Town of New Salem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

 August 23, 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; Claire McGinnis, Finance Committee; Brad Foster, 1794 Meetinghouse; Amy Fagin, Zoning Board of Appeals; Jean Derderian, Historical Commission; Tamara Conde, Cemetery Commission; Laura Barletta; Ramona Hamblin; Michael Klein

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

  • Payroll & Vendor Warrants
  • One Day Liquor Licenses for Meetinghouse Events

Discussion Items

Joint Meeting with Finance Committee

  • Fire Chief Vehicle Request

Randy reported that the Fire Chief has requested the town purchase a new vehicle for him as Fire Chief. The total cost is understood to be roughly $48,000 with all necessary enhancements. There has been some discussion about whether or not the Selectboard and Finance Committee were willing to support this request or to adjust the request. One option would be to buy a used vehicle, or to buy a new police cruiser and to repurpose an old cruiser for this purpose. So there are a lot of details, including whether or not there are any liability components. Claire then asked if the $48,000 would be new or used. Joe responded it would be a hybrid type of vehicle and would be new with all needed enhancements installed. He had hoped that the cost could be split with Wendell, but was unsure if Wendell could sustain that. Claire asked if Wendell has been asked. Joe responded that they support the current vehicle in addition to New Salem and he elaborated on discussions with Wendell and New Salem. Neither towns prepared for it in their Annual Town Meetings. He was unaware if they have any COVID funds that might help or any other resources. Claire asked for clarification as to COVID funds whether from the CARES Act or the ARPA funds. Joe responded likely ARPA. Randy noted that as for the ARPA funds, we have only about $50,000 so far. We are supposed to receive more, but it’s a federal program and they haven’t yet elaborated on how it can be used. A lot is being sorted out. Our state legislators are trying to sort things out, but again it’s unclear as to what precisely we can use those funds for. One example of an idea would be drilling a new well for the Stowell Building. But there’s nothing definitive at this stage so he cautioned against assuming we can use those funds. Joe responded he was confident there is funding regardless. He reminded the town has a Vehicle Stabilization fund. So even if it can’t come out of CARES Act or ARPA funds there are funds available. Randy turned to the question of whether this is something the town wishes to do. When we obtained the last vehicle we did it with the expectation it wouldn’t necessarily be followed with another vehicle.

Claire noted that the Finance Committee in particular has concerns about setting a precedent that this part time position would come with a vehicle as an expectation. Hugh asked about the police vehicle idea and how that would work. Randy responded that the police vehicle has about 80,000 to 90,000 miles. Cruisers are replaced as needed and they usually last about 5-7 years. Claire noted that is correct. The oldest vehicle does not yet have either 7 years or 200,000 miles so it wasn’t yet time. Joe responded his vehicle has 220,000 miles on it now and won’t last much longer. He disputed the idea of any insurance liability for its use by him for New Salem and potentially for Wendell. Wendell helps split operations costs usually. The current vehicle was a government surplus vehicle. Claire noted that there was no capital investment in it which is the difference. Joe responded that he can’t see how he can be expected to continue in his position and do it well without a replacement. It was noted by Randy that Gabe Voelker’s position is well known and is in favor of the police option of buying a new cruiser and repurposing an old cruiser for fire’s needs. Joe responded that if that is the option then we still need a funding source to do the conversion for the old cruiser. Changing the lights, the painting and other markings, etc. He claimed it would cost about $10,000. Randy interjected that he’d heard about $3,000 to $4,000. Joe then further elaborated on what could be repurposed and what likely couldn’t be. Hugh asked what figure would be acceptable for a conversion from a Finance Committee view. He also asked what a new police cruiser would cost so that a comparison can be made fairly. Fire certainly doesn’t put on the same amount of mileage as police. Claire responded the hurdle isn’t the cost, there are sources to pay for this if it is necessary. The hurdle for the Finance Committee is having a legal agreement between New Salem and Wendell. We’ve have had Fire Chiefs who used their own vehicles. All the Chiefs up to Joe, including Joe prior to this vehicle, did so. There is no legal foundation to share the costs and if it has an accident at a call in Wendell, there could be an issue. Further it can’t be called mutual aid if Joe is responding in his capacity as Wendell’s Fire Chief.

Joe disputed that this would be an issue suggesting that if an accident occurred in Wendell that Wendell’s policy could apply. Claire disagreed submitting that would not work and our insurer would not agree to that even though they are the same insurer as Wendell. Not without some kind of MOU between the towns. So she returned to the need for quotes for the costs and an MOU with Wendell. That would sort things out. Randy then turned to the concern about the provision of a vehicle that is for one member of the department. If the Fire Chief needs to go to a fire in that vehicle, there is a question about other department members and how they are transported there. Are they responding in their personal vehicles or in fire trucks? Claire noted she isn’t speaking for the Finance Committee here, but she felt personally it must be clear that the vehicle belongs to the department and if the Chief is out of town on vacation it needs to be available to the department to use in his absence. Joe responded that is already the case with the existing vehicle and he further asserted that firefighters respond in fire trucks. Claire then noted for the record that Finance Committee has not made an official position on the acquiring of a new police cruiser at this stage insomuch as the town is considering its policing needs and services and changing the existing fleet at this time might not be supported. Randy noted we have two police cruisers currently. One marked and one unmarked. The unmarked one is mostly used by the Police Chief and the marked one for patrols. Wayne recalled that one has 92,000 miles on it at this point and the other has fewer miles. He suggested giving the Fire Chief the unmarked cruiser as it’s not marked, and would have less equipment to adapt, and has fewer miles. Wayne noted there was a prior Finance Committee meeting and the idea involving replacing a police cruiser and repurposing the one being replaced was discussed. Both Gabe and Chuck were there and they felt it would equal out in light of what Wendell pays for Joe as to other things like healthcare. But that plan fell away as a result of the pandemic and we are basically back to step one. Claire responded that the Finance Committee hasn’t taken a formal position. But in her personal capacity it’s hard to do this when we don’t know what the future of the Police Dept. will be. She was unsure what the Police Chief does with his personal vehicle, the unmarked one, at this point save the occasional response to calls or driving to work.

Randy returned the discussion back to the issue of whether the Selectboard and Finance Committee want to pursue a vote at a Special Town Meeting for a vehicle for the Fire Chief. Whether it’s adapting a police cruiser or buying a new vehicle, we have to allocate funding and that will require a town meeting vote. Wayne expressed the feeling that the current vehicle the Fire Chief is using is arguably at a stage where it may be becoming unsafe for its current purpose. He conceded the police issue being up in the air somewhat complicates things. But we have a Fire Dept. that needs a vehicle and a Police Dept. that has two vehicles. Buying a new police cruiser may not make sense at this moment. Hugh suggested that each department should have a vehicle, that we table the idea of obtaining a new police cruiser, but that we otherwise could consider a transfer of a vehicle to Fire Dept. Another question is how we envision the roles. The Police Chief has a vehicle and more or less always had one. Fire Chief is a different situation. Claire interjected to say that Finance Committee is likely to support going to town meeting to support an article to support something but she felt it likely that it would be for retrofitting an existing vehicle and not the obtaining of a new one. She further noted that the idea of the Police Chief having one of the cruisers to take home was something that was put in place when the Chiefs lived in town, but wasn’t really truly considered in light of a Chief that lives out of town. Hugh submitted that this means we really need to address these considerations moving forward and what we think each Chief should have as part of the role. Randy noted this conversation has been postponed for a while, but he was concerned about making a decision at this stage without having all the pieces. He suggested further information gathering with the hope of having that for the next meeting. Police, for example, may have an opinion. Particularly in light of potentially transferring a vehicle away from them. This is also in light of a lot of things, not just police changes but also the pending retirement in the next 2-3 years of Joe Cuneo as Fire Chief. Wayne asked Claire about a test for replacing vehicles. Claire responded that longevity has changed in vehicle in recent years and they last longer. Nothing has been pinned down, but a few common sense parameters like repair bills are considered.

Wayne felt it potentially more affordable in light of everything to buy a new vehicle for the Fire Chief and then keeping it for the 7-9 year window. He felt that we need to address this. It may be worth simply putting it to town meeting as to whether the public supports a new vehicle or not. Randy noted we have roughly 3 different models for this and the question is how to proceed in light of this and the varied opinions as to which model is best. Randy then briefly recapped the police discussions to date and how that might impact the choice. Claire noted that two of the three towns that police discussion was had with favored New Salem having its own equipment. Both with the mind of New Salem having at least one functional cruiser. But again, this hasn’t been discussed by Finance Committee. So she was speaking in her personal capacity. Randy asked if it would be possible to obtain a quorum from Finance Committee. It was hoped to have one at this meeting, but that didn’t happen. So he asked what can be done to keep a timeline of seeking a STM in October. Claire suggested that Finance Committee can meet within the next two weeks and she could return with a formal opinion at the next Selectboard meeting. So the Selectboard can continue planning the STM with the knowledge there will be an article. The only matter being the amount or sum on it and which model is to be picked. Wayne reminded that the decision really is the town meetings. Randy conceded that and explained the 3 models again as being 1) to buy a new police vehicle and to use one of the two current ones, 2) buy a new fire vehicle for the Fire Chief, or 3) make no new purchases and shift vehicles between departments. Claire then responded to Wayne by reminding that having both boards on the same page on this is good governance and prevents acrimony at town meeting where the two bodies could end up expressing any disagreement publicly. Randy submitted that in that light one idea is presented rather than several. Unity makes sense. Wayne then noted that we need to clarify the insurance question that’s been posed as it’ll likely come up at town meeting. Kathy agreed to contact the towns insurer. Joe agreed to obtain an estimate for a retrofit. Wayne put forward that if the cost is $10,000 it doesn’t seem to be worth it in his mind to do that. Hugh suggested that a quote of some sort in writing to pin that number down would be best. Claire suggested that if Wendell is to be involved we also need something from them with assurances. She was willing to talk to their Finance Committee chair to start the discussion. Still, the insurance question and liability question is complex. We need an MOU with them otherwise there is a question there. It was agreed to do more research and to pursue further meetings on this topic.

  • Special Town Meeting Articles/Date

Claire asked what the time frame would be for the proposed STM. Randy responded the original idea was to try for end of September, but at this stage of things it doesn’t appear feasible given where we are. Randy asked if there are any other items from Finance Committee for an STM. Claire responded she wasn’t aware of any. Randy then turned to discussions he’s had with the state representative and state senator as to ARPA. It remains unclear, but a possible item might be spending some money for a new website design.

RFP for Sale of 1794 Meetinghouse

Randy reported we have an RFP now that’s still being worked on. Brad noted that he’s reviewed the document that’s been drafted so far. There is a sentence in it that he doesn’t understand which he elaborated on. It has to do with Zoning By-Laws and he thought the way it was worded wasn’t entirely correctly. There was another part as to the proposed use and suggested that there should be some additional language as to that. Otherwise he was very happy with the draft. Randy noted that sometimes the legal wording doesn’t always make sense to those who are laypersons to the law. The phrasing is often dictated by legal considerations. If a person purchases a building and suddenly there is an issue with compliance, it is the purchaser’s responsibility to ensure they aren’t in violation. This is in part because what is okay for a municipal building may not be the same for a privately owned one. Brad responded that the language he’s talking about as to zoning compliance isn’t in the Wendell agreement. Randy expressed favor as to looking at the draft closely, but stressed the purposes for this document for the town. It was agreed to research the point further. Kathy interjected to remind that any number of entities could put in proposals and respond to the RFP. But when you have an existing building there is certainly grandfathering, but if you do something different to the building construction wise or use wise, it can fall under the zoning provisions. So the intent of that provision is to put people on notice when considering submitting an RFP response. The use of the building is arguably already non-conforming. Brad suggested that a buyer like the 1794 Meetinghouse nonprofit would not want to acknowledge that there’s a non-conforming use. It was agreed to consider the language further and return to discussion.

Update from Police Future Planning Committee

Hugh reported on the status of the committee. They haven’t scheduled any meetings at this stage of things. Hugh asked to be provided with contact information for the committee members. The committee is made of Cam Dunbar, Brian Speer, Claire McGinnis, and Hugh. Randy noted it is a high priority that this committee begin work. The hope was to have a defined timeline. Claire noted she finds the timeline a little ambitious. She tried attending Shutesbury’s meeting, but they had to reschedule to August 26. Joe suggested he should be involved and added to the committee in his capacity as Emergency Management Director. The Selectboard had no issue with that request. It was agreed to pursue that appointment at the Selectboard’s next meeting.

Open House Scheduled at 37 South Main Street

Randy reported that there is an open house scheduled for 37 South Main Street. It was announced through the New Salem News among other venues. He noted that there is no permit for usage at this stage. If the event is held, it will be in violation of the current permits. The Building Inspector has spoken with an attorney for the Barletta’s letting them know this and advising them to wait. Laura acknowledged the towns position.

Review of Annual Procedures, Maintenance, & Contracts

Hugh reported on this topic. He’s had some questions as to policies and procedures. As a new member of the Selectboard he gets calls from concerned citizens and hasn’t known what steps to take in response. He suggested there be some kind of master document with contact information. Randy responded that there are different types of things and asked whether this is specifically about maintenance or other topics. Hugh responded that maintenance is part of it, but also other things such as decision makers for a variety of topics. For example, he knows if he needs to talk to someone about road maintenance that he can contact the Highway Chief. Similar for Fire and Police, but for other things like the Stowell Building, who is responsible? Wayne responded that he often ends up doing things for the town. Turning water on and off at some buildings and the like. We did previously hire a person for $1,500 a year to pick up small jobs and maintenance contacts. That was run by the Town Coordinators office. That person would be the primary contact for small jobs. Beyond that we likely need to sit down. He announced his intention not to run for re-election, which will likely also include his retirement from some of these tasks. If we do decide that our general handyman needs to do more, we need to consider more of a budget for that. We really have no maintenance crew aside from the Highway Dept., but they have a long list of things they need to do. Hugh agreed to work on a master document with Kathy. He expressed appreciation for Wayne’s work over the years. Kathy noted she has some lists of tasks that need to be done from Nancy Aldrich that could be helpful for a master document. Randy reminded an All Board Meeting is coming up and that could be a forum for asking some of these questions and deciding who the contact people are. Generally speaking, the Town Coordinator often has to make these decisions with big ticket items coming before the Selectboard when that’s an option. Obviously flooding type situations or septic failures might require more immediate decision making. Hugh felt the All Board Meeting a suitable time to discuss this further.

Marijuana Host Agreement Application Policy (Revised)

Randy briefly went over the draft document. The idea is that if we have new businesses coming into town, this has no impact on the existing HCA signed, there would be a policy to follow. Including the provision of funds to be held in escrow for legal costs if they are needed. Wendell has done this as well as Orange. Gabe Voelker recommends this including the escrow amount being $5,000. Wayne had a few questions suggesting some of it might need town meeting approval. Randy submitted this policy can be adopted by the Selectboard and then shared with the Planning Board. We can’t make general town wide policies absent a town by-law. Wayne used the example of the Barletta property and the legal fees that have been incurred compared to other special permit situations. Randy suggested this could wait until the Annual Town Meeting if there are any by-law changes required. Still a policy as to the Selectboard’s process for HCA’s should be decided upon. But there is no rush to adopt this draft at this stage. Hugh asked if there should be a legal review. Randy noted that Orange and Wendell have these policies. Kathy reminded that this policy is modeled off several towns so we aren’t inventing anything new. Randy clarified that this is the approval of a Marijuana Host Agreement Policy. It would govern the HCA process for the Selectboard which is the entity under the relevant MGL for HCA’s.

A motion to approve the policy as drafted and presented was made by Hugh. The motion was seconded by Wayne and the motion passed unanimously.

Date of First September Selectboard Meeting (Conflict with Labor Day)

Randy reminded that at the last meeting it was noted that the ordinary day for the meeting falls on a national holiday and therefore should be rescheduled. The normal practice would be to shift it by a day from the affected Monday to a Tuesday, but the issue with that this year is the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Further with the need to meet with Finance Committee where they have a quorum. So we should reschedule this meeting for a day that works for both purposes. Hugh suggested September 13 or simply waiting until September 20. Regardless he emphasized that he is flexible. Wayne suggested September 8. Randy had a few questions regarding the timing for the proposed Special Town Meeting which Kathy and Jake both answered. Generally, you need 14 days to call a STM. If the Selectboard wishes to hold a town meeting in mid-October it could call it as late as the scheduled meeting for September 20.

One Day Liquor License

Kathy briefly outlined the license. She adapted the format used by her predecessor and it is ready along with the warrants for signing. This is for the 1794 Meetinghouse and New Salem Cider for September 11. As it is being held at the 1794 Meetinghouse they’re the ones obtaining the licenses.

A motion to approve the one-day liquor license for Saturday September 11, 2021 for the 1794 Meetinghouse by Hugh. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed without objection.

Soil Sampling

Randy reported on an unexpected item. Some soil from town has been sampled and is being tested. This includes sampling from various spots including the Town Common. This is being done through a UMASS program. This was initiated by Lisa Finestone of the Tree Committee. One spot had some phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. Further analysis will be had and recommendations made to the town.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes for August 9, 2021. The Selectboard saw no changes that needed to be made and adopted the minutes as written.

Hugh made a motion to accept the minutes of August 9, 2021 as submitted. Wayne seconded and the motion passed without objection.

A motion to adjourn at 8:55 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Hugh and passed without objection.

Respectfully Submitted

Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk