Town of New Salem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

 January 11, 2021

Held Virtually via Zoom

Convened: 7:00 pm

Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Jen Potee, Cam Dunbar, Board of Health; Nancy Slator, New Salem News; David Cramer, Planning Board; Brad Foster, Jan Doody, 1794 Meetinghouse; MaryEllen Kennedy, MLP Director; Stacy Senflug, Town Clerk; Genie Gunn Casey; Rose Lyman; Barbara Lauriat, Attorneys for the Fishers; Peter Fisher;

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

  • Payroll & Vendor Warrants

Discussion Items

COVID-19 Update

Cam gave a brief update on the current vaccine situation. The Fire Dept. will be vaccinated soon. He wasn’t certain what the active case number in town was, but noted that things are moving forward with vaccination. Randy asked which vaccine it is. Cam responded that in his case it was the Moderna one and will be two shots. He reported a positive experience with the vaccine so far. Jen then followed on Cams report about that clinic for vaccinating first responders. The clinic includes New Salem, Wendell, and potentially Leverett for vaccine shots. This is very good news. Orange is our emergency dispensing sight and there will likely be further vaccines there when we move into the next few phases. She noted this is a process as it’s not just like the flu vaccine. It’s more fragile and is handled differently. There is paperwork that has to be filled out as well. Jen noted that west of New Salem, those towns will be participating in large regional clinics. They haven’t finalized, but likely in Deerfield. Those operating them have been trained to run these kind of clinics. What this means for New Salem is that folks will need to sign up and they will likely need to do so by email. She proposed as we get closer to the general public being vaccinated that we utilize resources to help people to sign up if they aren’t tech savvy and don’t have a computer. There are many steps like downloading your insurance card and the like. Wayne asked if the pharmacies will be providing some with vaccines. Jen responded that CVS and Wallgreens have contracts to provide the vaccine. But they have to follow the same phases. So they can only administer, for example, to first responders right now. Massachusetts has a tracking system the Massachusetts Immunization Information System. Even if you have no insurance you can still get the vaccine. But they’ll track insurance as well for those who have it. Wayne asked if there will be different systems. She responded that everyone is going to have to sign up and very likely sign up online. Jean asked if there is any cost to New Salem for the distribution. Jen responded that she is the public health nurse for the school district and is paid by Orange for that. As far as costs go there shouldn’t be any at this stage for New Salem. Wayne thanked Jen for her work and her service on this. He then asked about testing availability. Jen responded that a sight is being opened at Greenfield Community College for that. You still need to make appointments, but you don’t have to be symptomatic and it is free. Randy thanked both Jen and Cam for the hard work of Board of Health throughout this pandemic.

Questions Regarding Appeal to Zoning Board of Appeals / 37 South Main Street

Nancy Aldrich responded that Town Counsel has found that ZBA does have jurisdiction to move forward on a part of this matter. Wayne concurred noting that the ZBA does have a purview here. Randy clarified that per Town Counsel the appeal to the ZBA and Land Court are different and they therefore can readily exist simultaneously. Nancy had nothing further to add noting that Town Counsel has been a bit under the weather and hasn’t responded to every inquiry as of yet.

Proposed Length of Lease for 1794 Meetinghouse

Nancy Aldrich reported that it has been confirmed that for Mass Historic they like to see a 25-year lease. So this is a question of how comfortable the Selectboard is with that. Jean noted that they do often ask for a lease from 25 to 30 years. One way to get around that is that the owner, which is the town, could be the actual applicant and work in conjunction with the nonprofit to get to grants that could help. Not all grants do, some require that the applicant be a nonprofit. Wayne thanked Jean noting he is not really comfortable with a lease longer than 10 years. He didn’t want to see a situation where the town doesn’t have much control over things and where the lease is so long. Randy asked what the downsides to a 25-year lease are. Wayne responded that his concern is that it is so far out. He rents properties and does so on a yearly basis. If we sign such a long lease the town is obligated to uphold the lease. It might not be a big deal, but he just didn’t feel comfortable signing a lease for that long a term. Jan responded that she’s on the 1794 Meetinghouse’s board. They have had 25 years of history in the building already. From maintaining it to running their organization. They’ve done it all these years. There haven’t really been many complaints, so it just seems to her like a long term lease could work. Brad expressed the feeling that the situation between the town and the 1794 Meetinghouse is unique as the town really wants a tenant that will keep the building in good condition. The 1794 Meetinghouse is looking to raise $100,000 in fund to do maintenance. To do this they need a long term lease to get grant funding for that. He expressed worry about the alternative Jean proposed just because his fear is who would be in charge and how murky that might get. His job is part time, the Town Coordinator is part time, etc. Barriers in the way of this project could stop it from happening. So he felt that as long as the 1794 Meetinghouse is the entity raising the money and managing the construction, as the tenant, that they should be able to get a long term lease. Jean responded that her main concern is that what we are all responsible for is the care and safety and utilization of our town resources. She noted she has been involved with the 1794 Meetinghouse in the past and worked very hard in fundraising. But her experience is that this kind of work done to a public building cannot be done without the communities support and cooperation.

Even if the 1794 Meetinghouse gets that long term lease the town would still be involved and she didn’t see that as an impediment. Her main concern was with the care and maintenance of the building and it hasn’t gotten the attention it has received previously. So she felt it necessary to ensure the language in any long term lease incorporate some avenue for the town to be able to get involved in the building if need be for the care and maintenance. Jean then praised the 1794 Meetinghouse’s work and history. But reminded this is about keeping that building, maintained, safe, and upgraded. So with that in mind having a cooperation between the parties to get grants would improve on the strength of applications for grants. Otherwise she was supportive of a long term lease. Brad responded that he believes such language is already in the proposed lease. He disagreed on the level of effort feeling that there needs to be a clear delineation of who is in charge. If the responsibility to raise the money is the 1794 Meetinghouse’s, then they should also be clearly in charge of this. Randy noted that this sounds like there are some language components here. But that aside, the question really is the term length and the logistics. Otherwise it appears the primary goal of all parties is to get this moving. Brad responded that the building has been sort of falling into disrepair. But the 1794 Meetinghouse hit a wall on grants without a lease. This has become something of a prolonged period. Wayne acknowledged this acquiesced to the idea of a 25-year lease term. Jean noted she would like stronger language about the buildings care and maintenance. If 1794 Meetinghouse doesn’t have the capacity to deal with certain issues or in a particular year, the resources to address an issue that the town can step in. She emphasized that we need to make sure that the language is clear. Randy suggested that this is still in draft and we can clarify language and the like. It was agreed to proceed with the details to be worked out further. Brad responded that there are some looming grant deadlines and asked that the town not wait too long to resolve this. He asked that the town move forward with all due haste. Nancy Aldrich responded that the RFP process unfortunately is not speedy. It has to go in the central register and initial processes can take two weeks at a minimum. Jean suggested that perhaps if it is in the works the grants might still be obtainable. Brad was uncertain. With Mass Historical they want a lease in hand and want it long term. Jean noted these aren’t one page letters, they’re pretty intensive. She recognized that a lot goes into these grant applications. It was agreed to proceed with a long term lease and following the RFP process so as to allow for it.

A motion was made by Wayne to pursue a 25-year lease with the 1794 Meetinghouse with appropriate terms to be worked out. Randy seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

FY22 Budget Requests

Nancy Aldrich asked if there are any capital requests that should be added to the forms to the Finance Committee. She has noticed that the front door on the Stowell Building has a corner rotting away and a new front door may be necessary. Might not require a capital request, but certainly should be considered for the budget. Randy asked what the metrics are for that. Wayne responded it’s pretty much if a project is over $10,000. He agreed the door in question needs work. He also agreed to look at it. Randy suggested the Selectboard conduct some kind of walk through to see what repairs need to be done and asked if other things should be addressed while on the topic. Wayne referenced one other capital topics but noted he needs to do further research. It was agreed that the Selectboard members would send information on any needs they are aware of to Nancy Aldrich.

Town Coordinators Retirement

Nancy reported she is slated to retire at the end of this year. Wayne expressed an interest in seeing someone hired before Nancy’s retirement. The hope being to allow for Nancy to train them. Randy noted that Nancy Aldrich would really be leaving in July as she will be using up her remaining vacation. Nancy confirmed this. She noted she doesn’t want someone hired too early as it could be a financial burden to the towns to pay her and them at the same time. That said a joint meeting should be held with Wendell’s Selectboard to decide how to proceed. She asked if this should be a one item agenda meeting with them to allow more open ended or whether it should be done as part of a normal meeting for one of the Selectboard’s. Randy suggested asking Wendell if they can make a Monday meeting with New Salem. If not New Salem might be able to come to one of theirs. Nancy recommended inviting representatives from both Finance Committees. It was agreed to find a date that works in the next few weeks. Stacey asked if Nancy is retiring from both towns or retiring from one and going half time with the other. Nancy responded from both towns as it’s a joint position. Stacey asked if there would be a search committee. Randy responded that would be the point of the meeting with Wendell to determine that as well as other questions. Stacey suggested that some people in town who have some knowledge and experience be considered noting at least one well known Town Administrator that lives in town. She then asked if perhaps New Salem and Wendell should consider making the position a Town Administrator. She also suggested that perhaps New Salem needs someone more than 2 days a week. Nancy responded she can get what needs to be done to keep things afloat. It could be done by one person, but that would mean doubling costs for not only salary but also benefits like health insurance. That would be difficult for a town like New Salem or a town like Wendell given looming state aid cuts likely in FY22. Plus, Wendell has its levy limit to worry about. Still, the towns have a lot of people willing to help and that makes her job possible. This has worked for nearly 30 years and she felt it a good model. Wayne felt that preserving what we have makes sense. Randy agreed feeling this would all come up at the joint meeting. These will be public meetings and citizens should attend.

Broadband Request

Wayne requested the Broadband Committee be invited to the Selectboard’s next meeting.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes for December 14, 2020 and December 28, 2020. It was agreed to table the minutes from December 28 as well as the minutes from December 14. Wayne noted he needed to read the minutes over again. Jean noted she’s read them, but while she didn’t recall anything of concern she was okay with waiting. Wayne was fine if the minutes were approved without him. Nancy Aldrich felt they could wait. Both sets of minutes were tabled.

A motion to adjourn at 7:45 pm was made by Jean. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed without objection.

Respectfully Submitted

Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk