Town of New Salem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

 October 19, 2020

Held Virtually via Zom

Convened: 7:00 pm

Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Joe Cuneo, Fire Chief & Emergency Management Director; Jen Potee, Board of Health; Nancy Slator, New Salem News; Peter and Sandy Fisher; Gennie Gunn Casey; Ken Bright; Laura Napolitano, National Grid Representative

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

  • Payroll & Vendor Warrants
  • Emergency Preparedness Grant Paperwork

Discussion Items

Update on COVID-19 Response

Nancy started by reminding that there are a number of grants including one that was signed previously and which was lost and needs to be resigned. The grant that needs to be signed is the Emergency Preparedness Grant. Randy signed the grant paperwork in his capacity as chair. Jean then asked about updates noting the Selectboard’s jurisdiction only extends over the town. When a state of emergency is declared it’s an immediate concern. When its met it is mitigated. She then asked if the town is still in a state of emergency. If the town is not in a state of emergency the Selectboard should move to end the formal state of emergency. Randy noted that as far as he understands the town declared the local state of emergency and until it is declared differently it remains in effect. Joe reminded that the Commonwealth is itself in a state of emergency. Because the Commonwealth is itself in a state of emergency a state of emergency therefore persists. We must continue to monitor the situation as it now appears that another wave will hit. In the next 6 to 12 weeks’ things may actually be worse then they are now. Therefore, he advised keeping the state of emergency in place. Jean asked about the actual number of cases in town. Joe responded that the actual number of cases are going up. Jean asked about the number of cases in New Salem specifically. Joe responded that the towns case number has not changed.

Jean then asked about the enduring status of the declaration aside from the financial benefits to the town. Joe responded that there are financial benefits, but also it allows the town to respond. Joe expressed the opinion that there remains an immediate concern. Jen reminded that there are people who are coming into the town who are entering the town to visit it. They come from all over New England. An outbreak could very easily occur.  She stressed that the town must remain vigilant. Numbers are increasing in Athol and Orange. Amherst was very recently along with Sunderland seeing the same. This is mainly why Halloween is being cancelled in many places. In her opinion there is no cancelling the pandemic and it won’t go away until we have a vaccine. Jean returned discussion to her question of cases in town asserting that there are no increases in numbers, no hospitalizations, and no deaths in town. Randy reminded those present to be respectful of each other and that he is the chair. As such he controls the floor. He asked that all parties follow the procedures and there be no interruptions of each other. Joe then requested the Selectboard vote to sustain the state of local emergency. Wayne noted that in his opinion we are on the verge of another wave nationally and this is a wile virus that is very detrimental to public health. A vaccine may not be found in the next few months. To that end he supported renewing the state of emergency. Jean expressed appreciation for all of the work that everyone does. Still she did not see a state of emergency as persisting in the town at this time.

A motion was made by Wayne to sustain the Declaration of a State of Local Emergency. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote with Jean opposed.

Pole Hearing – South Main Street

Nancy noted this is near 37 South Main Street. The original proposal was to put a new pole in, neighbors objected, and National Grid agreed to revise the plan to place them underground. Laura then briefly introduced herself to the Selectboard as the representative of National Grid. She then turned to discussions that National Grid has had internally about the revision. Peter then asked Laura how much sense it makes to install this underground prior to the Planning Board’s decision on the special permit relating to the property this is feeding into. Laura responded that the reason to pursue this is because eliminating the pole necessitates conduit allowing underground service from the existing pole to the pad. Peter asked about other alternatives. Laura responded that this is the plan that National Grid has developed. Randy asked Peter to restate the other options to his knowledge. Peter noted that a pole could be placed on the Barletta property in a corner of the property that would serve the need. Another option was to go underground from the Town Common, although he conceded it would be expensive and disruptive to the roadway. Laura responded that part of what determined this plan is the cost. Peter asked about improving the quality of service to properties further down the road. Laura responded that once a designer returns a plan it is proposed. Assuming there are issues with that plan at the hearing, it is taken back to supervisors at National Grid who then determined how to respond. She then explained the process in some detail and elaborate on how National Grid has reached this current plan. Sandy then asked about the original design. This would run the pole right on the boundary of the property line. She detailed a few conversations she’s had with another representative of National Grid about the options. To her the idea of digging up the area for the underground where proposed would be problematic. That area would be from the corner of their driveway and across in front of their property all the way to Barletta. Laura asked the Fishers if the pole in question is in the right of way. Peter conceded that the trenching would be on the right of way. Sandy noted that one of the other options she was aware of would allow a pole from another direction that would go on Barletta’s property and might only require an easement from that property owner. Laura responded she couldn’t speak for them. All she can answer to is that National Grid considers costs for the work and this was the option that was decided.

Jean asked about the options. Laura responded that the original designer may very well discussed several possibilities and received feedback. But after they do that they take that information back to their supervisors and a decision is made. Peter then provided the options he was given by the other designer. The first option would be to replace the transformer. The second option could be a new pole on town property right next to the Barletta’s driveway (south side). The third option would be a new pole on Barletta’s property (east of existing pole by 15 feet). The fourth option would be to move the existing transformer from the pole by the Fisher’s driveway to an above ground enclosure on the Barletta’s property. The fifth option would be to upgrade the underground wiring from existing transformer pad on the common to the existing pole by the Barletta’s driveway. Nancy asked if any of these options are on the petition. Laura responded in the negative, so this would represent a sixth option. As this is in the right of way there is a question of how to move forward. Laura submitted that she would go back to her supervisors. Wayne asked if the property owners are in any of the discussions with the designers. Laura responded that they would not be. Until a design is done National Grid cannot say what the cheapest option is, but National Grid has to consider the cost. There is an obligation to seek out the least costly option for providing the service. Sandy asked about the increasing of the transformer. Laura responded that there are limits on poles for three phase service. Increasing this would likely be problematic. Sandy renewed her concern that the scope of the entire project has not been determined by the Planning Board. Jean asked what the least cost to serve obligation is and whether the customer can agree to a costlier option if it’s agreed to be in the best interest of all parties. Laura responded that if the customer is willing to do that then they can do it. It ultimately is their decision. Jean felt it likely that something can be worked out. Laura agreed to pass along the concerns of all parties. Randy thanked Laura for coming. Jean reminded those present of the memory of Henry Cramer who worked hard to restore the look of the Town Center to its 19th Century appearance. There was a great debate in 1980 over the placing of wires aboveground rather than underground. When it was researched at the time it was found that putting the wires underground was no costlier than aboveground. She urged all parties to consider that when looking into the question of placing the wires. Discussion concluded with Nancy asking about the petition process for the next hearing. Laura explained how that would work in light of this hearing. 

Tennis Court Upgrade

Wayne provided a cost estimate that he has received from Mallet Paving in Athol. The cost would be $29,500. That is good for no less than 90 days, but Mallet was willing to back it into next year and would be willing to update it if asphalt prices shift. He agreed to provide the bid to his fellow Selectboard members for review. This turns out to be roughly 14,000 square feet. The town would do some prep work to allow Mallets equipment in. Randy then asked what the priority level is on this. He wasn’t opposed to it, but noted that since he’s lived in town there has never been a point where he’s seen the courts heavily used. There might be a better use for the funds. Wayne generally concurred but noted that he used to use the court and knew others who did a long time ago, but since it has become more and more in disrepair he and others have used it less and less. He suggested seeking some kind of matching grant that might help pay for half of it. This discussion occurred just prior to Jeans joining the meeting and both Randy and Wayne brought her up to speed. She was in favor of pursuing this project and thanked Wayne for his work to date.

FRCOG Meeting Update

Wayne noted an update should go on the next meeting’s agenda. Discussion should also be had with the Finance Committee. The Police Dept. budget may need revision for the new radio system. Randy noted that the Police Dept. is really suffering with the current radios and really need the upgrade that’s coming as part of the program the town has signed on to. This really will be beneficial to both Police and Fire.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes for September 8 and September 21 which were tabled at the last meeting. Randy asked if there were any concerns with the September 21 minutes. Wayne saw no reason not to adopt that set. Jean concurred as to that set. Randy then turned discussion to the September 8 minutes noting the proposed changes at the last meeting. Wayne was comfortable with the revision that was proposed and expressed favor in approving the revised minutes.

A motion was made by Wayne to approve the minutes of September 21, 2020, as written. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed unanimously.

A motion was made by Wayne to approve the minutes of September 8, 2020, as amended. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed by majority vote with one abstention.

A motion to adjourn at 8:13 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed without objection.

Respectfully Submitted

Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk