Town of NewSalem Selectboard
August 12, 2019
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Gail Spring, Animal Control Officer; Zara Dowling, Green Communities Committee; Kathy Soule-Regine, MLP Board; Phil Delorey, Building Inspector; Lisa Finestone, Bruce Spencer, Mollie Freilicher, Tree Committee
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Storage of Equipment, Parking, & Access to Bathrooms for Cable Installers
Kathy started off by going over a few items. They’re meeting with White Mountain which is the group doing the distribution fiber. The things they’ve asked about relate to the parking of work trucks at night and personal vehicles in the day. It was agreed to have them park behind the Town Hall. Wayne had a question about the logistics and start times. Kathy wasn’t 100 percent on that yet, but promised she’d have more to report in the future. In the meantime, she went over the instructions that have been developed for parking. The Highway Chief has suggested the usage of the parking by the Tennis Courts. This is another viable option. Then there is the question of bathrooms. The Library and the Stowell Building may be of use, but it may also be wise to get a porta potty. Wayne inquired about the New Salem General Store’s porta potty. Kathy responded that the store will only allow paying customers to use that. That said the workers will probably patronize the store. Kathy then turned to the question of storage. A lot of towns allow the fiber to be left along the roads as they are huge reels of fiber and are hard to move without proper equipment. The exact number are unknown at this stage. There were a few options, whether it be down by Hagerville, or by the Tennis Courts. Kathy figured it makes the most sense to provide several options and let the installer choose. Jean had a few questions about any danger to the public from leaving the reels out. Kathy noted that most towns leave them out and while they are large there is nothing particularly dangerous about them.
From there Kathy turned to questions of storage for other smaller items and equipment. She inquired about possibly using the Hagerville Fire Station. There was little objection assuming Fire Department isn’t using the space. Another location might be the Town Hall. Wayne expressed reservations about using the Town Hall. Kathy felt there are enough options to handle the needs. She then turned to a question about using the towns robocall system to notify the public about signing up for the program. Obviously this system is intended for emergencies and usage of it for non-emergencies should be limited. Wayne and Jean were generally okay assuming the Fire Chief is also amendable as the device falls under him as Emergency Management Director. Jean then asked how much the time will be for sign up. Kathy responded it would be a month. There was a question as to what would happen if people don’t sign up in that month. Kathy responded that they can still sign up, but won’t receive as much help for hookup. That said most towns have managed to get 90 to 95 percent signed up in that month’s period. WiredWest signup funds are in escrow and will be applied. Nancy inquired about a mass mailing. Kathy responded that many citizens have provided emails so a blast email will be done, and a limited mailing will be done to those they don’t have emails for. Jean suggested putting a press release out. She noted that more citizens appear to be signed up for the Athol Daily News, so that could be a good way of getting the word out.
Email Addresses for Town Boards & Committees
Zara started off by explaining her experience with utilizing the town email. She’s attempted to get the emails assigned and as of today she hasn’t been able to get them. She has setup Gmail accounts for both boards she is on. Kathy noted there is a problem with forwarding from the town emails. Nancy agreed noting she had issues with responding. She felt that until this has been resolved Gmail type accounts may have to continue to be utilized. Nancy noted that Wendell has hired a company to setup emails for the town. They setup about 70 emails, they provide a server and take care of everything. That costs about $800. The issue is that Wendell could afford a consultant to get things done and work with the company to get the setup done. New Salem doesn’t have that. Kathy agreed noting that the town doesn’t have someone to handle all of these types of things. Wayne reminded those present that these public emails are just that, public records. They must be maintained and stored. So using Gmail type accounts should be temporary given that need to store and retain. Kathy generally agreed and elaborated on the experience of broadband on the topic. Jean stressed that this whole thing is in transition and the town is working on this. The town may need to have a new website built, and may have to explore options like Wendell did. This won’t be solved today. Zara thanked the Selectboard for hearing her on this.
Building Inspector’s Pay
Phil started off by providing the Selectboard with a review of his salary history. He’s done a 10-year review of the permit history since he was hired. He has had the same exact salary for that 10 years. With inflation he is actually making less and he is now doing about twice the number of permits. Just this year along he has 3 new houses, a number of renovations and additions, and the like. So he’d like to see a modest increase. He would also like to see the implementation of a new system. In another town he gets $3,600 a year as a base and otherwise gets all the fees less a $10 fee. He noted that he does other things besides just permits, that includes hearings and other similar items. Nancy interjected to say that the town may have to make some of these changes at a town meeting. She suggested implementing a revolving fund as part of this for the fees. The base salary idea could also work within the budget. Phil noted that at one point he was paid a bit more than he brought in under the existing system, but after a fee schedule change that evened out as it should. He felt this provision could work. What he proposed was the same as what he has done in other towns. If he’s busy he gets more, if he works less he gets less. So again, $3,600 annual base, with all fees paid going to him minus a $10 fee to the town for administrative. The thing that offsets it for him is the fact that it adjusts depending on how busy he is. Wayne inquired about succession, noting the town is thinking about the subject. Phil expressed the feeling that he would be around for a number of years. Wayne was comfortable, but noted in Randy’s absence it would be better to wait to get Randy’s input. Nancy agreed stating she would be more comfortable with passing this by the Town Treasurer and ensuring that this can be done this way and to give Randy a chance to provide input. Phil was okay with waiting a little bit to make sure everything checks out. He would like to have it made retroactive to July 1st if that is possible once the change is made.
Fee Schedule for Building Permits
Phil reported an issue with the existing fee schedule. A family that is building a new house off of Fay Road, and they are doing the work themselves. They have brought a sentence in the fee schedule regarding work done by homeowners to his attention. The wording was not clear that the lower rate for homeowners doing the work themselves is for renovation and not new construction. He doesn’t have the authority to change the fee schedule, the Selectboard has to do that. So he is asking for clarification to be made to the schedule. There were a few questions about how the schedule works, which Phil answered. Typically, the fee is calculated by a valuation assigned per square foot. So it is a formula. Jean felt that the change should be held until the next meeting. This would allow Randy an opportunity to weigh in as well as allow the Selectboard time to digest the schedule and the proposed change. It was noted that the point of the fee is to cover the costs of implementing the inspection process, that being both the salary for the inspector as well as the administration costs to the town.
Enforcement Zoning By-Laws Regarding Kennels
It was agreed to include Phil in the process for the changes that will likely be made to the by-laws. Phil noted that enforcement of such by-laws is administrative. He does not have any personal enforcement authority in the law, unlike a police officer. He is fine with notifying people by letter of violations. He noted some of the challenges that the town has faced with illegal junkyards. These kinds of issues frequently end up in the courts, so that has to be considered. Lisa inquired about enforcement for work done near stonewalls. Phil responded that he doesn’t under zoning, but he does have a sign off sheet that requires sign off from various departments. Generally, with things like trees, for example, he informs applicants that they must inform the Board of Assessors. Bruce expressed concern about a property in town where a part of a stonewall was damaged and some town trees cut.
Hazardous Tree Removal
Lisa started off by noting that the committee had a list of items, but that list has changed given personnel change at the Highway Department. A big item relates to the budget relating to an allocation for tree removal. Some of those funds go into the Highway Department as the Highway Chief is usually the Tree Warden. Wayne noted that the funds are certainly in the FY20 budget. Lisa suggested that if there will be a new Tree Warden, given the changes at Highway resulting from retirement, this provides an opportunity. Bruce agreed suggesting it may be possible to utilize alternatives. Wayne noted that in the past the Tree Warden had a working relationship with a tree removal company who would be paid a set sum and would do as much as could be done in a day. Mollie noted that the rate paid to her knowledge was competitive. Lisa followed that there are a number of trees that need to be addressed. Wayne inquired as to marking dangerous trees. He suggested that the committee do so and the Tree Warden be informed. Nancy noted the Tree Warden then would then formally authorize removal. This would include determining the process and whether a hearing is required. Lisa noted that the Tree Warden is often the Highway Chief, but not always. Nancy agreed stating the Wendell has a different official. That said the pay isn’t usually great and the job can be controversial. The argument for keeping it with Highway is that there is nobody in the town government more on the roads. Lisa asked about pay for the position. Wayne responded that there is no separate pay, which is one of the reasons why it is assigned to an existing employee. There are also a lot of practical reasons for Highway to keep the title within that department. Since the department responds to downed trees that may affect the roads it makes sense in many cases to have it be Highway for expedience. Mollie asked if it were separated from Highway whether there would be a stipend. Nancy responded that there could be, but in Wendell’s case it is not much money. Lisa inquired about qualifications for the position.
Nancy noted that OSHA’s regulations apply to municipalities now. So certainly safety is taken into consideration. Mollie noted that there is a push to make certain qualification and accreditations applicable to all Tree Wardens no matter the size of the town, and a training program is being put together. Lisa suggested adding something to the job description for the Highway Chief. It was generally agreed that could be done. Nancy noted that having it be an independent person has its own setbacks. Wendell has gone through a number of them. It’s thankless work. Lisa asked that the Tree Committee be kept in the loop. Nancy noted that there aren’t a lot of qualified people and several other towns in this region are going out to hire for Highway personnel. Jean felt that some of this will come down to the particular person’s philosophy. Mollie conceded that the law does not fully define dangerous or hazardous trees, so that does leave room for some interpretation. Lisa felt it important for the committee to be able to put together a list and provide that to the Tree Warden. Mollie provided a draft copy of a plan which has been developed using resources publicly available. This includes annual inspections, identifying of dangerous trees, and prioritization. Lisa turned to a question of the removal of trees from town forest. Bruce reported that a logger who was cutting on a nearby private property also cut trees on town property. It was clarified that the Selectboard had approved this in part in order to facilitate the homeowner removing trees that were leaning towards their home that were on the property line. Bruce then noted the issue of hazardous dead trees along Rt. 202. Wayne reminded that these fall under MassDOT’s jurisdiction. Nancy recalled that the town wrote a letter to MassDOT asking them to do something. The response from MassDOT was that there was a lack of funds. Nancy suggested if the committee could provide some bullet points to make, she would draft a new letter that could be cc’d to the towns representatives to the General Court. The Selectboard finished by thanking the Tree Committee for its work.
Tree Clearing/Stone Wall Destruction on Cooleyville Road
Lisa inquired about enforcement of the towns scenic stonewall protections. Nancy responded that the town when it adopted that did not adopt fines. Bruce noted that an alternative method of handling this, at least the tree part, could be addressed civilly. It’s not legal to cut trees on property that is not yours when you lack permission. Phil stated he would check out this property to look at what was done.
Letter from Carla Halpern Regarding Village Ultra Event
Nancy reported on a letter requesting permission to hold a 3rd Annual Village Ultra. This consists of runners and walkers who come together to raise funds for a charitable cause. This race reminds that small local events can make a real impact. Everyone is welcome, from ultra-marathoners to families who want to stroll. There is a 24-hour component of the race and a 12-hour component. Traffic would be minimal; participants will sign a release for liability. There will be a pop up tent in front of the Fire Station for aid. Participants will not be permitted to bring cooking stoves or open flames. She asks for access to the Town Hall for bathroom facilities. This event has been held before and with good results. Jean suggested clarification as to the liability part as this is a private group doing a private event. The wording should be clear as the group can only release itself from liability through such a release. Aside from that the Selectboard had no objections to the event and approved of it proceeding.
Vote to Allow Signing of Vendor/Payroll Warrants Outside of Meeting
The towns former Assistant Town Accountant has agreed with FRCOG to help the town for a bit, but as a result the next warrant has not yet been done. It was determined to approve the Selectboard signing the warrant outside of the meeting.
A motion was made by Wayne to allow the Selectboard members to return and sign the warrants once they are ready. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed by majority vote.
Jean inquired as to the status of lease negotiations and the alternatives. Nancy responded that she has had some difficulty coordinating with the 1794 Meetinghouse to have a representative attend a Selectboard meeting.
Jean asked that the committee be scheduled for a meeting to discuss several matters. Nancy responded that she’s been in contact with the committee but hasn’t yet been able to obtain a date that works for all parties. Jean felt that these are important topics and follow through needs to occur.
The Selectboard considered the minutes tabled from July 15, 2019. It was determined that they should be approved. The minutes from July 29, 2019 until the next meeting of the Selectboard.
A motion to adjourn at 8:36 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed by majority vote.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk