Town of New Salem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

 March 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; Lynn Layton, New Salem Academy; Brad Foster, 1794 Meetinghouse; Jen Potee, Karyn Briand, Board of Health; Sarah Kohler, Planning Board; Jackson Goddard; Marny Ashbourne; Rose Lyman; Ramona Hamlin; Jan Doody, Kaitlin Charette;

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

  • Payroll & Vendor Warrants
  • Appointment Slip for Scott Waldron as a Police Officer

Discussion Items

1794 Meetinghouse Purchase Proposal

Brad began by noting his appreciation for the comments from all parties on this sensitive but important topic. This is a historical building of great cultural value that should be preserved. But it should also be used. So the focus should be on how to achieve that. He felt that 1794 Meetinghouse as a nonprofit is better positioned to do that if it owns the building. Brad the outlined how Wendell did it when they sold their Meetinghouse. In Wendell the town simply didn’t have the means to do it. This poses a chance for this building to be taken off the towns shoulders while still ensuring its preservation and continued use. So he asks that the Selectboard consider this pivot from a lease to a purchase scenario. Jean asked Brad what his title is and how long he’s been with the nonprofit. Brad responded he’s the Executive Director and has been with the nonprofit for 8 years. Jean asked what has been done to date to preserve the building since its current use started. Brad outlined a roof replacement, exterior smaller jobs meant to improve access and appearance. They also added some interior changes such as improved stairs, railing, and the modification of one of the pews to allow for improved and safer access. They replaced smoke detectors and other maintenance items like fire extinguishers and all kinds of safety things. They’ve put in new exterior lights and replaced most of the fixtures. Jean asked in terms of her own interest what would be different. She noted that all of this was possible and asked what the impetus is for the nonprofit to own the building out right. She acknowledged that 1794 Meetinghouse may think it will be easier, but wondered what would be different. Brad responded that not having a lease over the years has prevented obtaining grants. But what a purchase does is really clear up administration. It means that every decision on renovations doesn’t have to be approved by the town and its bodies politic aside from ordinary permitting and zoning. He couldn’t foresee how the Selectboard and the 1794 Meetinghouse’s board could deal with that. Just on a lease it has taken months for both sides to make progress. The idea of trying to share all of the responsibilities seems beyond either.

Ramona expressed no strong feeling one way or the other and but felt the building is worth preserving. She agreed that having two organizations responsible simultaneously leaves a big gap where things can fall through. The town in her view is lucky to have this nonprofit that is willing to take on the responsibility. To her this represents a gift to the community. Her own concern would be answering the question of how the town could sell such an important historical building with such history for New Salem. She felt addressing that in any sale would be essential. If the nonprofit decides to disband or the building falls into disrepair that the town have the right to take back the building. Wayne suggested that the town could insert a first right of refusal at the same price as what it would be sold for. Thus if the building is sold for a $1 the town would have the right to buy it back for $1. Jean asked about language that could include milestones and call for a plan of action. That there be some way for the town to be certain that the intent becomes manifest. Brad responded that the process in Wendell had the Friends of the Meetinghouse put forward a proposal outlining what they planned to do. He was sure the idea of milestones being in a sale agreement would make sense as he’s unclear on what the specific language would be and it’s hard to put everything in terms of milestones or bench marks. What the 1794 Meetinghouse nonprofit wants to do very much is get the building back into its glorious shape with minor structural repairs done. After that other things could be done. They would love to get to things in the interior, but really truly the exterior and the structure are what need the most work first. Ramona felt it not unreasonable for the town to seek some language that would allow the town to force a sale back.

She continued that this would not just be a first right of refusal. The whole point of this is to get somebody in charge of caring for that building. If the nonprofit proves incapable and they don’t want to sell the building the town should have some ability to force a sale. Wayne expressed support for this and felt it could be spelled out as part of the contract for sale. Brad was unsure what the process would be going forward but he tendered the example of what Wendell did and what the Friends of the Meetinghouse drew up. He felt that it would be a good model. It could be amended and edited to fit New Salem and the 1794 Meetinghouse nonprofit. He was unsure of the roadmap to town meeting and was at a loss as to that. Randy noted that’s a question the town will need to consider. Nancy Aldrich noted that in Wendell there was a land development agreement in addition to the purchase and sale paperwork. Randy felt this to be too big of an issue to not have significant input from the town. Ultimately speaking this should not be something that’s open to just anyone. If the town supports this in this specific case, then it could be pursued. He noted that buildings are both assets and liabilities. If you have a building you can’t care for it is a liability and perhaps the opportunity exists here to make this building become an asset for the 1794 Meetinghouse. Nancy reported that the first step is to have town meeting authorize the Selectboard to conduct an RFP process with the goal of selling the Meetinghouse. Randy noted it would constitute a warrant article at town meeting. New Salem hasn’t set a meeting date as of yet for its Annual Town Meeting. But that date will be anticipated in advance. He suggested the 1794 Meetinghouse consider what language it wants and can continue to work with the town through that process of obtaining the warrant article Nancy submitted she could get the wording used by Wendell.

Age & Dementia Friendly Community Letter of Support

Randy recapped the request at the last meeting. The Selectboard has reviewed the documents and the letter supplied. The letter is a basic one and from what Randy could find there are no commitment or fees expected. The letter appears entirely consistent with the presentation at the last meeting and in his opinion it doesn’t appear that there is a downside. Council on Aging supports this and so it is before the Selectboard. Jean noted that the person who appeared requested support and she responded by doing some research on Life Path, AARP, and the WHO’s involvement as well as other towns that have done this. She expressed some concern was that one of the policies that they seek includes increased density and code changes. This could result in changes to the towns Zoning By-Laws. So her sense was that this provides a model approach and if the town goes down that path it could end up being a one size fits all that may not work in the community. So she felt the town should make sure that the Planning Board is involved and further felt that this matter deserves more consideration. She was not opposed, but felt that before the Selectboard agrees to this it be considered more closely. Randy returned to the document noting nothing in it to his read would force Zoning changes. Saying we would be part of the network means letting them in, but not necessarily allowing them to change things. Jean responded that what was sent is very broad and included many wonderful things. But she noted when you research what it is they actually do, even what’s on Mass.gov about it, that’s where you see all of this. Randy responded that while that is clearly a specific concern, he did not see anything saying signing this letter would directly result in that outcome. Jean responded by noting to several sources she was referring to. Randy felt that this is a concern, but that the agreement itself is benign. Jean responded that this is supporting an innovative, and enrollment in their network, and if you look at their published materials they talk about this in several places. Sarah strongly urged the town if it does move forward do so with extreme caution. There may or may not be a hook, but she asked the Selectboard to do further due diligence. The feel good in the front is not necessarily the feel good in the end. Randy suggested that this be put on the next meeting agenda and that Council on Aging be invited.

Buy Recycled Policy

Nancy Aldrich noted the town has had this policy for many years, but it hasn’t been voted on in a while. So there is a request that the town vote it again. Nancy then outlined how that would work and what the costs would be. She then asked the Selectboard to consider adopting this policy.

A motion was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed without objection.

Old Academy Building Lease Extension

Nancy Aldrich reported that we now have a request in writing from the Trustees for renewal. She’s drawn up a document citing the lease terms allowing this extension and the document needs to be signed by the Chair. It was agreed to have a motion.

A motion was made by Jean to extend the lease period of the Old Academy Building by 5 years as permitted by the terms of the original lease. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed unanimously.

KP Law Notice of Cost Increase for Legal Services

Nancy Aldrich noted that the rate would be raised by $10 an hour starting July 1. Randy noted that this just underlines why the town should discuss considering its options on legal counsel in a formal manner.

Appointment of Scott Waldron as a Police Officer

Nancy Aldrich reported that the town has unfortunately lost one of its officers and Chief Camden has asked for Scott Waldron to be appointed to fill that vacancy. He would work in town as needed and it would have no extra costs for the department. Wayne noted that this gives the town the advantage of having the local sheriff’s department interested in the town given Scotts other employment. Nancy confirmed. The Selectboard agreed to the appointment.

Notice of Chapter 90 Funding

Nancy Aldrich reported that Chapter 90 funding is $145,186. Wayne clarified as to the financial year. Nancy responded its FY22. Wayne noted that Highway Department has plans for work this summer and outlined a few areas that will be up for re-pavement or new pavement. With any luck there will be sufficient funding.

Paving Request for Old Main Street

Nancy Aldrich then reported on a paving request for Old Main Street. The area already has some pavement and the request is for repair. Randy noted that the town has a lot of roads that need repairs like this so it truly is critical that Highway Department makes sure it has plans for repairs and doesn’t focus on any one area to the detriment of all others. In other words, fairness and equity within reason and budget.

Reaffirm Public Health Nurse Appointment

Randy reported that as we near the one-year mark of the current epidemic and resulting emergency status of the town and the Commonwealth. He asked that the Selectboard continue and re-appoint Jen Potee as the public health nurse and recognize that she has been acting in this position since April 2020. Jean noted that there was never an official appointment to be recognized. Randy responded this is a statement of clarification and Jen has been working in this capacity since the beginning. She is in fact the public health nurse and this really clarifies that status. Jean asked if that status was ever in dispute. Randy responded that there has been a lot of work and countless hours of work. Jean noted that the Selectboard cannot ratify a vote it didn’t take. She asked what the exact purpose of this is. Randy responded there is a motion and that it simply clarifies that Jen is in this position and that she is acting in this capacity. Jen and the Board of Health have been working very hard and New Salem really has done better than many other towns in the area and in his opinion this is directly due to that. Karyn asked who is requesting the reaffirmation of this position. Randy responded that it is him who is asking for this. Karyn expressed the feeling that this was at the request of another party. Randy responded this is his intentionality although he conceded that others may have helped him wordsmith it. But they are his words and no one specifically asked for this motion. Jean asked if this has been run by Town Counsel for legality. Randy responded Town Counsel assisted with the wording. Wayne noted that this isn’t ratifying a vote, it’s upholding Jen Potee as the public health nurse. Jean asked about how Town Counsel was contacted about this recalling a procedure for this sort of thing. Randy was not at liberty to respond.

A motion was made by Randy to ratify and confirm Jen Potee appointment as the New Salem public health nurse acting in such capacity since April 2020. The motion was seconded by Wayne. The motion passed by majority vote with Jean in dissent. Jean requested that her dissent reasoning be noted on the record, to wit that the Selectboard cannot ratify after the fact a vote never previously taken.

Future Agenda Items

Randy briefly reported on some items upcoming. The Wendell Selectboard will be joining the New Salem Selectboard at its next meeting to discuss the shared Town Coordinator position and replacing Nancy Aldrich. He then noted that there will be discussion about legislation in Massachusetts which would impact police. There are different interpretations of what this means and it is important for the town to find out.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes for February 8, 2021 and February 22, 2021. It was ultimately agreed to approve the minutes for February 8, 2021 and to table the minutes for February 22, 2021 until the next meeting.

A motion to approve the February 8, 2021 minutes was made by Wayne and seconded by Randy. The motion passed unanimously.

A motion to adjourn at 8:00 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote.

Respectfully Submitted

Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk