Town of New Salem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

 September 20, 2021

Held Virtually via Zoom

Convened: 7:00 pm

Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Hugh Mackay, Selectboard; Kathy Neal, Town Coordinator; Gabe Voelker, Town Treasurer & Finance Committee; Marny Ashburne, Friends of the New Salem Library

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

  • Payroll & Vendor Warrants

Discussion Items

All Board Meeting Topics

Randy began by noting this will be a Zoom format meeting. Kathy asked if the meeting should start at 6 pm or 7 pm. The meeting is on September 27. Randy suggested an email be sent out with potentially some kind of RSVP. Kathy agreed to send out a reminder. Hugh returned to the time question. Wayne felt 7 pm the best this time of year. Randy was fine with that, but asked Kathy to double check and ensure folks know the correct time just in case we’ve previously published 6 pm. It was so agreed. The Zoom link will likely be the same as Selectboard meetings. Hugh then turned to possible topics. He asked what his colleagues felt would be the likely topics for discussion. Randy explained that in these meetings the departments typically provide updates and reports. In larger towns this sort of meeting would likely take the form of a Department Head’s meeting with a Town Administrator. But given the size of New Salem this is more the Selectboard facilitating a meeting. This isn’t really asking questions so much as providing a forum for the different town bodies to come together, talk about what they are doing, and to establish communication between different bodies of the town. That said, Randy suggested a few ideas for topics including talk of forms and other paperwork that might need to be done. Hugh agreed and suggested talking about the proposed update of the town’s website. He also suggested asking participants what they’re looking for in support. Particularly for the website, he wanted to see departments made aware of the participation they’ll need. Somebody from each area will need to be designated for functions like updating their department or committee’s webpages, etc. Randy submitted that won’t be as monumental a task as some might think.

Special Town Meeting Date/Articles

The date proposed is October 19 pending the availability of the Town Clerk and Town Moderator. Kathy confirmed both are available, although the Town Moderator requests the meeting be kept short. Randy asked about articles. Kathy responded by outlining what she had. Principally the vehicle purchases for Police Dept. and covering the cost of updating and transferring the vehicle being replaced for Fire Dept. use. Another article would be to fund the town website upgrade in case the town cannot use ARPA funding or a grant source. Just in case, the money could be reallocated at the Annual Town Meeting if it ends up being unnecessary. Then there was the Veterans donation fund. Gabe reported on the work she and the Town Accountant have done. They haven’t been able to find the alleged donated funds. She suggested using Free Cash to fund what was received and being done with this rather than continuing to search. Wayne noted he’s continuing to work on the memorial and agreed that the important thing is having the funds. But he expressed concern about a potential audit issue down the road. Gabe noted the town has been audited since these funds were allegedly gifted and the Auditors never found a problem. Randy interjected to say the money doesn’t really matter unless there is a plan. The numbers aren’t really relevant unless they’re part of a plan for use. Gabe noted the Selectboard can create donation accounts by vote of itself. Where we need an article is to move the money. She’s gone through her reports and books and couldn’t locate the funds. Several persons have claimed to know of its donation, but none to date have produced documentation. Randy suggested a few ways to locate such documentation but stressed that ultimately that this is a matter of if there is a committee asking for money, it comes down to that committee’s job to do it. To him rushing to establish the funds is potentially putting the cart before the horse. Wayne interjected to elaborate on the plans noting he is on that committee. They have some things proceeding. He and Tamara have located an existing marker he wasn’t aware of and are now looking at a stone. They still need to come up with a plaque with wording that the committee members can agree to. Assuming acceptable wording, plaque, and stone can be figured out things can proceed. Now the brass plaques aren’t cheap, so that’s a consideration. The wording is also potentially challenging. But he’s researching various towns and how they’ve done wording. Many towns are lacking comprehensive memorials. Petersham, for example, only has a memorial for World War I and none for other wars.

Randy returned to the article question and funds. He asked what other resources might be made available to this committee and whether what’s being talked about would be sufficient. He expressed disfavor in just putting money into the hands of committees that don’t have a clear mission with accountability to the actual accomplishment of the committee’s tasks. Gabe responded it can be a capital article at the next town meeting. She suggested coming up with the plan, getting the pricing done, working with Highway Dept. on the stone, and then with all that in place you go to town meeting to fund it. Wayne agreed suggesting that we aren’t really at the stage of asking for money, we’re in the research and design phase. Hugh noted that in previous discussions what’s been made clear for this process and what is expected. If we can get a committee together we can accomplish this. But he agreed the funds shouldn’t just be allocated blindly. Still, he felt it worth investing in as a community as a whole. Wayne agreed stressing the need for the whole community to be involved. It was agreed to ascertain the full membership of the committee and to potentially add more persons if necessary. It is known that Tamara and Wayne are on the committee, it was unclear if other members have been formally appointed. Kathy concurred that those are the town official appointments we have. We should probably add one more. Randy stressed that we want to make sure that people who join are ready to commit. Kathy then reported on a question as to whether the town meeting could be virtual. Jake interjected to remind that the law requires they be in person. Randy suggested it be outdoors. Kathy reminded it’ll need to be earlier to accommodate daylight. Randy suggested the meeting could be done quickly. Special Town Meetings usually go quickly as we usually keep the warrant short. The ideal is 15 to 20 minutes. Kathy noted one option if we expect low turnout we could plan for spaced seating in the lower level of the Town Hall. Randy was concerned about those who may come and whether they will be masked or vaccinated and felt it likely best to stick with outdoors. Still, we are looking at only two articles and they should go quickly. It was agreed to see if the time can be a bit earlier and to pursue an outdoor meeting. Wayne suggested this won’t really be controversial, neither article involves raising taxes or anything like that, it’s all just moving money from one account to another.

Request from Swift River School for Remediation of PFAS

Randy reported on this request. This is a historical problem that’s been ongoing since before the pandemic. Gabe suggested that this be a third article added to the warrant for the STM. The PFAS issue is serious and she encouraged the Selectboard to consider taking $20,000 out of the capital stabilization. We could borrow the money at zero percent from the Commonwealth, but the grant hasn’t been opened up to do that. There are funds for emergency measures but that program was closed. The Commonwealth doesn’t predict it would return until November. She suggested the town continue discussion. The schools price so far is $40,000 in total. So roughly $20,000 for each town. If we don’t do this, we might have to come back. Like the article proposed for the website, if we don’t spend the money it can be reallocated at the Annual Town Meeting. We can take no action at town meeting if things change. Randy asked if ARPA could fund this. Gabe responded it could. The thing to consider is that the rules for ARPA are still in the air. Randy conceded that but he felt we should aim for it as a potential funding source. He then went over the quote the school has provided. Hugh asked about supporting documents. Kathy responded this is the result of mandatory testing that schools undergo. The measurement Hugh then asked about procurement. Gabe outlined how that works under Chapter 30B. Kathy then noted that it’s hard to determine the exact source for this. Wayne agreed suggesting the town may want to advise citizens to test their wells. We really don’t know how far wide this could be. Randy returned to the school asking if this treatment might also fix the sodium issue that was known before the PFAS problem. He didn’t want to forget that issue. Especially if we can get that fixed too. Wayne suggested seeing if we can get somebody to come talk to the Selectboard. We absolutely need to proceed with a fix, but we should certainly ask questions about the sodium too and what the solutions are and whether we should test wells in town too. Randy reminded that as to the sodium issue, that’s been a long running question about the source. Whether it’s road salt or some other issue. Randy asked Gabe if that’s known. Gabe responded she knows a DEP expert who lives in Orange that could be consulted. Randy stressed if we’re going to do this we should see if we can fix both problems. It was agreed to add this as an article for the STM. So that puts the STM at three articles. It was agreed to fix the requested sum at $20,000.

Wayne made a motion to add an article on the STM for the remediation of PFAS and at Swift River at $20,000. The motion was seconded by Hugh and passed unanimously.

ARPA Funds

Randy reported on this topic noting this is a big confusing pile of possibility. As we find more information about this from various sources we’ll know more. But for now we just really aren’t sure. We should have around $300,000 roughly. This could help with the PFAS issue for Swift River, it could maybe help with a new well for the Stowell Building, and perhaps for other matters. The trick is figuring out definitively what qualifies and will be covered. It was suggested the town maybe consult with state officials. Gabe noted there is a 150-page document that’s been produced on this. There should be a QA document that will help. With CARES Act we sent things in for prior approval and we may want to do the same here so we know that if they have objections we know before funds are spent and avoid claw backs. But yes this is still vague and unclear. Kathy concurred noting there is wide frustration among towns on how unclear this is. Randy then highlighted that Senator Comerford has a hearing for September 21, 2021, at 11 am. It will be live streamed online and will be more focused on public health, human services, and healthcare. But certainly it is a good thing to see the Commonwealth and the General Court take an active interest in helping educate on ARPA.

Grants

There wasn’t much to discuss aside from ARPA alternatives.

1794 Meetinghouse

Randy briefly update on that front. The main issue is the land use agreement and the right of first refusal for the town should the nonprofit or any other buyer who buys it decides to later sell it the town would have first option to buy back for same price as sold. Further stipulations would be in place to allow for sale to a third party such as a different nonprofit, but with town approval. This language is what’s being discussed to date. We also don’t want the RFP to go out at the wrong time. We want it to be done appropriately. That being the consideration of any necessary requisite permits and so forth.

Library Directors Retirement

Kathy briefly reported on a retirement party on October 3, 2021 from 2 to 4 pm for Diana Smith who is retiring as the Library Director.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes for September 14, 2021. Randy noted a point of clarification as to discussions concerning the 1794 Meetinghouse that happened and how it was tangentially related to an item formally on the meeting agenda.

Hugh made a motion to accept the minutes of September 14, 2021 with clarification as to the 1794 Meetinghouse discussion. Wayne seconded and the motion passed without objection.

A motion to adjourn at 7:50 pm was made by Hugh. The motion was seconded by Hugh and passed without objection.

Respectfully Submitted

Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk