Town of New Salem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

 July 26, 2021

Town Hall, New Salem, MA

Convened: 7:00 pm

Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Hugh Mackay, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Kathy Neal, Town Coordinator Designate; Joe Camden, Chief of Police; Cam Dunbar, Board of Health; Claire McGinnis, Finance Committee; Jean Derderian, Historical Commission; James Sullivan, Orange Chief of Police; Jane Pierce, Orange Board of Selectmen; Arthur Adams; Ken Bright; Bob Treutlein; Vincent Barletta; Laura Barletta; Brian Spear

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

  • Payroll & Vendor Warrants
  • Appointment Slips for Election Workers & Agricultural Commission

Discussion Items

Future Police Regionalization Discussion

Randy began by providing some general information including the towns current Police Station and its status, some general information about the police reform legislation passed by the General Court, and some facts relating to the current composition of the police force. He also spoke to some of the towns response options reminding that the department is not full time and many calls are handled through mutual aid as the State Police do not respond to many incidents and thus other local departments are called upon to respond to calls in town when town officers are not on duty. Randy then went over some rules as to how the presentation would occur. We must be mindful that we have guests. We can ask hard questions, but we need to let people answer. He also asked that opinions stated in the last meeting not be restated. He then invited James and Jane to speak. Jane stated she is the current chair of the Orange Selectboard and that she was not present on authority of her board to provide any specific proposals but rather to support her towns Police Chief in providing information to New Salem. James then spoke. He has 13 officers, 2 sergeants, and a detective. They also have a school resources officer and a K9 officer. He is in the process of adding a 14th officer. The department is 24 hours a day with a minimum of 2 officers on duty. The Police Station is unmanned after 4 pm, but there are officers and you can always call dispatch and get to an officer on duty. Initially, when he began considering how he would help New Salem if the towns agreed to do so, his instinct would be to add another officer and he would promote another officer to supervisory capacity. On a financial aspect he felt it prudent to give a brief overview. From that view his goal would be to come up with an assessment. What New Salem would pay to Orange for police coverage. It would be a contract and would be negotiated each contract and the amount would then stay the same over the contract period. As far as equipment is concerned what the town gets and expects from a cruiser is different than Orange. He has 3 cruisers that are used around the clock. After 3 years they have to be replaced. Cruisers like his Chief’s vehicle can last up to 10 years. The K9 one is similar. But patrol vehicles last about 3 years. So his intention would be to avoid issues there. With his idea all employees would be Orange Police and all benefits and salary would be handled in that and the assessment would cover the costs as to New Salem. So if New Salem parts way at some point, the equipment purchased during any contract period would stay in Orange.

Again New Salem would pay an assessment each year. He reminded that Orange already covers most of New Salem’s calls when there are no New Salem officers on duty. The State Police in the area have a huge geographical coverage area. This means their response time is significant. So they often call the Orange Police to come over and respond if they can’t. Thus Orange responds frequently. In fact, Orange’s officer responsible for narcotics has responded to New Salem on more than one occasion. Orange gets a lot of calls for Rt. 202 including in New Salem. So Orange is already in some ways providing coverage to New Salem. And it’s not terribly hard for Orange Police to get to New Salem. He noted that further if New Salem does arrests they often have to book them in Orange for a number of reasons including for breathalyzer. So there is a long history of partnership between the towns. He stressed the fact that Orange is already responding to New Salem. He noted that Orange could help on several fronts including Branch Bridge. That’s near the border with Orange and he is aware of the parties and other problems New Salem has struggled with. James noted that as far as the Police Station is concerned, his station in Orange is setup for just about all needs. He elaborated on that station and how it would likely be easy to process New Salem matters like gun licenses and sex offender registrations. Nonetheless, a lot of this will be up to New Salem and what it wants. He then turned to the union aspect. His officers are in a union. He has special police officers who help to provide coverage. But he outlined some of the issues between part time officers and full time officers. To stay relevant, the part timers, have to have regular consistent hours. But it isn’t always easy to do that and with the reform it may not be advantageous. So that would create some hurdles, including hiring on current New Salem officers. Still, James praised Joe Camden for his service and stressed he would still attempt to make all possible accommodations in hiring if the towns do come to an agreement. Joe noted that he has long worked with James and he considers him and the Orange officers to be comrades. There was then a question about body cameras which James addressed. He noted some concerns about them and the funding process, particularly in relation to the new POST body. The cameras and the server for them aren’t the expense. It’s the storage of the data and processing of it for public requests that are the true costs. So there are grant opportunities, and those are geared towards regionalized deals, but there are outstanding questions. James then elaborated on how this shows the need for departments to do their homework. Because yes there is a grant, but the costs that endure after could be a killer.

Hugh then asked about discussions with Athol that Orange is having. James responded that the only agreement with Athol pertains to the body cameras and the grant funding. To date the only town under consideration with Orange in relation to regionalization of police services is New Salem. He then elaborated on the relationship with Athol noting that the relationship there is very close. Hugh then asked about the structuring of that financial piece. James responded it’s going to boil down to needing another full time officer, plus promoting an existing officer to sergeant. All the benefit costs would be on Orange and sustained by that assessment to New Salem. Other costs to consider would be fuel costs, overtime for court, etc. Off the top of his head he felt that the costs would be mostly similar to what New Salem budgets for police. But so much will boil down to what New Salem wants. So New Salem, if it wants to partner with Orange, will need to figure that out. Wayne asked about marijuana in Orange. James responded that Orange has an establishment and the tax funding from that for community impact is helping to pay for his detective. He then elaborated on that impact and how it works. To date there’s been little impact on police services because the CCC’s security requirements are very strict. Wayne asked about any dedicated police at the locations. James responded that was needed by towns at the very start of this, but Orange hasn’t had any issues as its location was opened far after the CCC started issuing licenses and locations began opening. That said he noted another location that will open and there may be some products that he felt could have some potential diversion issues. So that’s what his detective will need to work with that company to prevent. Wayne noted that New Salem is currently in process for a marijuana establishment to be in town and it would be on the border with Orange. James responded that he was aware of that establishment going in and provided further detail on how marijuana sales happen, how the security is implemented, and what is required by the CCC. Usually the security plans required have to be vetted by the Police Chief. To his mind it really doesn’t create an issue in the way that many people think. The systems that are in place that are required for odor control, waste water management, and the like is incredible. Yes, with some large facilities you may smell it a bit, but in most cases you won’t. Especially if it’s just retail like what New Salem would have.

Randy returned to the vehicle replacement schedule and asked what New Salem would have as a role to play. Would New Salem be required to pay for one of those replacements? James responded it would be all built into the assessment. Randy asked about other capital expenses. James stated he wouldn’t come back outside of the assessment for something unless he could articulate a specific need created by a request by New Salem. He stressed he’s not going to come to New Salem nickel and diming. This is early, and he’s new to this, but he didn’t see a reason to do that. Jane agreed. She suggested a similar model to how Orange provides New Salem with ambulance services. Orange isn’t looking to profit, just to help. Randy then noted that Leverett has been heard from and Shutesbury will be held next. He then asked what the biggest reason to choose Orange would be. James responded his department is 24/7. None of the other departments being talked to are. He also has more officers. His department is already responding to New Salem. This he felt is the biggest reason for New Salem to consider Orange seriously. We already functionally are working together. Towns cannot rely on State Police much for backup. They are usually required to be down in Gardner or Westminster. He then went over his department and the officers elaborating on their response capabilities. He was confident that both towns could be adequately covered. There was a question about what the continued involvement of Joe Camden would be. James responded he would likely offer Joe a special officer position. He would not deny his knowledge and would try to keep him in town for details and he would seek to work out something for that. There was then a question about policy changes that might occur. James responded that a lot of this would have to be worked through as part of the contract process. He conceded he can’t say what will happen when he retires. But he’s got 6-7 years before he retires. But if the contract is well drafted and well defined any new Chief cannot just change things.

There was then a question about fire. James responded that they won’t be covered by this and the towns department would remain. Wayne asked about some kind of hybrid situation such as having a full time officer in town, perhaps as a Deputy Chief. Mostly his concern was for response to natural disasters. James was unclear about how that might work. But for such disasters he stressed he doesn’t mess around. He gets cops where they need to be. He then elaborated on how Orange accounts for those scenario’s. If they have problems and need people he will get them where they need to be and worry about the costs later. He runs into these things frequently, like the recent rain provoked flooding. He was out there looking with his own eyes and talking to Highway and other departments. He wants to know what’s going on and to understand what’s happening. He’d do the same for New Salem. Bob asked about the issuance of gun licenses. James responded he doesn’t impose restrictions as long as there are no disqualifiers and no reason to check a person off as someone of concern. If you have the right to carry you have the right to carry. Hugh expanded on Wayne’s hybrid idea, he noted that what people in town like is they know their officers and who is on shift. He asked if some limited office hours could be held in New Salem. So, for example, if a patrol is scheduled could an officer perhaps also hold some hours. Just as a way to ensure that citizens can meet the officers and get to know them. James responded by asking for some clarification. Hugh elaborated that the citizens know their officers and would want to continue to know them. James responded that he understands the desire for a personal connection, but it’s hard. He would have 14 officers and they would rotate in and out. He can’t promise that citizens will know all of them. But there will be familiar faces. The reality is that hurdle will be tough. Still, his officers do like to be involved in community events so that people get to know them. He then noted that he’s spoken with Joe Camden about what he does to maintain contact. New Salem tends to have an officer check in on the Transfer Station and they talk to people while there. He could likely see that happening when he’s got an officer going through on patrol.

James then returned to Branch Bridge. He’d have officers drive through there regularly to end that activity there. Once they have a better understanding of New Salem, they can also know how to patrol through and how to solve problems. So the town will have access to him. He answers his phone all the time and if town officials need to get ahold of him they will be able to do so. They’ll also have access to his command staff. There will be a personal connection. Jean then asked about an addendum to the towns emergency planning regarding cases of emergency. She asked how James would see that role as the Police Chief is one of the officials in that addendum that’s put in charge. James responded he has a strong command staff and he can be confident that delegation will result in his needs and wishes being carried out. He can therefore handle issues. There will be learning curves and growing pains, but he felt confident that it can be carried out. Orange has a similar role for its Police Chief in such events. He didn’t see the role likely vastly different. Randy interjected to say that addendum was boiler plate FEMA and merely codifies existing practice. James was familiar with the FEMA paperwork being referenced. He noted that the point person really is the Emergency Management Director and like New Salem, in Orange that person is the Fire Chief. So the Fire Chief will take point and the police will provide support. He recalled that Joe Cuneo is very responsive and often in town. He’s well respected in the region for his expertise and James was confident they could work through such situations. Randy asked Joe Camden if he had anything to say at this stage. Joe responded he’s known James for a long time and is confident that Orange would be the best choice if New Salem is going to do this. Orange has always been helpful and this department is excellent. If New Salem is going to regionalize then Orange is the one in his mind. He was honored that James would be looking to keep him in some capacity, but respectfully, when he retires he’s going south. He conceded things have changed and expressed some reluctance to see this happen. But his confidence in James and Orange Police is high. Brian noted he’s a retired Police Chief from Orange and was the one to hire James to the department. That said, he expressed the wish to see New Salem retain its own department. But if we have to do this his bias is for Orange.

Jean then asked whether New Salem’s department would still present its own ideas. She stressed that they should be given that opportunity. She would prefer to see the town retain its department, but again stressed that it is important that we hear from the department in town. Randy clarified that Joe Camden often works Monday evenings and he was asked to speak. Jean asked if a meeting could be held on a date that Joe Camden could talk. Joe responded he’d like to see Shutesbury’s presentation occur and he’d be willing to talk after that. Still, he is supportive of Orange. Nonetheless he’s happy to make a presentation for his department. That said his other position working for the county sheriff’s department often requires night shifts. James then gave a closing statement. He stressed that if New Salem goes with another small town in partnership it could work, but it won’t be the same level that Orange can bring. There won’t be hard feelings, no matter the decision. Orange will always help. Randy then put out the intention to put together a committee to discuss this. The committee would be tasked to collect data and would include a Selectboard member as well as a person from Finance Committee and other citizens interested. This committee would consider all the options and would collect data. No decision has yet been made and this committee would have a defined time period for putting together its recommendations. Hugh agreed to be the Selectboard member on the committee and Claire was willing to consider, after consultation with Finance Committee, being their person on the committee as well. Brian also agreed to consider appointment. Hugh was in favor of having this committee with an established timeline for producing results. It shouldn’t be unrealistic, but something like a year could work.

A motion was made by Hugh to so establish such a committee with the precise name to be determined at a later date. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed unanimously.

Host Community Agreement Policy for Marijuana Business

Nancy provided the Selectboard with a model policy. This would help to govern the process for Host Community Agreements going forward and would not be retroactively applicable to any HCA’s already signed. Randy noted the model originates with Wendell. He proposed that this be read and considered and asked his fellow Selectboard members to consider it and any changes they would like to see and the policy can be ratified at a later meeting.

RFP for Sale of Meetinghouse

This topic was tabled.

Policy on Personal Use of Vehicles

Randy noted this has come up in recent times. We only really have three officials who use town vehicles, otherwise most employees utilize their own vehicles. Randy then returned to a motion from 2013 that authorized use of personal use of vehicles by various town officials. There hasn’t been any real clarification since. One of the questions that has come up involves the Fire Chief who has a town vehicle and some complications that might arise for him as he also serves as Chief in Wendell. Whether he uses the New Salem vehicle or his personal one. The Police Chief also has a vehicle which he is allowed to take home for response purposes. It is likely wise to address this to provide guidance and to protect employees. Hugh asked about model policies. Nancy agreed to help Kathy to research this. Hugh asked about the Highway Chief and his vehicle. Randy responded like the Police Chief he takes it home as well. So we need to look at things like limited use, and what the rules should be both for use of town vehicles and any required use of private vehicles for town business.

Disclosure Form for Larry Ramsdell

Randy reported on this explaining that Larry is retiring and this is part of the process. Nancy elaborated a bit further about this and why it is necessary. It’s recognition of his multiple employers.

Veterans Memorial Donation Account/Committee?

Nancy reported that we are still researching the matter. Either way she recommended that the Selectboard establish a donation account and to determine what department or body would be responsible to spend it. It could involve a new committee or it could be put under the auspice of another body like the Cemetery Commission. Randy noted we have well intentioned people in town, but we lack specific guidance to provide for these kinds of issues. He generally supported a specific committee and recalled some past interest from some citizens in town. Nancy suggested a few people who might be interested as well. It was agreed that a committee could be established and people could join as interest is expressed. Wayne expressed interest in serving and reminded that Tamara Conde was also interested. It was agreed to put them up for appointment at the next meeting.

A motion was made by Hugh to establish a donation account for veteran’s memorial donations. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed unanimously.

A motion was made by Randy to establish a Veteran’s Memorial Committee. The motion was seconded by Hugh and passed by majority vote with Wayne abstaining.

Town Coordinator Schedule

Kathy reported she will set regular hours and explained how she would handle hours for meetings. She would also do some remote work. Right now she would likely have some Friday hours, but those might fade away if the work isn’t there.

One Day Liquor License(s) for 1794 Meetinghouse

This topic was tabled.

Set date for All Board Meeting

It was agreed to set the date as September 29, 2021, at 6 pm. This is the date that most people are able to attend.

Fuel Oil Bids for 2021-2022 Heating Season

Nancy reported on the bids. There were two. Orange Oil was the low bidder at $2.29 a gallon. The other bidder was $2.49.

A motion was made by Wayne to accept Orange Oil’s bid. The motion was seconded by Hugh and passed unanimously.

Appointment Slips for Election Workers & Agricultural Commission

The Selectboard signed the appointment slips noting they’d already heard from Town Clerk at a previous meeting as to her Election Workers. She spoke at that meeting on the topic during the Selectboard’s consideration of other appointments as she was not certain she would be able to attend a later meeting.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes for July 1 and July 12, 2021. Wayne noted some changes that he would like to see made to the minutes. The language change was in a paragraph relating to the discussion of police services and was a grammatical one. The change would clarify but not change the substance. The July 1 minutes concerned interviews for the Town Coordinator’s position.

Hugh made a motion to accept the minutes of July 12, 2021 as amended. Wayne seconded and the motion passed without objection.

Randy made a motion to accept the minutes of July 1, 2021. Wayne seconded and the motion passed without objection.

A motion to adjourn at 8:30 pm was made by Hugh. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed without objection.

Respectfully Submitted