Town of New Salem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

 December 27, 2021

Held Virtually via Zoom

Convened: 7:00 pm

Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Hugh Mackay, Selectboard; Kathy Neal, Town Coordinator; Joe Cuneo, Fire Chief; Jen Potee, Board of Health; Marney Ashburne; Domenic Poli;

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

  • Payroll & Vendor Warrants

Discussion Items

Pumper Truck in Need of Repairs

Joe reported that we’ve developed a problem on Engine 2. We had a pump test done in October and we noticed leaking from around the pump area. This problem is caused by an issue that cannot be simply adjusted. So he’s asked a company that can fix it to look into it. Along with that, even during the test, the pump couldn’t pump its capacity of 1,500 gallons per second but rather 1,300. So it won’t pass its next test. The truck is 30 plus years old and the parts would have to be uniquely made. So it would cost over $20,000 to repair. The Fire Dept. doesn’t have that left in its operating budget. So he suggested that given the cost we should consider replacement in some fashion. He wasn’t aware of a figure for replacement either new or used. That’s a longer and in depth discussion that should involve the Finance Committee. We have to do something as this current truck won’t be able to remain in service for much longer. He felt confident we could find either a new truck or used truck. Still, a new truck might not work out perfectly given the problems in supply. A used truck could probably be obtained on a faster basis then a new one given the pandemic shortages. Wayne asked what the ballpark numbers would be. Joe responded a new truck would like cost around $650,000. A used truck would run as low as $75,000 to around $300,000 or so. He cautioned these are ballpark numbers which may be based on information that isn’t entirely current. His ideal would be not more than 10 years old and low mileage if we buy used. Wayne asked about the insurance impact. Joe responded we still have the truck and it still functions. We are essentially still in business. Wayne asked about replacing the pumping system. Joe responded it could be possible, but the decision point is whether we want to take significant capital and put it towards something that old. Wayne noted we suffer the same problems with Highway Dept. equipment, and why we bought another truck this fall as the old one wasn’t worth the value of the repair needed. He suggested scheduling with Finance Committee. Hugh then asked the mileage and condition of the current remaining truck. Joe outlined the various issues that have been cropping up with it. It has had maintenance issues and it isn’t compliant with a lot of current standards. In terms of maintenance specifically he’d need to pull the departments files. There are tire issues and rust. But at this point he didn’t see frame failure, certainly not that he was aware of. Discussion concluded with the understanding that further research is warranted as are discussions with the Finance Committee.

Board of Health Update

Jen provided a report on several things. First she updated on the PFAS problem at Swift River Elementary. She’s spoken to Chris Stoddard. Fortunately, the BOH Agent Tim Newton was able to make contact with him. Chris will help us with this. He is an engineer. But he can’t be on site until early January. As long as we are moving forward DEP is unlikely to take any punitive action against the town or the school. She noted that he needs to walk around the property and view the inside of the building as well. He’ll put together a report that we’ll be able to provide DEP. Jen put on her Public Nurse hate and provided an update. She is glad we have a town wide mask mandate in place but expressed grave concern about Omicron. The CDC has published new guidance as of the evening of this meeting. They’re changing the isolation rules. This materially means a reduction from 10 days to 5 days as long as you are asymptomatic or testing negative and are fully vaccinated and have your booster. You have to remain masked when out of your home too. Wayne noted he has been traveling and is participating remotely. In other jurisdictions, like Puerto Rico, they are taking this very seriously. It amazed him how lax some places are by comparison. Jen then reported on the area noting we are joining with Orange to hire a contact tracer. This is grant funded through FRCOG. Orange will handle the hiring and the job will be around 20-25 hours a week. This will be very helpful. She then elaborated on how this will work and the assistance that will be provided to the town and her as the towns Public Health Nurse. Since the Commonwealth stopped assisting in contact tracing, it completely falls to the towns. So this position will be very helpful. The main focus will probably be in Orange. But they’ll still be able to help New Salem. She committed to continue in her role as Public Health Nurse. Randy then just briefly recapped for those present the PFAS issue and some of the discussions between New Salem and Wendell. A joint committee has been established between the towns with representation from both to address this challenge.

ARPA Funds Discussion

Randy noted he didn’t have anything new on this topic. We are still kind of waiting on more information. Kathy concurred reminding we also have to avoid overlap between what we might be able to obtain grant funding for and what we spend ARPA on. In other words, we should seek grants we can qualify for to fund things and not spend our ARPA funds on those items. That way ARPA can go further. If we don’t get the grants that can be readdressed. Hugh asked about the IT initiative noting this is tangentially tied to the grant matter. Randy responded that the granting entity only wanted to meet with one person per town at first. So they’ve reached out to Kathy Soule-Regine given the Municipal Light Plant and Broadband. Kathy then reported on a few other items including the MVP grant and various grants for rural communities. These will come more into play as we head towards spring. Otherwise there was nothing that the Selectboard needs to vote on or take action on at this time.

Old Academy Building

Randy briefly reported on this topic. We still haven’t had any reports back. Hugh noted that his contact is still coordinating with him. Hopefully they’ll be able to find time after New Year’s. He just needs keys so he can get into the building if need be. Kathy agreed to assist. Wayne asked to be included. Hugh agreed to keep Wayne in the loop.

Highway Dept. Update / Stone Hill Rd.

Wayne reported on this unanticipated item noting a matter of concern on Stone Hill Road. This involves a bridge that falls under DCR’s authority. Any residents off that road concerned about the bridge should be directed to DCR. The Highway Chief has concluded the status of the bridge is such that it would be risky to continue to send a town truck across it. Randy noted we’ve had discussions in the past and concluded we cannot repair bridges we don’t own. Wayne concurred reminding this also involves sensitive wetlands that would require special permitting and the like. If they want to give the bridge to the town, that might be doable. But it can take forever to get something like that done as it might require a property swap and potential action by the General Court. This project could also be expensive and time consuming. Regardless the bridge belongs to DCR. Hugh asked if the road can still be plowed. Wayne responded none of our trucks can cross it, either snow plow or sander. He conceded it could provoke hardship for some residents down there, but the bridge is DCRs. We also cannot afford to lose a truck. He recalled that in earlier in the year we had heavy rains and the road itself become undermined in that area. He committed to continuing to contact DCR with inquiries about this. Randy reminded we’ve discussed this road before including why what roads we plow and what roads we don’t as not all roads in town are actually town roads. Stone Hill Rd. isn’t really a town road. So when this has come up it’s been hard to address as it would be difficult and expensive to make it a town road and the DCR part would complicated it enormously. Wayne concurred reminding that the fact that the bridge is owned by DCR stands in the way of the road being a town road. Unless we own the bridge we couldn’t make the road a town road. Randy asked that this item be added to the next agenda for further discussion. Kathy agreed to do so and suggested we contact the towns representation in the General Court. They might be able to exude pressure on DCR to act.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes for December 13, 2021. The Selectboard saw no need for amendments or changes and determined to approve. Wayne noted that due to his travel he wasn’t able to read the minutes but trusted his fellow member’s judgment. Hugh and Randy agreed to proceed with approving the minutes having both read them.

A motion was made by Hugh to accept the minutes of December 13, 2021 as written. Randy seconded and the motion passed by majority vote with Wayne abstaining.

A motion to adjourn at 7:38 pm was made by Hugh. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed without objection.

Respectfully Submitted

Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk