Town of New Salem Selectboard
April 6, 2020
Held Virtually via FreeConferenceCall.com
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Joe Cuneo, Fire Chief & Emergency Management Director; Jen Potee, Board of Health
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
- Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Joe started off with a general update. Operations are still being run from the Fire Station. We’re otherwise in a wait to see mode. Everything that can be monitored is being actively monitored. There are some dedicated first responder testing sights now which is good to have. Everything is being documented and should remain so in the hopes of reimbursement down the road by MEMA or FEMA. Randy asked if we are anticipating any further orders form the Governor that might make things stricter. Joe responded that whether or not a tightening down will occur is unclear as of the moment. There does appear to be wide adoption of the policies and recommendations of the DPH and the Governor’s Office as to mask wear and so forth, although it is mixed. Wayne noted that there are incredible amounts of coverage on this subject and all we can do is hang in there. Joe agreed suggesting this will last a few more weeks at best. Wayne recalled that if people can spray their masks with hydrogen peroxide that can help restore some masks like N95’s. Joe noted that the reuse of masks is not based upon the intention in manufacturing. The point of wearing a mask is to prevent people from spreading the virus. It won’t help keep a person from getting the virus, but it will help them from spreading it. A good original unused N95 mask should be reserved for emergency services and hospitals. Joe then concluded by reporting on the work he’s done with Board of Health. They’ve aimed to ensure that information presented to the public is accurate.
Town Counsel Review of Proposed Host Community Agreement/Marijuana Retail Shop
Nancy reported on the latest she has from Town Counsel. At this moment Ancient Growth is okay with holding off on this as the Cannabis Control Commission isn’t issuing in the midst of this ongoing virus circumstance. Wayne noted that right now recreational marijuana is shut down anyway. It was agreed that this subject can wait for a meeting or two.
Barletta House Update
Nancy reported that there is a rumor that there is a petition to shut them down. But in terms of what the Fire Chief and Building Inspector have said, there is no basis to at this point. Jean noted she’s seen the petition and it doesn’t want the business to be shut down, the petitioners just have some concerns. They support the idea of a museum and artist in residence. The part they are concerned about is the open ended other kinds of things like weddings, and big events, could occur. That is the sticking point. She’s encouraged all to participate in the process with Planning Board. She felt sure that an agreement could be reached. Randy noted that things have kind of shut down in response to the virus. He outlined how the current proposal is different from what was initially proposed. There are definitely concerns about large events that might involve police and other community resources. At the same time, we have the 1794 Meetinghouse which also has events and that has been positive. So they should be allowed to make their case. There is some legislation that’s passed the General Court that will allow Planning Board to postpone the hearing. Jean agreed that a public hearing by teleconference for this would be too cumbersome and not enough people would have access to it in a meaningful way. Randy submitted that this hearing would have to be put off until the community could participate in person at the hearing.
Wayne expressed concern after looking at the blue prints and listening to the latest proposal, that no action has been taken to address septic needs. He asked Jen where things stand with Board of Health. Jen responded that this would involve the Board of Health Agent and to her knowledge there wasn’t a septic upgrade. But she couldn’t be certain; the agent would have to be asked. Randy turned discussion to the status of the organization behind this proposal as a non-profit trust wondering what that would mean for the town. Jean elaborated on what she understood to be the plan where it would have a for-profit part and a non-profit part. She agreed to research whether they are properly registered and filed with the Commonwealth. Jen interjected to express her biggest concern, that being principally that the construction crew be following proper social distancing, wearing masks, and have provisions for disinfecting. If safety isn’t in place there, it needs to be put in place immediately. Jean noted that construction crews have some different rules under the Governor’s orders. The current status of things may be permissible. Wayne noted that if one site was shut down, multiple others in town would have to stop too. Jen agreed to review again the rules. Jean submitted that the dangers of submitting works in progress are numerous. Jen responded she doesn’t want to see this project shut down, but she wants to see proper health rules observed. Randy inquired as to the appropriate official to speak with them. Jen felt it would be her in a variety of capacities she holds including as chair of the Board of Health. Discussion ended there with agreement to keep this on the agenda for the next few meetings.
Annual Town Report, Selectboard Report, & Cover
Nancy started by asking the Selectboard to consider the selection of a cover picture. She had a photograph in mind which she has already obtained permission from the photographer to use. Randy asked what color the books would be with that photograph. Nancy responded probably blue or a shiny white cover if the photograph is done in color. It was agreed that the photograph is a good one and was a runner up last year. The photograph is of an eagle and this year would be a historic anniversary of the re-introduction of bald eagles to the Quabbin Reservoir. The Selectboard determined in favor of the photograph. Nancy reported that the report isn’t ready yet.
Postponement of Election & Annual Town Meeting
Nancy started off by briefly reporting on the budget implications and reasons for postponement. Mahar is actively retooling their proposed budget and the Treasurer and Finance Committee strongly favor postponement. Jean noted that to account for the Governor’s orders and the current circumstances the town would likely be looking at early July. The Town Clerk’s preference would be to have the election by mail, but that isn’t currently an option. So the second option would be to postpone the Annual Town Election until June 1 with the town encouraging people to vote absentee as much as possible then have special hours and encourage proper social distancing. Jean asked why this would have to go out so far. The Governors current orders expire May 4. Nancy noted that with the timelines the town is under and other practicalities that date makes sense. Even for that the decision has to be made now. Randy submitted that the proposal for June 1 is a good one. Nancy felt that if it is moved to June with the word being put out that the best thing to do is contact the Town Clerk and arrange an absentee ballot. June 1 only puts the election postponed by one month. Jean felt it important that the town ensure that the ballot is fully accessible. Otherwise she was in support of the postponement. It was agreed that the details on the hours can be dealt with at a future meeting. It was also agreed to ask the Town Clerk to call in to the next meeting. Otherwise it was agreed to postpone the election. Nancy then turned to the Annual Town Meeting. Jean felt that if things go relatively back to normal in May, a July date would be doable. Wayne felt the main issue is the budget. If that isn’t done, then it would be hard to proceed anyway. So the town would likely deal with a 1/12 budget if that happens. Nancy felt that the decision on postponement of the Annual Town Meeting can wait. There are still a lot of moving parts to that. It was so agreed.
A motion was made by Jean to move the Annual Town Election to June 1, 2020. Seconded by Wayne and passed unanimously.
Jean asked Jen about her role as the public nurse for the town. Jen outlined what she does. This includes logging in daily into DPH’s system for the town for cases in town and she also follows up on them with doctors subsequent. She also communicates with patients to ensure that they understand isolation. She doesn’t go into anyone’s homes but she is there to support people should they fall ill to this virus. She also assists with tracing patient’s viral infection. Wayne asked Jen if there are any active cases. Jen responded that the town as of April 6 has no positive cases. There are a few people on isolation, but it isn’t documented by the Commonwealth. These are self-isolation cases. Just how long isolation cases will last can vary on a case-by-case basis. Discussion concluded with the Selectboard thanking Jen for her hard work and commitment.
The Selectboard considered the minutes from March 9, 2020 and March 23, 2020. It was agreed to table both sets of minutes to allow further review. A few edits have been suggested for them. Jean noted for the record as to the March 23 minutes and the emergency meeting that was held that she consulted with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and they emphasized to her that the town must continue to adhere to meeting posting rules as much as possible and practicable even under the Governors orders. Although the statute used for emergency meetings does permit short notice meetings without the 48 hour posting rule, there still has to be some posting done.
A motion to adjourn at 7:47 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed without objection.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk