Town of New Salem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

 November 29, 2021

Held Virtually via Zoom

Convened: 7:00 pm

Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Hugh Mackay, Selectboard; Kathy Neal, Town Coordinator; Jen Potee, Board of Health; David Cramer, Planning Board; Marny Ashbourne; Viera Lorencova; Laura Barletta; Linda Overing; Gosia Spooner

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

  • Payroll & Vendor Warrants

Discussion Items

Approve Liquor License Renewal for New Salem General Store

Kathy reported on this routine item. The Selectboard annually issues this license to the General Store. Discussion was brief as the Selectboard saw no reason not to approve the license and determined to do so.

A motion was made by Wayne to approve the liquor license for the General Store. Seconded by Randy and passed without objection.

Approve Class II Used Car License for New Salem Auto

Kathy reported on this item. She noted that like the liquor licensing this is an annual and routine matter. The Selectboard also saw no reason not to approve the issuance of this license and determined to do so.

A motion was made by Wayne to approve the used car license for New Salem Auto. Seconded by Hugh and passed without objection.

Approve participation in Statewide Opioid Settlement: Distributor Settlement & J&J Settlement

Randy reported on this item. He’s read the settlement several times and found it difficult to fully comprehend. Kathy volunteered to try and take a stab at it. This latest one is from the Massachusetts Attorney General. If we participate there are two suits, one against 3 distributors and one against J&J. If we sign on it’s possible for us to get some money from it. The AG believes the settlement could represent millions. KP Law is part of the litigation team. How much we could expect is unclear, but clearly it could be of some help for the town. She suggested the Selectboard authorize its chair to sign the paperwork. If we do this the town can’t go after any of these defendants but she doubted the town would do so anyway. Hugh interjected to note some things he saw and asked some questions about the settlement and what would happen if the town receives funds. Further would that have to go to the Board of Health? Kathy felt it likely that it would have to go for something related to opioid treatment or intervention or similar. Hugh noted this must be statewide. Kathy agreed saying this is actually a nationwide suit, but Massachusetts was one of the first states to bring suit. Wayne felt this similar to the tobacco settlements. It was agreed to accept the settlement.

A motion was made by Wayne to accept this settlement to authorize the chair to sign it. The motion was seconded by Hugh and passed unanimously.

Update on PFAS Remediation at Swift River School

Randy noted there has been a lot of correspondence on this topic from the school and from Wendell. He then went through some of it. There was a meeting with Wendell not that long ago and both towns are attempting to address this. One idea was consideration of a new well rather than spending money on the existing system. There was a letter from DEP and Doug Tanner from Wendell spoke with them. There are a lot of opinions on how to respond and he went over a letter from Wendell that constitutes a formal response. Wayne noted he’s been following PFAS for a while and the federal government is all over this. This has become a national issue. As a result, there could be funds at some point. As long as we’re moving forward the Commonwealth isn’t likely to take formal action. Kathy noted her own conversations with various officials. She agreed that as long as we’re making plans and moving forward while keeping DEP up to date and informed we should be okay. Randy then reported on correspondence from Kelley Sullivan. She reported that DEP has said that we would need to have control of 200 feet surrounding any well and that might have issues depending on the location of any new well. There is also a nearby PFAS hotspot on Cooleyville Road in town and it appears from the Board of Health Agent that the aquifer itself might be contaminated and therefore a new well might not solve the problem. In the meantime, engineers have been contacted to generate an estimate and determine next steps. At the moment they’re having to spend $300 a month on bottled water. They have received an approximate cost from White Water for resin disposal. They expect that to cost between $3,500 and $4,000 to change and recycle the resin. They weren’t certain as to how often this would need to take place until the system is up and running but it could be as often as every 6 months. Wayne then asked about the potential for the aquifer to be polluted.

Randy wasn’t able to report on that further noting that Kelley would likely be able to do so, but she couldn’t make it to this meeting. Wayne noted that some residents were mailed water tests and suggested we need to find out if there is more contamination. He asked residents in the area to come forward if they have seen their wells tested and had positive results. He expressed some displeasure with the process to date. Randy suggested that Board of Health would know and that they might be able to answer some of the questions. Hugh noted that the letter from Wendell to DEP is saying we’re working on it with a delay from COVID, but Kelley comes up with a bit of a different message. He expressed the thought that they should have an engineer working with them and not keep coming back and forth to the towns. There needs to be one main person working on it and directing it. Between Kelley and Bruce, they’re kind of reaching at straws at least to his impression. Wayne generally agreed. Hugh asked if they are looking for someone to take this over. There has been a request for another joint meeting between the towns and the school to try and sort out and determine on a direction. It was generally agreed that would be a good idea. Jen interjected to say that the Board of Health Agent should be the point person. He has already been to Swift River and inspected their kitchen. He has told Kelley that the school must follow DEP’s directions and drilling a new well isn’t one of them. She felt strongly that we should follow his direction. He is also the Health Agent in Oakham, Greenfield, and other places. He is highly skilled and knowledgeable. He feels strongly that drilling a new well won’t solve the problem. Wayne concurred feeling we likely don’t have enough land at the school in order to drill a new well anyway. Especially with the 200 feet requirement. Jen agreed and stated we need to have the Board of Health Agent in this and follow his lead. Randy then asked about the PFAS hotspot questions. Jen responded that the Board of Health Agent is the person to contact with those questions. Viera then asked a question about the water testing issue wondering if a specific DEP certified laboratory is available for residents. Mass.gov references the jurisdiction of the local Board of Health, but not a specific answer to this question. Jen responded that residents will get letters this week that will include information on where residents can obtain testing. Hopefully many will fall within the requirements for free testing.

Board of Health Update

Wayne noted we have a new variant, Omicron. Given the circumstances he felt strongly that we should seek mandatory vaccination of town employees. It is within the power of the town to require it and other towns have already done so. The main question was which body would hold the authority. The seminal case, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, would tend to indicate that it would be the Board of Health. Wayne noted that Fire and Police are more or less fully vaccinated. But Highway Dept. isn’t. He asked Jen her opinion. She responded that discussion needs to be had over Highway Dept. In the meantime, Board of Health will meet in December and will include this on its agenda. Yes, she felt that Board of Health is the body to issue such a requirement. She was not opposed to religious and medical exemptions. Wayne concurred suggesting that it should be on an exemption basis and not based purely on personal preference.

ARPA Funds Discussion

Randy noted that the PFAS matter could qualify for ARPA funding. So despite our recent Special Town Meeting allocation of funds, he felt we should pursue ARPA funding first and keep that as a backup that can be reallocated later at another town meeting if it isn’t spent. He then turned to broadband. The Broadband Committee and MLP Board would like to use ARPA funding for some of the last mile pieces of our network. Meanwhile Fire Dept. has requested funds for a generator. We only have a little over $300,000, so we need to weigh priorities as it’ll go quickly. Hugh interjected to remind the generator at the Stowell Building isn’t working anymore and Police Dept. has requested it be looked at. The Police Station is located in the basement level of the Stowell Building. Wayne recalled the history of that generator and noted it’s long had issues. Kathy recalled that it hasn’t turned on for any self-testing during her tenure and the building has lost power without it coming online. Wayne’s only caveat was that it should have propane tanks that need to be filled and if they haven’t been filled that would explain it not working. Still that generator has long been a handful. We get it working just to have new problems arise a few weeks later. Randy concurred that it should be considered but reminded we need to build a budget for this and to ensure that items fall in the approved categories for the funds. The good news on generators is that some towns have been able to obtain approval, but it’s unclear if that is only for some departments like Fire and Police, or in general. Hugh then suggested a few companies to potentially contacting for quotes on generators and generator service. Randy submitted we need to gather information and quotes and build out that budget. Once we do that we can proceed. Wayne interjected to say if the Stowell Buildings generator can be brought back online we should make sure we have a carbon monoxide monitor for it as that was an issue in the past. Randy felt that issue with it is all the more reason to pursue replacement.

Old Academy Building

Randy reported that we’re still waiting for several contacts to reach out with further information. He expressed a desire to move forward. Hugh interjected to say he had at least one architect who would be willing to do a walk through. His friend is more than willing to contribute to the thought process at least. Hugh then asked how to obtain access. Kathy responded she has keys to the building. Wayne then reported on the various things he’s done including winterization such as turning the water off to the building for the season and asked to be included on the walk through. Randy reminded that we’re looking for proposals. So while we appreciate friends who can provide advice, unless we can find a vendor willing to do work we’re still stuck. So we need to find vendors and we need quotes. Wayne agreed noting this will be labor intensive work.

Approve Use of Town Counsel for Review of 1794 Meetinghouse RFP

Randy reported that we have done a lot of work on this Request for Proposals. It should likely be sent to Town Counsel for final review. Kathy briefly reported on the status noting it’s very close. There are still some outstanding things, but she promised to check in with the 1794 Meetinghouse nonprofit. Randy felt it prudent to approve this now to avoid having to come back on this later.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes for November 15, 2021. The Selectboard saw no need for amendments or changes and determined to approve.

Wayne made a motion to accept the minutes of November 15, 2021 as written. Hugh seconded and the motion passed without objection.

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

Respectfully Submitted