Town of New Salem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

 November 1, 2021

Held Virtually via Zoom

Convened: 7:00 pm

Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Hugh Mackay, Selectboard; Kathy Neal, Town Coordinator; Nancy Slator, New Salem News; Tamara Conde, Cemetery Commission; Jen Pottee, Board of Health; Claire McGinnis, Police Future Planning Committee; Bruce Turner, Swift River School; Sarah Kohler, Planning Board; Marney Ashbourne; Lauri Lunn

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

  • Payroll & Vendor Warrants
  • Appointment Slips for Veterans Memorial Committee & New Website Committee

Discussion Items

Swift River School Water Issues/Capital Expenditures

Bruce apologized for the process which occurred and the confusion. Currently they chlorinate the water at the school as it is a public water supply. They also have to have a buffer in place in order to control the pH in the water and have to test it routinely. This includes water sampling and color checking. The chlorine meter would automate much of this process so that the daily sampling wouldn’t be onerous and that chlorination would be constant. It simply improves the operation of the system. It’s not cheap as it is $8,800. Randy asked why now and why not during the normal capital process. Bruce responded by elaborating a history as to how the parts were ordered and why he thought it would be a good idea. Randy responded that rather than hearing why he’s hearing that it could be done now. This poses the question as to why it can’t wait until FY23, following the normal budget process. He felt strongly that these kinds of requests mid fiscal year should be for emergencies and not normal capital improvements. Bruce responded that this doesn’t have to be done now, it’s not an emergency item, but it does improve the school’s system and he claimed it helped with PFAS. Randy asked how it is related to PFAS. Bruce responded that the plan for PFAS included multiple items including this. Randy asked if this was shared prior with the town. Bruce claimed that there was a two town meeting with New Salem and Wendell where this was proposed. Randy responded he attended that meeting and while there was a discussion he saw no such plan put forward. Bruce noted the towns went for a different plan. Randy countered that he wasn’t aware of a specific alternate plan adopted either. Bruce articulated the steps discussed to his memory including potentially drilling a new well. Randy returned to questioning if there is evidence that the chlorination will assist with the PFAS. When the two town meeting occurred there was really very little notice prior to it and the discussion was actually rather brief to his recollection. If we are going to spend money we should understand what it is for and while this might be great for the system, we need to understand how it works with PFAS. Otherwise it is a separate issue to be addressed separately.

Bruce responded it doesn’t specifically work together, but is part of a comprehensive plan to fix issues with the overall water system. Another item is indeed the PFAS system with a monitor. Still he conceded that a chlorine meter can be held off and the school can do without. He asserted that information was shared prior to the meeting and apologized if that information wasn’t shared with the Selectboard. Hugh submitted that PFAS is the priority and we should focus on that. We’ve appropriated some funding for that should it be needed. And to that end he had questions about the estimate for the PFAS issue and whether there was only one proposal. Bruce conceded some further procurement needs to be done to satisfy Chapter 30B and the $40,000 was a budget estimate. Hugh contended that in that case it isn’t practical to add the chlorine meter. He’d like to see that as a capital plan item for the future. He then asked if an engineer has been consulted or if this is just getting estimates. Bruce outlined that the school is under an order from DEP to address the PFAS and they hired an engineer to design that solution. But they also wanted to add the chlorination part to it. Hugh made it clear that the town isn’t unwilling, it is a matter of timing and priorities. Plus, if we go out and design this further it is possible that an engineer hired for the actual system to be installed could conclude this isn’t necessary. So this isn’t a no per se, it is again about timing and limited resources. Randy brought up the letter sent by the school and noted how short it was and how few details were provided. The school really shouldn’t be coming with a simple letter saying, “we want this thing.” If it is an emergency, it should be addressed and have a detailed explanation. If not, it needs to go through as a capital item through the normal budget process. Bruce agreed to submit further information. The ultimate solutions for this will likely not be cheap and of course we’ll need to be able to explain it and defend it. Kathy then asked about the grease trap situation and the billing. Bruce responded that as far as he’s aware that was addressed. He wasn’t directly involved in that. Randy explained that the controversy was that there was a bill and an attempt to have New Salem to pay the whole bill as Wendell wasn’t able to pay their half of it. This despite an agreement in 2013 between the towns to split such bills 50/50. Bruce concluded by apologizing for any confusion.

Board of Health Clerk Position, Hours & Pay Rate

Jen reported that this was brought up by the departure of the Board of Health’s administrative support, Katlin Charette and is regarding her hours, the amount she works, and the pay rate. She’s still in the position despite resigning back in August, in order to allow the Board of Health to find a replacement. Randy asked if the rate of pay is related or not. Jen responded it is unrelated. Still, she noted the job market is difficult and to date Board of Health has only received two applications. The hours are roughly 4-6 hours a week. Randy asked whether the issue is the number of hours and whether that is based on the budget. Jen responded the number of hours is based on the budget and Katlin isn’t able to get everything done having to prioritize as there just isn’t enough time. Since the start of the pandemic Board of Health is using its budget to the fullest extent. Kathy recalled that Sue Dunbar has been helping with the filing. Jen confirmed this noting Sue works as a Senior Tax Work Off and that’s how the filing is handled. Jen expressed regret that Katelin is leaving. Randy suggested we should consider what a different pay rate might impact things. Still, we have to consider the budget constraints and we need to avoid switching midstream or only increasing when hiring new people. We need to think these costs out and put them in the annual budget. Jen responded that without Kaitlin here to speak about it, she could only really express her hope that a new person may be found by December 1. Then Kaitlin would train them and they would take over by January 1. If anything it should be addressed in FY23. Wayne asked how much of the reason for departure is related to COVID. Jen responded that any discontent isn’t related to COVID, but rather to personal issues. Randy thanked Jen for the update and expressed regret at Kaitlin’s departure. Unfortunately, most of the towns paid positions are likely underpaid. We can certainly look at the true costs and attempt to make a reasonable attempt to make the position a job worth taking. Hugh suggested that Board of Health really consider the costs for their FY23 budget and further that perhaps Kaitlin can inform this by elaborating on what the true hours would be for the position. So if we have 4-6 hours but really it should be 10-12 that’s part of the calculation in addition to an hourly rate. Randy concurred suggesting that some of the relief money we are receiving for the pandemic could help assist too at least in anything regarding replacement during FY22.

Swift River School Capital Expenditures, Chlorine Levels in Water, PFAS Update, & Grease Trap

Discussion held under earlier item of Swift River School Water Issues/Capital Expenditures.

Police Future Planning Committee, Update, Goals, & Schedule

Claire and Hugh wearing their Police Future Planning Committee hats reported to the Selectboard. Claire is chair of the committee. She then updated on the goals and elements of the schedule. The Committee has met three times since its formation in late July. They’ve put quarries out to dispatch for the call data. They’ve responded, but the formatting isn’t easy to go through so that will take time. She then outlined some data and information from Wendell and their process for assistance. Also they’ve drafted a letter questionnaire survey for residents. Their goal is to have a recommendation for 2022 with an aim to be budgeted in FY24. Secondary goals including agreeing with the Selectboard on recommendations to bring to Annual Town Meeting in 2023. They also plan public hearings for community feedback, financial analysis, and publication of all results. They would also like to consider pursuing funding for a consultant. Wayne’s only question was the survey noting that will have costs for mailing. Claire responded that they haven’t gotten there yet. She suggested a paper form, perhaps a web component, and a mailing to every household. Wayne suggested that funding for a mailing could possibly come from a Selectboard account. Claire noted in response she isn’t worried about that at this stage. This is still a bit conceptual. Randy asked if the Committee is looking for some approval from the Selectboard. It appears the Committee is doing what it needs to, including putting together a methodical plan. Claire responded that all the Committee is looking for is support and she’s hearing that. Randy asked if an official vote is needed or if individual members expressing support is sufficient. Hugh abstained from any position as he is on the Committee. Claire then committed to reporting back to the Selectboard periodically, perhaps quarterly. Hugh noted part of this is just that a charge was given to the Committee and now that it’s been dissected and a determination has been made by the Committee as to how to implement it and the Committee just wants to ensure the Selectboard is on board.

Randy made a motion to express support for the Committee’s work and to accept the report of the Committee while wishing it best in accomplishing its goals. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed by majority vote with Hugh abstaining.  

Selectboard Liaisons to Police Dept., Fire Dept., and Highway Dept.

Randy reminded that in the past each member has been an official liaison to a department. It hasn’t been done for a variety of reasons in the last year or so. So to have clarity it should be designated. It helps to have one official person. There’s no reason that department heads can’t talk to other Selectboard members, this just provides some official channels. Hugh asked for Police noting that his sitting on the Police Future Planning Committee would tend to make sense. Randy asked Wayne his preference. Wayne felt Highway would likely work best in his case. Randy then agreed to take Fire. It was agreed to inform the relevant department heads.

Speed Signs on State Roads

Randy asked if there is anything new. Hugh responded that not really. He’s talked to the Police Chief including asking for pricing on moveable signs. Those might be the best approach. We’ve also had some signs informally placed along South Main Street urging folks to drive slowly and observe the speed limit in town center. They appear to have been put up by New Salem Cider. Still, he’d like to see a flashing sign with solar power on Rt. 202. It is 40 mph by the General Store and a clear speeding problem. He’d also like to see a crosswalk put in. Jake noted that to have a crosswalk you have to have sidewalk on either side of the road for it to connect to. The Commonwealth won’t permit it otherwise. Hugh recalled there being a sign there, but it may be that it can’t be done again. Wayne noted that he’s more interested in signage reminding folks of the speed limit and telling them what speed they are going.

Approval of Civic Plus Contract for Website Design

Randy provided a copy of the proposal. The proposal includes the build which is $7,500 and the annual maintenance for it is $2,000 a year thereafter. Currently we pay about $1,000 a year for management and annual maintenance, but we don’t get much for it. So while this is an increase, it’s not a big one and well worth it for what we’ll start to get. The funding was approved at the recent Special Town Meeting. Wayne asked some questions about the costs and how it works. Randy went into some detail elaborating on how the cost would be addressed via the STM funding source and how to address the $2,000 maintenance going forward. The price could increase, but it’s guaranteed for the next 3 years. Jake noted that they provide a lot for the money and they few towns have seen substantial increases. Hugh then noted on the research he’s done. The towns that have partnered with Civic Plus have responded to his inquires by expressing satisfaction. The sites are pretty well built for municipal needs and are uncomplicated in that sense. Randy concurred feeling the town isn’t rushing into this. Hugh then agreed to report back to the Selectboard as a member of the Website Design Committee as the process of designing the website gets underway.

A motion was made by Hugh to approve the contract and authorizing the chair to sign it. Randy seconded the motion and it passed without objection.

Approval of Upper Pioneer Valley Veteran’s Services District Agreement for FY23-FY25

Kathy reported on this item. This is a continuation of what we’re already doing. Greenfield does the veteran services for the town along with about a dozen other communities. This is a continuation and extension of that existing agreement. Greenfield wants this done before December in order to figure out the budget projections. Wayne noted he attends the meetings and they are reasonable for their services. That said, his pending retirement means that someone else on the Selectboard will need to take over. He suggested finding a veteran whose interested and can maybe report back to the Selectboard should the Selectboard not have a member who is suitable for the role. Randy asked if in that case it has to be someone who lives in town. Wayne felt strongly it should be someone from the town. Kathy agreed noting this person is a representative of the community. Wayne stressed these aren’t long meetings and only a handful a year.

A motion was made by Hugh to approve the agreement. Wayne seconded and the motion passed without objection.

Community Compact Grant Aware for Shared IT Services for Wendell, Leverett, & New Salem

Randy reported that Wendell wrote a grant and it was approved with Leverett and New Salem added on. They are now looking for a joint meeting to discuss shared goals. The scope would be on determining costs for development of a shared IT program for the towns and the funds would allow the towns to hire a consultant to develop how that would work and the potential for an IT Director. The grant was awarded in the amount of $17,500. Randy noted that even if we have a company that supports the town, it makes sense to participate in this. Hugh volunteered on this noting that it walks hand in hand with the town website design he’s already working on.

Appointments

  • Veteran’s Memorial Committee

Lauri Lunn put herself forward as a candidate for the Veteran’s Memorial Committee. Randy asked her what her focus for the committee would be. She responded that she would like to see an improvement for the memorials in town that honor veterans. Wayne noted he’s talked to Lauri before and felt it important to flesh out this committee further so that it can begin holding meetings. Susan Reilly then put her name forward for the committee. Hugh asked her what she wishes to see accomplished. Susan responded she wants to see improvements and addition of wars that are missing. We only have WWI and WWII and there are veterans from the town in other wars. Being pleased with the responses the Selectboard determined to proceed.

A motion was made by Hugh to appoint Lauri Lunn to the Veteran’s Memorial Committee. Randy seconded and the motion passed by majority vote with Wayne abstaining.

A motion was made by Hugh to appoint Susan Reilly to the Veteran’s Memorial Committee. Randy seconded and the motion was passed by majority vote with Wayne abstaining.

  • Website Design Committee

There was nothing to report under this heading as there haven’t been any further volunteers so far.

Constable Vacancy

Kathy provided a brief update. We still have a vacancy. Randy asked what the requirements are including if they must be a law officer. Kathy responded they have to be available for town meetings and elections. So they just need to know basic rules regarding elections. They also do postings for town meetings, zoning, and the like. These being the warrant postings. Wayne noted if a sidearm is to be carried they must hold an LTC. Randy asked if a weapon is necessary. Kathy responded they don’t, but some constables do carry. Randy suggested this going on the New Salem News. The pay is virtually nothing, so it’s more an honorary thing with the pay being something like $100 a year. This is really about volunteering. Wayne recalled that when they work the election they get paid via the Town Clerk’s budget for that. So the volunteering is more for town meetings and warrant postings. Kathy felt they were likely appointed, but it was unclear if appointment was by the Selectboard or town meeting. After brief research, Kathy found that these may be elected. Randy responded in that case we need to research the rules as some elected vacancies may be filled by appointment while others may not.

Vehicle Purchase

Randy reported on this unanticipated item. It was thought the new police interceptor would take time to find given vehicle shortages, but the Town Treasurer has located one. So this is great news.

Small Pickup for Highway Plowing

Randy reported on another unanticipated item. We need to replace the small pickup as it is used to plow smaller roads. He proposed calling another Special Town Meeting to fund this. Hugh concurred noting the existing truck is from the 90’s and it may be cost prohibitive to repair given its age. Randy suggested we see if we can find one that is suitable then call the STM. Hugh noted we may be able to save some costs by transferring equipment too. So that’s something to consider. In the meantime, it was agreed to draft an article for warrant. The likely cost is in the range of $60,000-$80,000 as it would be a Ford 350 style diesel. Hugh also felt it best to consider a new plow. We might be able to save the old one, but we should buy a new plow. Wayne agreed submitting the cost could be as high as $90,000. Further they’re running snow plowing packages as incentive to buy right now. Kathy agreed to reach out to the Town Clerk and the Town Moderator.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes for October 18, 2021. The Selectboard saw no need for amendments or changes and determined to approve.

Wayne made a motion to accept the minutes of October 18, 2021 as written. Hugh seconded and the motion passed without objection.

A motion to adjourn at 8:17 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Hugh and passed without objection.

Respectfully Submitted

Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk