Town of NewSalem Selectboard
April 9, 2018
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, chair, Lisa DeWitt, Wayne Hachey, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Ken Bright; Jean Derderian, Historical Commission; Dan Hammock, Trustees of New Salem Academy; Joe Camden, Chief of Police; Joe Cuneo, Fire Chief; Kathy Soule-Regine, MaryEllen Kennedy, Broadband Committee; Diana Smith, Library Director; Tom Doane
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Ø Permission Letter for Jumptown USA
Ø Sign Lease with Trustees of New Salem Academy for Old Academy Building
Old Academy Building Lease
Randy started by asking Dan if he had any new questions. He responded that he did not. Randy then asked Nancy to provide Dan with the latest copy of the proposed list which appears to take into consideration all of the concerns of both parties as to exact provisions as discussed at prior meetings. The hope is to settle this matter and sign the lease. Dan reviewed the proposal. Dan then spoke about one provision 10.1, but felt that otherwise things look fine. Nothing that requires further legal review. He did have a question of some wording as to liability which Nancy explained and elaborated on. Other than that he was comfortable with the lease and felt that the lease is ready for signing. Randy called attention to the number. The agreed number was a yearly sum of $2,400. That will be one lump sum. Dan then asked that the minutes reflect that it is not the intent of the Selectboard that the town withhold consent for permission to hold events at the building or to allow third parties to use the building. Meaning the town will generally and ordinarily grant permission upon notice and not unreasonably withhold permission. The Selectboard stated it would be dully noted. The Selectboard then determined to sign the lease.
Memorial Day Events
Memorial Day observance falls on May 28th, 2018, with the actual day being May 27th, 2018. Events will likely be scheduled for May 27th, 2018. There was brief discussion of who the organizers are that help put the event together with suggestions of people to ask for this year. Wayne asked Ken if he is usually involved. Ken responded he is not. There was some further discussion regarding the activities and past events. Lisa stated she would be happy to help in any way she can. There was discussion of whether Wayne should speak or not or who should speak. This prompted further discussion of other potential speakers and who would be appropriate. Including veterans, clergy, and others.
Insurance Safety Committee Meeting
Nancy noted that unfortunately the Highway Chief was not able to attend the meeting. Nancy then reported on the insurance safety portion of the meeting. She discussed some of the weather impacts the town has experienced and how they affect the program. Daily vehicle inspection forms have been done along with other safety related issues being addressed. Joe Cuneo noted that the Fire Departments inspections are more on a monthly basis based on training and when the vehicles are actually used or driven. Joe Camden outlined some questions about what is expected to be checked by officers and specifically asked for a better form. Joe Cuneo noted that the Fire Department made its own form. Nancy responded that the intent appears to be development of the habit of at least looking at the vehicle and paying attention to any obvious problems. Joe Camden asked how much all of this will save the town. Nancy stated it won’t be in the thousands. Probably hundreds. Once the town has an idea of what the savings and credits will be, then whether to continue will be evaluated or not. Joe Cuneo then discussed areas where improvement in efficiencies can be made and how to improve safety. An area of concern is the heating unit in the Fire Station. It’s showing signs of rust and decay and may need to be on the radar for replacement. He noted that during the roundtable with the Lt. Governor, the Lt. Governor had mentioned some grant programs that might help pay for it. Lisa reported on follow up she’s done with the Governor’s Office. There was then discussion about green energy and the incentives for green communities that the town is hoping to tap into. Green community money can be used to pay for audits of the town buildings and if there is enough savings to be found, the grant funds could then be accessed to pay for efficiencies.
Joe Camden noted the avenues he’s pursued as to the funding issue. He believes the issue with some of the lighting, like changing to LED, may require changing ballasts, so there’s that expense to consider. It’s not insurmountable, but a consideration moving forward. Wayne asked Joe Cuneo if he’s done any leg work on bids and getting a handle on the cost of replacing that heating unit. Joe Cuneo responded that without knowing there’s going to be money for the repair, it’s hard to get a serious company to do any estimate. He doesn’t see funding this fiscal year being available. The cost will likely be in excess of the $10,000 cap for not bidding, so it’ll require going out to bid. So it makes sense to try to pursue the green energy opportunities in the next year. Nancy then finished off by discussion an insurance meeting she and Joe Cuneo attended. The meeting covers the way Police and Fire are covered for workers comp. Officially those employees don’t fall under the normal process. But the town is liable. Joe Cuneo outlined the liability the town bears and spoke about how the towns deal with that. Nancy followed by speaking about the limits of the insurance for the liability and some of the flip sides. There is the potential for ongoing costs should someone be injured. This prompted discussion about volunteer departments like Fire, and how to grapple with all of it. Joe Cuneo concluded that the meeting was very informative. Wayne inquired as to whether department members are fully briefed on the situation. Joe Cuneo outlined what he does and says and his questions to the towns insurer about the coverage. Nancy noted that the insurer agreed to provide more information on how that coverage works and so forth. Joe Cuneo went over the presumptions under the law and how that impacts things as well. There are a lot of things that are presumed liability wise that have to be considered.
Updates from Fire, Highway, and Police Department
Joe Cuneo started his Fire Department update by reporting on the new Fire Truck. The chassis is to be delivered at the end of May. In the meantime, the body of the truck is being completed as well. He expects that the truck will be ready and delivered in July. Joe Cuneo then reported on a fire at a DCR building on Elm Street. It was a total loss; all contents of the building were lost. He proposed that the town advocate for a rebuild of that site. It is good for the town to have a DCR presence in town. Unfortunately, a lot of historical documentation and records were likely lost. Joe Camden noted that some of the equipment at the site was saved. Joe Cuneo agreed noting that a lot of effort was taken to prevent diesel and gas equipment from catching fire. He then provided the Selectboard with pictures of the fire and the scene. The Fire Marshall was there and currently is leaning towards it being either a power surge or a stove. Wayne inquired as to where DCR employees are working. It appears they will be reassigned to other DCR offices. It is possible DCR will request permission to store equipment on town property until they figure out what they’re doing. Joe Cuneo then reported on a car fire that happened a few weeks ago. From there he finished on the need of the department for responsible volunteers to join the department. It’s been a busy year, the call volume is up, but more volunteers are desperately needed.
Joe Camden started off by reporting on car accidents. There’s been a substantial increase in those this year. Recently there was a truck disabled on Rt. 202. He then reported on the Police Departments training. They will be doing some Taser training and recertification soon. The department will also be doing a cycling event as well. He then reported on some upcoming public events and police involvement. Joe Camden then reported on some other resources that have had to be replaced. Wayne inquired as to the Police side arms. The models have changed and there have been some upgrades. Joe Camden responded that sadly, guns aren’t upgraded for free. The department can trade in the current ones and the new models will fit all the same holsters, etc. Joe Camden then reported on some unlocked vehicles and missing property from them. He reminds residents to lock their vehicles. Most of what is taken is lose change, cigarette lighters, and so forth. Joe Camden then turned back to the increase in accidents. These he feels are due to weather, reckless and distracted driving due to things like texting, and so forth. Wayne inquired as to whether the town should consider asking MassDOT for speed limit changes. Joe Camden reported on ticket writing noting that he’s seen excessive speeds in the 80’s and 90’s mph as well as a great deal of distracted driving. Unfortunately, the Clerk Magistrate drives on Rt. 202 and appears to feel the speed limit varies a great deal and is too low in some areas so tickets tend to be appealed successfully. Despite this, and the loss to the town to send an officer representative to court, tickets continue to be written. Wayne inquired as to some illegal dumping on some rural roads of mattresses and other things. Joe Camden reported on efforts to deter. Including the installation of cameras, which surprisingly themselves were stolen. Lisa asked how Wendell Road is doing with a different level of salt. Nancy responded that the salt levels had been going down in the schools well, but now are spiking again despite the lower salt use in winter. Joe Camden reported that thankfully there was no uptick in accidents on that road, but he largely credited that to the work of the Highway Department and the Highway Chief. He finished his report there.
Requested Pay Raises for Library Employees & Library Building Issues
Diana started off by providing the Selectboard with some relevant materials. She also reported that the Library Board of Trustees would like to make the town aware of various wage comparisons they’ve done with libraries of similar size to New Salem. New Salem is at the bottom of the comparison. She noted some of the hourly wages and what they are based on. The Library assumes 19 hours a week. She works about 23 in reality, but the Trustees are not interested in adding to the official hours. She noted that her position should see about a $1.50 per hour increase from the current level. Wayne inquired as to the hours of other libraries. Wendell is 32, Shutesbury is 40, but other libraries like Leverett’s are 18 hours. She further reported that the circulation librarians should receive about a $1 per hour raise. Nancy noted that the circulation librarians are only making $12.58 per hour and that does seem kind of low considering minimum wage is now $11 per hour. Because the Library is under 20 hours per week, the positions are non-benefited. Randy inquired about whether the Trustees and Diana have met with the Finance Committee. Diana responded that they have not yet, but are scheduled to. Diana then shifted to the Library Building inquiring as to necessary review of the building and possible repairs. Wayne responded on some work he’s done on the matter. Diana then reported on some work done by the Trustees to determine a cost for inspection of the building along with testing and reports on the general condition of the building.
What they’ve determined is there will be a not so insubstantial cost to it, about $275 per hour. Given the tightness of the towns budget, the Trustees recommend the evaluation be done using maintenance funds with looking at FY20 for actual repairs. Nancy had some questions regarding the specialist and that hourly cost. Diana outlined the research the Trustees did to find this person. Wayne noted that it might be wise to talk to Franklin County Tech. Nancy suggested talking to FRCOG. Wayne then inquired as to the state of the heating units. Diana responded that things are working currently, although there are some repairs that need to be made to one of the units. Wayne probed further into where things stand as to that repair. Diana responded that Amerigas is doing the repair and has a part on order to fix it. Wayne suggested being a squeaky wheel on the subject and not letting it fall by the wayside. Diana then inquired as to what the town is willing to do for repairs to the building. Wayne noted that usually it is understood that the Trustees are in charge of the building and they are elected. Nancy said that she’s willing to help them if they need to go out to bid and for that kind of thing, but if they have monies to draw on. The comparison would be Board of Health with the Transfer Station. When repairs need to be made to it, the Board of Health takes care of it. Randy responded that the notion should be that if there is a repair and the department can pay for it out of its own budget then that’s what should be done. But if there is a large repair and the department can’t figure out how to pay for it then there needs to be a conversation with the Selectboard.
He noted there are, unfortunately, a lot of repairs that need to be done in town and limited resources. Nancy suggested that it is the Trustees and Library employees that use the building regularly and would be the first to become aware of problems. Those should be dealt with as they arise. From there Randy asked that the numbers on the wage increases be double checked. Some of the numbers on the materials provided don’t appear to entirely add up and as a result he had a few concerns about the math. The number of hours multiplied by hours should be looked at to ensure its correct. Diana agreed to check the math again. Randy agreed that parts of it are right, but there’s some issues with how it transitions from one year to another. Diana agreed to look into it. The Selectboard determined to take no further formal action on the topic until the Finance Committee has weighed in and the Selectboard heard from the Library Trustees. That said, the Selectboard was in favor, however, of recommending the Finance Committee seriously consider support of seeing the circulation librarians receive wage increases. Discussion finished with Nancy agreeing to send a letter to the Library Trustees.
Lisa reported that the Tree Committee is willing to help, but they want a commitment to long term care. The Cemetery Commission which has purview over the memorial only mows. Despite being asked to do more; they are unwilling to do so. This leaves the memorial un-landscaped. Wayne noted that the town has another stone to set which plaques will be attached to. Nancy stated that this has become a bit frustrating. The town can’t guarantee the next Selectboard or Cemetery Commission will take care of this in perpetuity. People have to step up now. If it is important to people and they are interested in it, then it should be done. But there’s no long term binding commitment that can practically be made. If you see a problem, call the appropriate authority. Lisa noted just how little care it will take. We’re not talking about a big area that requires landscaping and maintenance. Nancy suggested writing a letter to both committees. Wayne turned discussion back to the setting of the stone and suggesting that Highway Department can set the stone. Putting the stone in place would demonstrate progress. There was then some ensuing discussion about the installation of a solar light for the flag at the memorial. Nancy agreed to research one for purchase.
Reschedule Annual Town Meeting
Nancy reported that nobody appeared to be able to make it to the date picked at the last meeting. So June 18th, 2018 appears the best. Neither the Town Treasurer or Town Clerk could make the original date. It was determined that given the circumstances and the importance of those two officials to the meeting, principally the Town Clerk, the June 18th, 2018 date should be chosen.
Annual Report Cover Photo
In the past few years the Annual Town Reports have always been black and white for the cover photo. Nancy would like to pursue the idea of pricing out color options for this year’s cover photo. Nancy noted that a color photo was used a few years ago and looked very nice. The Selectboard was in favor of pricing out the color option and authorized Nancy to do so.
Early Meeting Time for 4/23/18 Meeting (Prior to Special Town Meeting)
It was determined that the Selectboard would hold a meeting prior to the Special Town Meeting on April 23rd, 2018. Rather than meeting at the normal 7:00 pm time frame, the Selectboard will meet at 6:00 pm.
Nancy reported on a request by the Census Bureau for participation in a special program. The Town Clerk maintains that the program is too burdensome and asks that the town not participate. Randy asked if the town is required to do this. Nancy responded that it is not. Wayne had some questions about the program which Nancy answered. Discussion ended shortly thereafter.
Kathy and MaryEllen started off by providing the Selectboard with a map of New Salem and explaining where the new poles that have to be installed are going. She noted several quadrants, principally around North and South Spectacle Ponds. Those parts of town are not connected to the rest power wise, rather their power comes in from Athol or Petersham. Wayne inquired as to the removal of stakes put out for the poles. Kathy reported on the matter noting the staking has been done twice now because of it. She then turned back to the poles and the make ready. This included discussions with the Commonwealth as to funds for the make ready and the buildout. There have been some grumblings about the town wanting a quote, “fancy” network and the fact that the town is only mandated to cover about 96 percent of the town. Regardless of that the commitment is to cover all of the town as it has been since the start. We’re all in this together. Kathy then outlined the ways that Broadband has actually saved money in the process. Most of the new poles will go on Nielson Rd and Michael Ln with a few going on Fahey Rd. Lisa noted that the Lt. Governor expressed her pride in seeing this process move forward. MaryEllen noted that this is all being paid for by the people who don’t have service, not just those in the Commonwealth who do. Kathy then went over the easement agreement which is between the town, the MLP, and the impacted property owners. She then showed some examples, one of which was on Fahey Rd. This included how some of the easements will help save money by avoiding extra poles. MaryEllen then elaborated on the challenges on private ways. Public ways aren’t problematic, but the private roads require an easement.
Kathy noted that most of the people on private roads are positive in response. Only one property owner was displeased with where the poles were proposed to be located, but they made efforts to accommodate them and things are moving forward. Broadband has asked if Nancy can assist them with some of this. Nancy responded by outlining what she’s done so far to assist and what she can continue to do. Kathy then outlined what’s taking the most time, that would be the maps, and noted that bills for the process are already appearing on the warrant. She then reported about a bid for procurement of the new poles. The delivery of which will be in the next few weeks to months. Broadband plans to speak with Highway about the locations of the poles and get some feedback. The other thing is the pole applications with the utility companies for the cost of putting fiber on their poles. One make-ready for 11 poles was only about $600, so that appears to be good news. This doesn’t mean that all of utilities will be as reasonable and affordable, but it’s a good sign. There are some towns that have had problems getting utilities to allow fiber to be hung, but New Salem hasn’t experienced that so far. Kathy then reported on some Federal funds for broadband for unserved areas that the Broadband Committee hopes to tap at some point. Up until a few years ago all that money went to the incumbents, the big utility corporations like Verizon. Long story short, attempts are being made on behalf of the towns to apply for some of those funds. MaryEllen noted that there could be decent yearly funds, as much as $70,000 per year for 10 years. Wayne noted some of the difficulties that Shutesbury is facing and asked whether any of these are in the future for New Salem.
Kathy responded that right now no, but they’re further along than New Salem and when we get there we may face some of those challenges. MaryEllen elaborated further on Shutesbury’s problems and the efforts being made by New Salem’s Broadband Committee to avoid the same problems. Kathy noted the big thing the town doesn’t have yet is how various parts of the make-ready are defined, and those definitions will be important to what costs are covered. Shutesbury was shocked by some of the charges it got because some of MBI’s estimates weren’t correct. Lisa inquired about whether MBI and the Commonwealth have to cover in these situations. MaryEllen responded that they have committed to, but the Commonwealth is slow to do so. Kathy noted that they have promised not to make the towns wait too long in that event. She then turned to the submission of the pole application. Once it’s done the town has a set amount of time to respond and then the make-ready process starts. The town is just starting to get into the meat of the process now. Wayne asked if things are still set for January 2019. MaryEllen responded that it’s looking more like summer 2019. Kathy agreed stating that it’s going to be a lot of hurry up and wait. But the Commonwealth is attempting to make things move along. This includes pushing utilities to cooperate. She then noted that New Salem is on the front half of the wave of towns doing this, which should be beneficial. The downside, as Shutesbury has already found, is the bumps. One of which is crossing under high power transmission lines. The issue there is the pole height and the formulas that the utilities use. Kathy then finished by returning to the easements and the process there, elaborating on how it will work and so forth. They finished their report by talking about their ongoing discussions and meetings with the Town Treasurer, the Town Accountant and Finance Committee.
Special Town Meeting & BOS Meeting
Nancy reported the Special Town Meeting will be at 7:00 pm on April 23rd, 2018. The Selectboard will hold a meeting at 6:00 pm on that date.
The original letter had some defects so Nancy provided the Selectboard with a new copy to sign.
Follow Up from Dangerous Dog Hearing
Tom Doane had some questions regarding the hearing. He requested a copy of the minutes and is seeking some information regarding Gail Spring, the ACO, and her certifications. He noted that the Town Clerk does not have anything on record regarding that. He also informed the Selectboard that he is appealing its determination and the results of the hearing. The Selectboard acknowledged this and Nancy promised to email Tom a copy of the hearing minutes.
Update on Nuisance Dog Hearing & Appeal
Wayne reported on the ongoing appeal for the nuisance dog matter. It appears the dogs have lapsed on licensing and the owner has put forward reasons for not licensing. Lisa noted that this particular person has been rude to the ACO since the hearing and where things stand. Wayne felt it unlikely that the court will overturn the determination and ruling of the Selectboard. There was some ensuing discussion of the fines that MGL imposes on violation of the licensing scheme, which is a matter of state law. Lisa then inquired about a possible noise by-law. Nancy responded that Police are of the opinion that noise by-laws are hard to enforce and highly subjective. The town has a dog by-law which does address continuous barking, and MGL also addresses excessive barking. Wayne then went over what Town Counsel has recommended as further action to try and handle this.
The Selectboard approved the minutes from March 26th, 2018.
A motion to adjourn at 8:55 pm was made by Lisa. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed without objection.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk