Town of New Salem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

 December 14, 2020

Held Virtually via Zoom

Convened: 7:00 pm

Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Cam Dunbar, Board of Health; Lisa Finestone, Calvin Layton, Bruce Spencer, Tree Committee; Nancy Slator, New Salem News; Jackson Goddard; Rose Lyman; Marny Ashburne; Llyod Chadbourne

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

  • Payroll & Vendor Warrants
  • Liquor License for New Salem General Store
  • Class II Used Car License for New Salem Auto

Discussion Items

Update from Tree Committee on Recent/Planned Tree Work

Lisa began discussion by filling the Selectboard in on a few things done in the last few months. Little planting could be done this summer due to drought like conditions. They were able to plant a few trees on the Town Common this fall. They have a lot of goals for the overall Town Center, but some existing trees need to be removed and a few other things done to facilitate this. So this has held things back a little. A host of trees slated for removal have not been removed. These are hazardous unhealthy trees that need to be removed. It isn’t just the Town Center; these are on other roads as well. Given the pandemic and the current business of the Highway Dept. things just haven’t moved along. To that end Lisa asked the Selectboard if it would consider appointing a Deputy Tree Warden. Many towns have them and this person reports to the Tree Warden. The Tree Committee has a budget and funds to spend on this, but the Tree Warden who is also the Highway Chief, has not been able to get to these trees and a Deputy could help. Some details would need to be explored and they would want to see it have a stipend. No specific figure is in mind, but it should be researched. Calvin noted that the Shade Tree Law does accommodate appointing a Deputy Tree Warden and the Tree Warden technically can make the appointment himself. Typically, the Deputy is a qualified person who has certifications. Right now Tree Wardens don’t have to be qualified and accredited, but the Commonwealth is already heading towards changing that. He stressed that this Deputy could be someone on that track to qualification and accreditation and could eventually step in as Tree Warden should the Commonwealth adopt the anticipated requirements. Bruce echoed Lisa regarding the budget funds and the need. Wayne agreed that there is clearly a need and noted that usually the problem is the lack of funds to do the work. This is not the case here.

Lisa reminded that the Highway Dept. ultimately handles the hiring of a tree removal service. A Deputy could be helpful here by being given the authority to make the arrangements and manage the budget with advice and direction from the Tree Warden and of course the Tree Committee. She also noted circumstances where the Highway Dept. can act to remove trees itself without the Tree Warden process given hazardousness. Wayne agreed to talk to the Highway Dept., he noted that at least one ancillary Highway Dept. employee would likely be interested. Wayne then asked if the Tree Committee had anyone in mind. Lisa responded that the Committee would prefer for it to be a member of the Committee, but the Committee would have to discuss this in a public meeting of its own. Wayne asked if the person must live in town. Calvin responded it isn’t required, although it can be helpful if they do. Lisa noted that there’s still some logistics to work out as well, plus if there will be stipend, how much would it be. Randy asked if there is any reason that communication cannot simply occur between the Tree Committee and the Tree Warden. He inquired as to this being simply a problem of the Tree Warden not responding to the Committee or something else. Lisa responded that the Tree Warden is very agreeable, but even after specific requests the work simply hasn’t been done. That said she couldn’t say what the reason for is noting that as Highway Chief he is a busy person and it may just be that it isn’t making it to the top of the list. So, it is being proposed that a different structure be utilized. Still, the department should be aware of what’s going on as they drive the roads of the town and see things. Randy thanked Lisa for her responses noting that we want to avoid simply adding more steps to the process but doesn’t change anything, it doesn’t improve the situation. We don’t want to create something for the sake of it. Further there are also budgetary concerns if it is to be stipend.

Calvin noted that part of this is having the Tree Warden or Deputy present when the time comes to cut trees. He noted another thing to do is to have a good job description for the Deputy and how that system would work. He felt it could actually save the town a lot and would improve things. Randy asked Nancy Aldrich about the process for creating a position. Nancy responded that we will need to find a process and to consider the financials behind it. This would probably need to be run by the Finance Committee as to any stipend. Wayne expressed confident that the Tree Committee could hire a service to come in to town to cut trees if it wanted to. Calvin responded that no matter what the Tree Warden would need to be involved. This is really about trying to improve things and take a burden off the existing Warden given his other responsibilities. Randy asked the Committee if it could write up the job description and work out the process. Lisa agreed noting they could also contact counterparts in other towns and determine if stipends are common and if they are paid what the average figure is. Jackson then asked about the Emerald Ash Borer and the proposed tab on the towns website. This might assist in documenting and sharing information. Lisa responded that it was her colleague Mollie addressing it, and she is unfortunately not present. Still, from what Lisa was aware this is only being monitored in regards to New Salem and has not been documented in town. If there was anything additional to report the Committee would report it. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that the Committee can do about this problem. It was agreed Lisa would talk to Mollie and determine what if any further response should be put out. Wayne suggested other resources that might be of help. Nancy Slator then spoke briefly about a hazardous tree that she is aware of that still hasn’t been taken care of. She could personally attest to the Committees point about things not progressing. Lisa thanked Nancy Slator for her comment and stressed the need to address hazardous trees in town.

1794 Meetinghouse Lease; Update from Town Counsel

Nancy Aldrich reported on her discussions with Town Counsel. Town Counsel has reported that for leases it appears that the town does not need a town meeting authorization. Apparently the Selectboard can sign for terms up to 30 years. Further given the status of the building without running water the value would be relatively low for any lease amount and that would need to be ascertained. Town Counsel favored the town pursuing a 3-year lease, but the Meetinghouse would prefer something longer. Wayne felt a 5-year lease could work. Nancy responded that it depends because there’s an overall limit according to Town Counsel and that is the value of the rent cannot exceed $30,000 without having to do something like a town meeting. Wayne felt that a 5-year lease would be sufficient. Jean suggested a 10-year lease noting a few reasons from her own experience as to why they would want a long term lease. She suggested asking the Meetinghouse if that would work. We’d still have to figure out that value piece. She felt overall this is very encouraging. Randy noted this will come up again for the town as the New Salem Academy’s Trustees will also be looking to talk lease again soon.

Generator at Stowell Building

Randy recalled that when the Stowell Building goes down it doesn’t just affect Nancy Aldrich. The Police Dept. also goes down. Nancy then provided a history of the current generator. Back before 2008, when the power would go out it would come back on. Unfortunately, during one of its run the generator appeared to be causing excessively high carbon monoxide into the building. It’s where the generator is located which causes the carbon monoxide to come through old windows. Still, the generator stopped working altogether. The town has spent a lot of money trying to revive this generator. Randy asked if there is a spot near the building that would be safe for the generator and whether this would be a good use of money to ensure that the Police Dept., Board of Health, and Town Coordinators offices and anyone else in that building can still function. Wayne responded that there really isn’t anywhere that it could be put that would truly cure the problem. He outlined a few places to put it that could be options, but each have their challenges. With his experience these generators have always been problematic. They just don’t really hold up for long. There was a question of how often they are needed. Wayne responded that oddly in New Salem they are rather necessary as it happens. Randy submitted that the issue here is essential services. Lloyd noted that the Police Dept. is part time. Randy responded that in an emergency they are needed. Fire Dept. has a generator for similar reasons and the same reasons generally apply to the Police Dept. as well. Lloyd submitted that the Police often work out of their cruisers in such emergencies. Randy proposed that the town can look at prices and options and a decision can be made after. Jean asked about the intent and timeline moving forward. Nancy responded that the matter at hand is to research the options. The Chief of Police has urged this matter be considered. Randy noted that in the past requests by this department have not always been followed up and the issues here for essential services are of a central concern. This isn’t about making any snap decision, but rather for putting in due diligence. Jean noted she supports having alternatives available, but wondered about available funds for this and how the town would go about this kind of a purchase outside of a town meeting warrant article. Nancy responded there is no money in this fiscal year for this. It was agreed that this could be researched as part of capital improvements for the town. Nancy felt that would be best prudent and the town could look into this with the Finance Committee as well as the Capital Improvements Committee. Wayne submitted he’d look at it to determine if it’s an easy fix too. It could simply be a matter of repair and maintenance. Nancy felt it reasonable to do if the generator can be brought back up to work.

Upcoming Pole Hearing / 37 South Main Street

Nancy informed the Selectboard that the hearing is scheduled for December 28, 2020 at 7 pm. She reminded the Selectboard of past discussions regarding this issue. It had been thought that this could be postponed, but National Grid has reported back that the customer is in need now for the service and cannot wait. Nancy then outlined the viable options that National Grid has looked at and its determination on how to proceed. This matter needs to move forward and National Grid feels that the option with trenching is the most favorable. Wayne asked whether any underground would consider reconditioning and restoration. Nancy Aldrich responded that they would make that commitment if approved. It was agreed to proceed with the hearing.

Liquor License for New Salem General Store

Randy noted that this license is a regularly issued license and this Selectboard has done this a number of times. He asked if a motion is necessary to authorize signing. Nancy Aldrich responded it’s a renewal so no formal motion should be necessary.

Class II Used Car License for New Salem Auto

Nancy noted this is the same as the liquor license for the New Salem General Store insomuch as it’s an annual license renewal for an existing business in town. The Selectboard saw no reason not to agree to this renewal as well.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes for November 16, 2020 and November 30, 2020. It was agreed to table the minutes from November 30 and to approve the minutes from November 16.

A motion was made by Wayne to approve the minutes of November 16, 2020 as written. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed unanimously.

A motion to adjourn at 7:47 pm was made by Jean. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed without objection.

Respectfully Submitted

Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk