Town of New Salem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

 October 4, 2021

Held Virtually via Zoom

Convened: 7:00 pm

Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Hugh Mackay, Selectboard; Kathy Neal, Town Coordinator; David Cramer, Planning Board; Nancy Slator, New Salem News; Marny Ashbourne; Barbara Doyle, Carla Halpern, School Committee; Jenny Potee, Board of Health; Tamara Conde, Cemetery Commission; Brad Foster, 1794 Meetinghouse; Lauara Barletta;

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

  • Payroll & Vendor Warrants

Discussion Items

1794 Meetinghouse RFP

Brad began by outlining what he’s done since the last meeting. There have been a number of edits to the main document and the land development agreement. Kathy noted that she’s been going through it so much that it’s kind of blurring and she needs to do some fixes to numberings and letterings. Still she felt that most of the edits to be acceptable. There were a few as to the land development agreement that she had some concerns about where some particular items should be stronger. Brad thanked Kathy for her work. That said he noted some of his problems. The RFP has a lot of attachments and related measures. So it’s a massive document and every time its worked on the formatting gets messed up. So he conceded another round of formatting and editing is necessary. Brad then turned to some questions about the protections for the town. Most of those are in the land development agreement and not in the RFP. Because of this he felt the land agreement to be important as part of the RFP process. Obviously there are protections for the town, including for control if something changes about the 1794 Meetinghouse nonprofit. This includes scenarios like bankruptcy of the nonprofit, or if the nonprofit decides to later sell the property, right of entry into the property for maintenance concerns, etc. Most of this feels like the right direction. Wayne noted that some of the wording may be simplified. If a bankruptcy happens, to his mind it should be simple: the property reverts back to the town. Brad responded that the part that addresses that is actually short. Most of the volume is legal terminology. Still Brad felt the most likely scenario isn’t bankruptcy, but more a potential for the organization to reach a point where it might not be able to maintain the building. But the goal remains the same regardless of the scenario, the building returns to the town if something happens to the nonprofit. Kathy noted the important thing here is to ensure the building remains the historical asset that it is. Whoever owns it, it is important to the town and needs to be maintained. She stressed that all parties are focused on protecting the building. Even if there is a successor to the current nonprofit, part of this is to make a path forward that would also allow the potential for another similarly minded nonprofit to take over. Brad generally agreed, but felt the strength in the agreement is to ensure the town has a say in any changes including and up to a town meeting voice. Brad noted that one of the biggest reasons to purchase the building is to free the building and its repairs from the trappings of the MGL that applies to towns. Prevailing wage, town meeting votes, funding processes, and the like. If the roof needs a repair the nonprofit wants to be able to fund raise and do it. Not have to go through a prolonged intensive process. Wayne interjected to ask if the nonprofit has a committee for maintenance and repair. Hugh responded that they have a sort of quasi version of a Capital Planning Committee for that. Brad agreed noting he has also as director created a committee of advisers to help him and tell him when something needs to be done. There was discussion of when to bring this back to another meeting. Randy stressed that we shouldn’t talk about this in circles. We should do what needs to be done and bring it back. Kathy agreed stressing she will continue to work with Brad.

Appointment of Melinda Hazen to New Salem School Committee

Barbara started off by nominating Melinda Hazen to fill a vacancy on the School Committee. They’ve struggled to fill the position in both New Salem and Wendell as each town had a vacancy. So Melinda’s interest and background are exciting. Randy asked if there were any objections to the appointment. Hugh and Wayne had none but asked for more information. Barbara responded to the questions and held that the recommendation of the School Committee is to make the appointment. Randy confirmed that all members of the committee from New Salem are in favor of the appointment. Carla responded that this is indeed the case.

A motion was made by Wayne to accept the School Committees nomination and to appoint Melinda Hazen to the vacancy with a term that expires at the next Annual Town Election. The motion was seconded by Hugh and passed unanimously with the School Committee members present voting in favor also.

Funding Options for PFAS Remediation at Swift River School

Randy started off by explaining this is on the agenda to allow discussion of various ways to cover the costs of potential remediation. At a meeting held with Wendell officials there were discussions of various methods of handling the circumstances. Some suggestions included drilling a new well, as well as a remediation method estimated at about $40,000 total or $20,000 per town. Wayne noted he suggested that he’s recommended testing some of the wells of residents in the area. Still he felt it prudent for the town to put aside funding at the upcoming Special Town Meeting to fund the remediation. He also felt it wise to bump up the number to $30,000 just to have some extra if it ends up costing more than expected. He elaborated on talks he’s had with residents about potential well testing noting that conversation started back when the issue appeared to be more about sodium. Randy asked Jen for Board of Health’s opinion. Jen responded by outlining her discussions with the Board of Health’s Agent as well as with DEP. She asked for assistance in getting materials together. It was suggested the Board of Health Agent might be able to help. Jen generally agreed but reminded that there could be a cost there. But if the Selectboard is fine with that she was fine with that. She’s stretched too thin to volunteer. Randy noted the Agent is there to help and be paid for that help when we need him. Wayne agreed submitting that as long as we’re working on it the Commonwealth won’t come down hard. So we should do the testing and explore our options. Jen reported that the Agent has already sort of become the point person. It was agreed the Board of Health’s Agent would be the official point person to work on this. Jen then turned to some inquiries from journalists. There may be a report in local news about the PFAS problem. Wayne asked about some of the tests and the potential for residents to get tested. Jen felt it best to let the Agent handle that. Randy chimed in with the idea of not just testing around the school but possibly other parts of town. That said he wanted to know what might happen if incidental issues are discovered through such testing. Jen wasn’t certain what would happen, noting that the federal levels are far higher than Massachusetts so this problem might not be one under EPA considerations. Still she felt the Agent would be most knowledgeable and recommended bringing him in. Randy asked questions about whether the STM article that puts $20,000 as the amount would be increasable. Jake responded that if the amount is in the article that could be problematic and this is why most towns don’t put the amount in the article but rather put it in the motion so it can be changed on the fly. Kathy mostly agreed noting that it is usually up to the Town Moderator and they typically only allow it when the amount goes down not up. It was generally agreed that the STM article is a good start and if any further funds are needed it can always be revisited at a later town meeting if need be.

Open Meeting Law Complaint

Randy reported on a complaint that was received and went over the procedures outlined by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.  Before getting into the content of the complaint Randy noted a few issues he has with it. First the complaint lacks a proper name of a complainant. Second the address on the complaint is an empty lot in Connecticut. Third the phone number appears to belong to a town resident named Brendan Kuntz. Kathy called that number and Brendan denied being the complainant. So there’s really no one to respond to. The email on the form is also a contractor email. Kathy noted that the company associated with the email and the name of the company on the form in place of a name are all associated with Brendan Kuntz. Randy then turned to the dates of the alleged OML violations and the allegation that a person couldn’t get into the Zoom meeting. Randy went over the procedures for virtual meetings and noted that the complaint isn’t really clear as it doesn’t ask for more than assistance and any perceived violation by the complainant was felt to be unintentional. Wayne felt this to be a bogus complaint and suggested sending this to the AG with all of the discrepancies and issues outlined. Kathy noted this wasn’t filed correctly either. It was sent to the Tax Collector instead of the Town Clerk and the Selectboard. That’s a technicality that the AG’s Office might overlook, but she recommended that we respond. The one date that was alleged to lack a posting, there wasn’t a meeting held at all. Wayne felt that having a bogus address and lacking a name makes the complaint illegitimate. Randy returned to the fact that the person who appears to be associated with this denies making the complaint. Despite the correlations and the fact that the signature on the complaint appears to be substantially likely to be Brendan Kuntz.

Still the problem is there is no clarity to the nature of the complaint. If it was technical that isn’t explained and the complaint is kind of vague and again denies any intentionality to the claimed wrong doing. Further the complaint doesn’t really make clear what it is asking for. Kathy noted she sent the agenda to the email on the complaint and to Brendan Kuntz. So regardless, the complainant should be aware. Hugh noted that the Selectboard has meeting notices that are put up and it’s all fairly standard. We put the information that makes it easiest to use Zoom, the one tap option. So as long as the notice is complaint we are giving notice. Randy noted that since the Zoom meetings have been run the information remains the same. So we’re not talking about changing links. So the idea of “oh my gosh I can’t find the link” shouldn’t be an issue. He suggested it be made clear to folks that the link stays the same from Selectboard meeting to Selectboard meeting. Returning to the complaint it was agreed to write up a summary of the towns concerns with the complaint and feeling of a lack of clarity and send that to the AG. Kathy agreed with that idea feeling language can be put together and edits done. It should be pretty simple. The public body is allowed to delegate the response to an official. It was agreed that Kathy would be that person. Randy then asked if any other actions should be taken. Hugh responded that if we need to make a change we should add a web address for assistance for Zoom. Zoom has plenty of help features available and he recommended that the notice include a listing of that url.

A motion was made by Hugh to assign and delegate the response to this complaint to Kathy with review by the Selectboard members before transmission to the AG. Randy seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

Town Hall Attic

Randy reported on this unanticipated item reporting that we continue to have a bat problem. He felt it necessary to have it cleaned as there is either a guano problem or something else. Wayne asked if Randy saw any bats. Randy responded he didn’t specifically see them but saw evidence likely to be guano. Regardless, the Town Hall’s cupola also needs a window worked on. Wayne noted he knows some people in the world of bat problem solving. They’re amazing creatures and we should protect them, but if there’s a cleanup that needs to be done it should be done. Randy stressed making sure that whatever is done it is done safely. Tamara interjected to say that the town has hired people in the past to clean up bat related issues for the Old Academy Building. She figured Jean Derderian likely has the contact info. Wayne asked for time to view the issue before anyone’s called. It was so agreed.

Veterans Memorial Committee

Tamara brought up an unanticipated item regarding membership for this committee. She thought the Lunds were supposed to be on the committee. She also had funds that should be deposited with the town and asked the Selectboard to consider establishing a donation account for it. Wayne interjected to ask some questions regarding the stone and plaques. Tamara responded that this should be discussed in a committee meeting. Wayne noted he’s on the committee too and hasn’t gotten responses. Tamara responded that this isn’t the subject at hand and disputed not responding to any messages. Jen interjected to say she was at the meeting referred to and she wasn’t sure that appointments were made but suggested a person who might be suitable for the committee aside from the Lunds. This would help ensure the committee is an odd number as it has two members currently and adding the Lunds would make it four. Hugh noted that he is aware of the person Jen was putting forward and felt that he might be willing to help but may prefer to do so without being an official member of the committee. Regardless it was agreed to contact him. Wayne then asked if we have confirmation the Lunds want to be appointed. Tamara confirmed they have told her they wish to be on the committee. We just need them to be appointed. Wayne noted he’s done work on this project for a number of years and outlined what he’s done. Tamara responded by stressing that we need to get the committee started. Randy stopped the conversation to suggest others be allowed to talk. Tamara objected and Randy reminded as chair he controls the floor. He then returned to the notion that a committee with Wayne, Tamara, and a married couple might be an issue. He suggested that before we make appointments we ensure we are creating a healthy committee. If people are interested they need to make themselves apparent. It is important that we create balanced committees. We have far too many dysfunctional ones. So people interested need to appear before the Selectboard and make themselves known.

Hugh noted he can personally reach out to some people or they can simply call Kathy. Randy agreed but reminded we should have a purpose and a charge for the committee that is clear. The way appointments work is that the Selectboard has to vote on individuals. We can’t fill out blank slips and add in names, we have to appoint specific people. So he asked if there is a list of people it should be put forward. Tamara responded that the Lunds were there in person and put their interest forward. Randy asked if there are any other names noting Tamara has referenced other people interested. She submitted she would send an email. Randy reminded we need to know that people are interested. So if we can have folks come forward and express their interest that would be preferable. Tamara returned to the Lunds and asked what the reluctance of appointing them is. Randy responded that the issue is having a committee with a married couple poses concerns. Hugh agreed suggesting it isn’t functional. He suggested that one of the Lunds could join and he’d be fine with that. But having a married couple on the committee would create too many issues. Especially if the committee continues to lack other members. As far as funding Hugh felt it undeniable that funds came in and resolving this should be easy. Still if people write grants they need to talk to the Selectboard. The Lunds obtained a grant but didn’t talk to the Selectboard and that’s why the donation account wasn’t setup properly and so forth. Tamara responded that Ron Lund handed the check to Nancy Aldrich and she can’t say what happened to it after that. Hugh noted the amount of money isn’t an issue and we can transfer funds into a donation account. Tamara asked if the donation account could be done at this meeting. Jake noted it would be challengeable as it wasn’t on the agenda, this is an unanticipated item. It was agreed to put the matter on one of the Selectboard’s agendas. Randy then turned to the idea of a budget. He felt it prudent to seek out interested parties to join the committee and form a plan and budget and present to the next Annual Town Meeting. This can be very simple if we have a plan. Wayne agreed suggesting that this can easily be resolved and he outlined a way to catch the town up on its memorials. Tamara returned to the last in person meeting where this was discussed and again stressed that the Lunds both wanted to serve. That said she noted a few other names of interested parties. Randy felt that this has been discussed. We have two people on the committee, and we need to appoint more. We’ll put out a request in various places like the New Salem News, and we’ll get this going.

Recreation Committee

Wayne brought up another unanticipated item. He noted he participated in the retirement party for the Library Director and in so doing he observed the playground and the Marry-Go-Round there has some serious needs for maintenance. There are bolts that stick out and a small child with an exposed knee could be harmed. One of the boards also has dry rot. Tamara responded the committee had it totally rebuilt a few years ago, but that was probably 7 years ago so it may need to be done again. Wayne noted a few options for replacing it, potentially with something newer. Still the costs would be several thousand in all likelihood. Still he wanted to put out there that there is a legitimate concern. Tamara concurred and noted she’d look at it. Randy reminded there is both a playground fund and the Recreation Revolving fund. Tamara confirmed this and noted there’s around $1,800 in the playground fund.

Halloween

Hugh brought up another unexpected item asking about Halloween. Randy responded that this is something that should be discussed by Board of Health given that any party would involve gathering. Jen agreed and noted that the Board of Health’s next meeting is coming up soon. She suggested contacting the Board of Health’s Office to see it added to the agenda. Tamara noted the Commonwealth is allowing events to go forward. Jen conceded that but stated that Board of Health needs to know what the plan is and what’s being organized. Tamara agreed that whatever the Board of Health will allow is what will be done.

Pole Work

Kathy briefly reported on some work being done by National Grid that may benefit parts of town that still don’t have broadband. Wayne noted that the only area not covered is East Eagleville which was very hard to get to.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes for September 20, 2021. The Selectboard saw no need for amendments or changes and determined to approve.

Wayne made a motion to accept the minutes of September 20, 2021 as written. Hugh seconded and the motion passed without objection.

A motion to adjourn at 8:16 pm was made by Hugh. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed without objection.

Respectfully Submitted

Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk