There are still some things that have to be finished up with DCR, but the required legislation from the General Court was passed. MaryEllen then reported on her meetings with DEP regarding the environmental assessment and whether or not further study would be required. It appears that there are no issues and DEP at this point seems likely to sign off. After this is completed the town should be able to proceed on a number of fronts. Still, some further steps will have to be taken with the Commonwealth. Wayne inquired as to the installation of poles on state land. Kathy responded that once a certain stage has been reached, which the town is close to, that can proceed. Discussion than shifted to the make ready cost overruns. Kathy reported that the Commonwealth has realized that the make ready was underestimated. The original estimate was around $300,000. It now appears that the number will exceed $1 million. MaryEllen clarified that part of the cost overrun is the cost of the utilities cooperating.
Kathy agreed stating the Commonwealth has already set aside an additional $12 million and the town is likely to get most of the cost overruns for the make ready covered. In terms of the build, the town is ready to go out for procurement. This entails actually building out and hanging the fiber. Every time a new town goes out, more and more companies are getting into the bidding and therefore there is competition. So far there hasn’t been too much sticker shock. The build is on the town, so that is good news. MaryEllen noted that the town has to pay for at least 63 percent, but that was for the original grant prior to any cost overruns. For the $12 million, that equation isn’t part of it. So again, good news. Wayne inquired as to the connection to the upcoming election. MaryEllen noted that all candidates in the race for Governor have expressed support for broadband. Kathy followed by saying that the funds are already awarded. Gabe interjected to note that Shutesbury has already been awarded its funding for the cost overruns. Kathy stated that this is a rolling process and things will continue to evolve, but at least the Commonwealth is aware of this and appears ready and willing to address problems as they arise. MaryEllen then gave a brief update on the hut that Broadband is installing. Gabe brought up some concern about whether everyone in town will indeed get the broadband noting that her home and her neighbor may not get broadband. Kathy responded that poles will not be put down private driveways. Despite the indisputable fact that William Rice Road is indeed a road and not a driveway and all the property along the private section of the road have properly assigned addresses, it appears that an erroneous determination has been made to deem the private section of the road a driveway. This is in contrast to other private roads in town where plans have moved forward to install poles. Gabe correctly noted that both houses would be significantly devalued if they are left out. Wayne expressed surprise that the two houses were being left out. Kathy responded that all efforts will be made to address the situation stating that Broadband is trying to be equitable and do the best they can.
Appointments: Council on Aging & Police Officer
Nancy presented the Selectboard with two appointments. One is Donna Ballantine to the Council on Aging. The other is a new Police Officer, an Edward P. Smith. The Selectboard saw no reason not to proceed with signing the appointment slips.
School Committee Vacancy
Barbara Doyle introduced herself. She has been interested for some time in joining the School Committee and believes that she has the time and means to serve. The School Committee currently has a vacancy. Barbara gave some background on herself, including what she does for work, and what her education is in. She felt that her knowledge and talents would be helpful. Randy responded that the Selectboard can preliminarily recommend the appointment, but a subsequent meeting will need to be held with the School Committee given the requirements of MGL. That said Randy asked if Barbara had any questions. She noted that she is aware of the meeting schedule and detailed some conversations she’s had with past and current School Committee members. Nancy recommended setting up that meeting on the Selectboard’s existing agenda for its next meeting which will be held on November 19th. There are currently 4 members with 1 vacancy. There was then some discussion regarding the appropriate procedures for initiating the joint meeting with the School Committee. Randy than thanked Barbara for her time and interest in serving on this important committee.
Estimate on Stowell Building Gutter Replacement
Nancy reported the estimate is $625, with an additional $85 for a screed in the gutter with a total being $710. Randy asked if the funds are available. Nancy reported that the funds are indeed available. Randy asked if this is replacement or not. Nancy responded that it is replacement.
A motion was made by Wayne to accept the bid including with the screen. Randy seconded and the motion passed by majority vote.
Supplemental Chapter 90 Funds
Nancy reported on supplemental Chapter 90 funding that the Commonwealth has approved. The supplemental amount is about $29,000. This is good news for the town.
Gabe went over the loan paperwork and what is entailed. This borrowing is for Broadband. The town is borrowing the most that can be borrowed without further authorization or guarantees by the Commonwealth. She then briefly detailed the experience of Shutesbury on the same subject matter. Wayne inquired as to how the drawing of the borrowing would work. Gabe elaborated on how the process works and noted that the first payment will start next year. The total amount of the borrowing is $1.5 million. There is an open question of whether the funds can be bonded at a future date or not. Currently this is a short term borrowing. The town may need to come back for further funding. Nancy noted that Wendell did the smaller borrowings. Gabe explained that there are borrowing fees, so it is important to borrow as much of the full amount as you know you need rather than doing a series of smaller borrowings.
Nancy inquired about the town pursuing further IT Consulting. Gabe noted that the town is not under contract with its current provider, so there is no reason why the town cannot proceed with another IT professional. The town has been unable to get the same level of service that it used to, and it may be time to choose a new IT professional. Departments have reported issues and they need to be resolved. Nancy spoke about Wendell’s IT Consultant and how that has worked out. It may be worth pursuing seeing if the same consultant will take on New Salem. There was then discussion regarding the requirement by the Commonwealth for official emails for town officers. Gabe reported on the work she’s done so far for the Treasurer’s office and noted the that the Selectboard needs to take direct action to get the emails done. She then detailed the work that has been done on the towns website to date. The update of the towns website has helped improve the ability of accepting tax payments online and assisted on a number of related fronts.
It may be wise to see if the webmaster for the town website can see to the issuing of the emails. There was some discussion of current efforts to have data backed up offsite. Nancy reported on some concerns she has about her data being backed up. Gabe recommended contacting the webmaster for diagnostic work. Discussion then shifted back to the emails and the costs. This also included how to control town emails, including when dealing with elected officials. It is clear that the town has a need for IT. Gabe noted that one concern is Highway Department which needs a new computer. She then outlined the accounts the town has for new computer. Departments are currently on a rotating cycle and the budget affords at least one new computer in town a year. Wayne noted that he might know of a computer that could be donated to keep Highway going for the time being. Randy has some questions about using Chromebooks and other related PCs. Gabe responded that one of the big issues with those kinds of computers is that everything is in the cloud and while that can be a positive, it can also make it difficult to get the documents out, in particular if things get put into someone’s private Google One Drive. Unfortunately, towns often learn things the hard way.
Water Pump Replacement in Stowell Building
Wayne reported on work with the pump. The pump wasn’t shutting off so it needed to be repaired. Petersham Pump came in an adjusted the regulator. The pump is working, but mostly worn out. It only supplies water to the bathrooms currently. Wayne recommends the town consider replacement, but suggests that the town wait until the current one dies. A new pump is $1,000 roughly. The downside to waiting is the costs of getting the current pump working again. Otherwise, if a new pump is installed, the pump company would roll the costs of the repair into the replacement. Randy asked what the cost of the current repair is. Wayne stated it’s probably around $100 or so. Nancy asked about what might happen if the pump were to get stuck running again. Wayne had some concern about possible fire, but it could just shut down which would mean a loss of water. Randy clarified if the pump can be turned off. It can be. The pump is working again, but the pressure is low, and it could die. Still, the pump is working. The issue isn’t whether it has to be replaced, the issue is when it has to be replaced. It was decided to wait two weeks and see where the pump is at that point.
Need for Upcoming Executive Session
Nancy then reported on the need for an executive session. She noted that there were some issues that came up a year ago that are resurfacing. There is a toxic situation that has developed in a department, and the matter should be addressed. Nancy stated that she has spoken with Town Counsel. Part of the problem is that none of the persons involved want to make an official written complaint. Town Counsel suggestions holding an executive session without that, explaining it’s a call for the Selectboard to make. Wayne reported on some leg work he has pursued on the matter in general terms coming to the conclusion that there may be outside agitation. Randy cautioned about discussing details that belong in executive session. Nancy suggested giving it two weeks and deciding at the next meeting if an executive session should be scheduled. Next meeting has too much of a heavy schedule for it to be scheduled for then, so it would make sense to see if it can be dealt with a bit later. There was then discussion regarding whether it would be appropriate for one of the other department heads to intervene. It was felt that might be appropriate depending on the facts. Part of the problem is verifying facts. It was suggested that outside department head check in as a neutral party and the Selectboard can then decide whether to hold an executive session.
All Board Meeting
Nancy asked whether the Selectboard wants to hold an all board meeting. The town is booked on a number of fronts. Normally the meeting would be held in October, but that time is passed. The importance of such a meeting is to share information and address common goals. It was suggested looking at January.
202 Tag Sale Issue on Daniel Shay
Wayne reported on discussions with the Chief of Police. It appears the Commonwealth would have to take action regarding the parking concerns and the solution would be to ask the Commonwealth to install no parking signs in the area so that police can enforce. Ken noted that it appears they have wrapped up for the year so this is something that may need to be readdressed in the spring.
Ken had some questions about a downed wire. Wayne explained that the wire was installed or the beaver deceiver that is being installed along North Prescott Rd. Conservation Commission had approved the wire. It was pulled because Conservation had not informed anyone of its installation. Now that it has been determined who and what it was for it is being put back in its proper location. Wayne then spoke briefly about how the beaver deceiver will be cleaned and maintained going forward.
Repair of Drainage Pipe on North Prescott Rd
Ken had some concerns about a pipe that is supposed to drain water in an area within the towns easement on North Prescott Rd. He also had some concerns about possible sewage or septic leakage that may be occurring in that area as well. Wayne recommended speaking with the Board of Health about any concerns regarding sewage or septic leakage. It would appear that one of the homes in the area has had work done on its septic system and that could be responsible.
The Selectboard approved the minutes from October 22th, 2018.
A motion to adjourn at 8:16 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk