Town of New Salem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

 February 8, 2021

Held Virtually via Zoom

Convened: 7:00 pm

Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Nancy Slator, New Salem News; Calvin Layton, Lisa Finestone, Bruce Spencer, Tree Committee; Dan Hammock, Brian Casey, Lynn Laytin, New Salem Academy; Peter Fisher; Brad Foster, Peter Cross, 1794 Meetinghouse; Sue Dunbar, MLP Board; Jen Pottee, Cam Dunbar, Board of Health; Claire McGinnis, Finance Committee; Jackson Goddard; Marney Ashbourne; Jeanne Clayton; Kaitlin Charette

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

  • Payroll & Vendor Warrants

Discussion Items

1794 Meetinghouse RFP/Lease Proposals

Brad started by submitting that the RFP seems fine and closely resembles what was previously discussed. That said the lease has him stimmed as it doesn’t quite work from the 1794 Meetinghouse’s view. Town Counsel seems to have taken a decent amount of appropriate boilerplate which he had no issue with, but the sections on alterations and major repairs was of some discontent. Two issues emerge. The bigger issue is with major repairs. When the 1794 Meetinghouse was founded, it was founded to care for the building and is one of the organizations stated purposes. He felt like the language makes this once again the landlord’s responsibility, i.e. the town’s. That isn’t really what 1794 Meetinghouse wants. The idea of this entire repair project was always to accomplish the goal of preserving the building. To him this lease just doesn’t incorporate the special relationship between the organization and the town. He asked the town to consider if it wants to keep the special relationship with a major leading role of keeping the building alive and useful, or if the town wishes for a more traditional landlord – tenant relationship. Brad then turned to the other issue with the language so far. This clause says that 1794 Meetinghouse has to follow bidding processes for any structural projects on its own. This would appear to be applying prevailing wage. If this isn’t required as a matter of law, then it might be good to avoid it. Without prevailing wage, the current project is likely around $100,000. With prevailing wage then it might perhaps be $200,000. Randy responded by outlining his view. It’s clear what the 1794 Meetinghouse’s requests are and he was amendable assuming agreeing to various points are lawful and permissible. He noted that the differences in costs issue may be something mandated within statute. He further stressed how unfortunate it is that the town has so many historical town buildings that are not being maintained due to a lack of funds. The tax base is only so high and the town can only borrow so much. So in his personal opinion he supports the requested model as he’d like to see this building and this group continue. Wayne noted that the prevailing wage issue really should only be the towns. Though he conceded he isn’t an expert.

Nancy Aldrich interjected to suggest consulting Town Counsel. Prevailing wage is a state system for determining what municipalities should be paying. Since the town owns the property it may be that the prevailing wage is mandated. That said it might not. As for the other language that was of concern, she submitted it could likely be removed. Wayne had no issue. Letting the 1794 Meetinghouse control projects to his mind made sense. Jean expressed gladness that Brad brought these clauses up. She felt that Town Counsel was just making sure the town as landlord has authority clearly spelled out such that should the town decide it needs to engage in major repairs it can do so. This wouldn’t preclude 1794 Meetinghouse from doing their own projects. This would just ensure that the town can step in, and that if it does so there is compensation to the tenant. Still, she had some concern regarding Section 7.1, the last paragraph. Language regarding grants and endorsements. She had concerns about the implications of the language as to a potential detriment to a town interest. She suggested some softening of the language and contrasted with past experience with the renovations of the Old Academy Building. Brad responded he had no objections to either Wayne or Jeans thoughts. He stressed that he needed to talk to his organizations board to respond. He conceded that in the past he was the one concerned with delays, but that this is something that needs to be considered. Nancy requested that 1794 Meetinghouse put forward any potential changes to her and she’d get them to Town Counsel. Randy noted that the town is doing its best to keep pace with 1794 Meetinghouse and if they need to slow down for a bit that would be fine. It was agreed by all parties to allow for and work with each other’s schedule.

Proposal to Appoint Deputy Tree Warden

Lisa began the discussion by briefly recapping from the last meeting. She then went over some tweaks to the proposal. Currently the Tree Warden is the Highway Chief. Allowing the Tree Warden to deputize would allow for a more efficient process. A Deputy Tree Warden could maintain attention on the trees and seeing to the removal of hazardous trees as the Tree Warden often must attend to other duties in his position as Highway Chief. Wayne noted he’s spoken with the Tree Warden and he has no problem deputizing Calvin as his Deputy. Wayne’s only concern would be the stipend and funding it. To that end he was fine with taking that out of the existing budget for tree removal. Calvin outlined his own understanding of the position and suggested the small stipend would be on an annual basis. Wayne briefly went over a few hazardous trees he’s aware of in town and has focused on seeing removed. He asked if that would be acceptable. Calvin responded if it’s in the pipeline and the trees are hazardous he was in support of it going forward. Lisa then turned to the discussion of having an alternate deputy. She suggested any stipend be paid quarterly so that if anyone else steps in as the Deputy Tree Warden for a period they would get that pay. Wayne suggested going ahead ad hoc for now and revisiting as issues arise. Randy asked for clarification as to how this works. Is this appointment based on the fiscal year or ongoing, is it an annual appointment, or some longer term of time. This appointment is made by the Tree Warden While this might not be a big deal in the current situation Calvin responded that the statute really leaves it as being on an as need basis. The law clearly grants flexibility, but he conceded that it should probably be on some kind of annual basis. Lisa asked about any oversight for the Tree Warden making appointments. Wayne felt that the statute really seems to spell out the situation and it appeared to him to be straightforward. Calvin noted that the Selectboard has ultimate authority as it appoints the Tree Warden and may remove him. He stressed not reading more into then need be. We won’t know how it will work until we try it. Randy expressed support for proceeding. Jean asked if this is a by-law change or a town meeting matter. Wayne responded the Tree Warden exists by statute and may make an appointment by statute. Calvin agreed saying that Tree Wardens exist by MGL Chapter 87. That law enables the Tree Warden to make appointments of Deputies. Randy wanted it clear that there is only one stipend and that multiple deputies wouldn’t result in multiplied stipends. Lisa responded the language is clear that it’s one stipend.

A motion was made by Wayne to endorse the proposal and request the Tree Warden appoint a Deputy Tree Warden. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed unanimously.

Driveway or Access Permit Checklist/Trees & Stonewalls

Lisa then presented the Selectboard with the latest draft of the proposed permit. There was a question of who it should reside with the Building Inspector or the Conservation Commission. Wayne felt Conservation would be most appropriate. Calvin felt that this would be better as a Building Inspector matter with it triggering a process with Tree Committee if need be. Lisa noted that upon review of the existing building permit it was signed by the Tree Warden but the title and name weren’t printed and if you didn’t know who it was signing it you wouldn’t know who exactly had signed off. Nancy Aldrich submitted this should be part of the Building Permit and its accompanying checklist. Wayne agreed noting there is a row of authorities one must get through before the Building Inspector will actually issue the permit. He felt that since Conservation Commission is part of this it might be good with them. Lisa felt that they lack jurisdiction over shade trees and stonewalls. Wayne conceded that could be so, but suggested the timing within the process would make sense. Calvin suggested that it be more of a matter of triggering. Whether it should come from the Highway Dept. or Conservation Commission. Jean submitted that Historical Commission might have a role too. She suggested something in there that notifies various bodies. Wayne noted some of the duties of Conservation Commission that could dovetail well with this. Lisa suggested checking with the Conservation Commission for their views. Randy felt that reasonable. Having a clear check and making sure we know who manages it is important. We should figure out who can do it as well as who will actually do so. Some boards, committees and commissions don’t meet often. Nancy agreed to consult with the various bodies. Claire felt it important that some of the items be defined. Determining how to know when a stonewall is protected or when a tree is a shade tree and the like. She felt the town has to be careful to define a process that isn’t more restrictive than what is actually enabled by statute. Randy agreed. Making sure it works, will do what we want it to and also while making sure it’s valid, along with definitions are all important. It was suggested having definitions on the permit as well with perhaps a url. Regardless various bodies should be consulted. It was agreed that Tree Committee would follow up with Nancy Randy then reiterated his support for the idea of this, but stressed the need to balance the needs of the rest of the town.

Old Academy Building Lease Extension

Dan began by asking about discussions for the renewal of the lease. Given the long history of work between the town and the New Salem Academy, and the current leases clauses for extension, the Academy asks for renewal. He noted that the Academy would actually like a longer term then was previously agreed. They would look for a minimum term of 5 years, but would be open to longer like the 1794 Meetinghouse. Brian noted that there is no organization or group more dedicated to the Old Academy Building then the Trustees of the New Salem Academy. Jean noted that the 1794 Meetinghouse has indeed asked for a longer term and she then asked if that is the kind of lease being requested. Dan responded that if the town was agreeable to a 25 to 30 year the Academy would likely be interested. Wayne expressed some concern about a provision in the terms. This being for exhibitors putting any kind of valuable display. He suggested there be a clause that they have their own insurance, but wasn’t certain if that should be in the lease or just something the Academy should ensure. Dan agreed to have that reviewed. He then noted the usual practice of the Academy for any third party groups that it may allow access to the building. Wayne ended up finding an existing provision that would cover his concern. Lynn noted that’s for the tenant, but clarified Wayne’s concerns. Wayne expressed concern about irreplaceable items that might appear on exhibit. Dan responded that the Academy carries insurance for its own collection, but felt it likely that any third party allowed to use space for an exhibit would be required to have insurance of their own. Now this might be weighed depending on the group. If it’s the Cub Scouts they probably wouldn’t be required to. But anyone else would likely need insurance. Randy noted that the town remains in discussions regarding what the law will allow the town to do as part of the 1794 Meetinghouse’s situation. Assuming what applies to one can apply to the other it may be possible to accommodate. The town previously understood that there were more ridged restrictions on what it could do, but that appears to have changed and so the town is still consulting with Town Counsel and various authorities to ensure what it does do is legal. Dan thanked him for that and noted that this serves as delivery of the Academy’s intention to renew regardless of the time frame of the lease. Nancy Aldrich noted that the town can extend this lease for 5 years without issue under the existing lease. Anything else would require the RFP process. She submitted she would consult with Town Counsel if a greater period could be agreed to. But a 5-year extension can occur without issue. Wayne suggested making a motion to proceed with lease renewal. Jean felt it best to wait before taking any further action to ensure that the options discussed can be implemented. It was agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to hear back from Town Counsel first. Randy noted there is time the current lease doesn’t expire until April 30, 2021.

Municipal Aggregation of Electricity/Low Income Discount – Next Steps

Nancy Aldrich reported on this subject. Basically Colonial Power whose been in charge of the towns aggregation of electricity has a program that helps residential customers who are in a low income situation to participate in clean energy. They would work with developers under target programs to create an aggregation program. There would be a pass through by the town that the Selectboard would sign with Colonial and one with the solar companies that would partner with them. These agreements are for 20 years due to the requirements of their borrowings. Wayne asked about the discount. Nancy responded it would be a .02 cent discount and qualifying customers would already be getting a low income discount already. Wayne asked if the school would qualify. Nancy responded it would not. Jean asked how many households qualify in town. Nancy responded the number is around 30 households. Jean asked if this would result in any benefits or costs to anyone else. Nancy responded it would have no impact on other residents, neither increasing or decreasing what they pay. Randy asked what this would entail. Nancy responded it would simply allow people to participate and the town would guarantee that it would remain in the overall aggregation program and allow Colonial to work with qualifying households. Jean asked if this is a contract. Nancy responded this is not a contract, just an agreement by the town to continue its current participation in the aggregation program. Kaitlin asked about a few details about the program. Nancy responded by outlining how the program works noting that the solar energy will go into the grid, but the solar developers have to ensure they have users to take power supplied into the grid and this program helps provide discounts to low income households which in turn provide that guarantee of intakes for the power supplied. Everyone in town would continue to be part of the aggregate program. She submitted that Colonial could provide a person to attend a meeting to better explain the program. Wayne asked about other projects. Nancy responded Colonial is only the middle man and doesn’t install any clean energy projects itself. Randy asked about the timeline. Nancy responded that there’s no definite timeline and the discounts wouldn’t flow until the projects lined up for them are completed and that could be a year from now or more. Two weeks wouldn’t likely make a difference. It was agreed to have Colonial send a person over to further explain the program and the agreements. It was also agreed to invite the towns energy committee.

Notice from ZBA of Upcoming Hearing Regarding Building Permit FY20-6A for 37 South Main Street

Nancy reported on a public hearing on February 16, 2021 at 7 pm. This is a hearing for an appeal of the issuance of the permit. She suggested if anyone is interested they should contact the ZBA for the credentials for the virtual hearing. Wayne asked about the new town Zoom account the town has obtained. ZBA will likely need it.

Emerald Ash Borer

Jackson asked Calvin about the notorious EAB. He is working on treatments for ash trees on his property. He’d be willing to help the town with something for its website. Calvin thanked him noting that there are still no official discoveries of the EAB in town. Research on the matter remains ongoing.

Zoom Meeting Recordings

Jean asked about the ability to record Zoom meetings and whether these recordings even if audio could be made for others to listen later. Randy outlined some general concerns about recording via Zoom. He felt that some might be less open to speak if they were aware they were being recorded by audio and/or visual. It was agreed to discuss further. Planning Board is doing it with success. Wayne had a question about how the recording would work. Randy outlined what kind of tools there are available and encouraged committees, boards, and commissions to use audio and video versus just audio. Wayne was rather certain that Planning Board uses a phone service which allows them to record. He felt it wise to encourage use of Zoom instead. Randy reminded they can choose to use which they would prefer.

Town Counsel Review

Randy asked the Selectboard to consider for the future that the town think about whether or not we should open up our consideration for selection of Town Counsel. Rather than just reappoint the same firm and be assigned the same counsel, the town might want to consider other options. The town is growing, albeit slowly, and may need new services. Jean asked if the agreement runs for an annual term. Nancy Aldrich noted that Town Counsel is annual and it is based on the fiscal year. Jean reminded that firms have asked the town to consider them in the past and asked how the process would be done this time. Randy responded it’s not yet a full agenda item, he submitted this be something to think on and come back to when it is ready. There are a lot of firms and lawyers willing to fulfill this role in the area that deal with municipal law. Jean was amenable noting her main thought was about the process but was fine with thinking about it for a while and considering later. Randy noted we’ve kept the same Town Counsel for a long time and in the past year we’ve used Town Counsel a rather lot and he has felt uncertain that the town wouldn’t be better off with a fresher look on matters.

Sample Contracts for Town Coordinator’s Position

Wayne asked about a number of contracts sent by Nancy Aldrich. Nancy responded that she hasn’t had a contract but it’s been suggested by a number of people in town that the town consider one. She submitted a short contract that outlines the expectations on both sides might be in order. Jean suggested this be put on the agenda for the next meeting to allow deeper discussion. Wayne asked about the next joint with Wendell’s Selectboard. Nancy suggested a March date but would need to consult with Wendell.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes for December 28, 2020 and January 11, 2021 which were both tabled at the last meeting of the Selectboard. Jean submitted some proposed changes for the December 28, 2020, minutes. These are just two proposed changes. Not of major consequence just a matter of wording. Jean recalled that the edits were addressed at a prior meeting. Randy noted that the December 28 minutes were tabled at the last meeting due to Wayne not being able to be heard. Wayne had no issues either way with the minutes but was comfortable with them as written. It was ultimately agreed to approve them as written. It was also agreed to approve the January 11, 2021 minutes as written.

A motion to approve the December 28, 2020 minutes was made by Jean and seconded by Wayne. The motion passed without objection.

A motion to approve the January 11, 2021 minutes as written was made by Jean and seconded by Wayen. The motion passed without objecting.

A motion to adjourn at 8:29 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed by majority vote.

Respectfully Submitted

Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk