Town of New Salem Selectboard
August 24, 2020
Held Virtually via Zoom
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; David Cramer, Planning Board; Nancy Slator, New Salem News; Claire McGinnis, Finance Committee; Jen Potee, Karen Briand, Board of Health; Gail Spring, Animal Control Officer; Carla Halpern, School Committee; Lisa Finestone, Tree Committee; Tamara Conde, Recreation Commission; Sarah Kohler, David Cramer, Planning Board; Jackson Goddard; Bradford Randall, Ancient Growth; Ken Bright; Peter & Sandy Fisher; Frances Arnold; Jared, National Grid; David Skillicorn; Steven Schoenberg; Amy Fagin; Kay Leonard
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
- Payroll & Vendor Warrants
- Special Town Meeting Warrant
Proposed Host Community Agreement
Bradford began by recapping the process that has brought all the parties to this point and where Ancient Growth hopes to go from here. The company was founded in late 2019 and quickly signed agreements with a host site. In the late winter they meet with the Selectboard and the Planning Board. They also hosted community outreach meetings. Topics included the impact on the community and steps to ensure no product diversion to youth as well as security. Unfortunately, the emergence of COVID-19 put a stop to further action in March. Over the past few months’ communications have continued to be all parties and a draft Host Community Agreement was submitted and review was done on the towns part by Town Counsel. Bradford thanked all parties for putting in the time to conduct this engagement and reasserted Ancient Growths commitment to the community. He then asked the Selectboard to authorize Town Counsel to communicate with Ancient Growths legal counsel to finish up the Host Community Agreement. Randy then asked if the Selectboard is the ultimate deciding body on this matter. Nancy responded that the Selectboard is indeed the authority under MGL. Randy then asked Bradford about the community feedback. Bradford conceded it is a mixed bag and a decisive subject. Some residents are concerned while others are supportive. The best they can do is take the concerns under advisement and to do the best to put forward a plan that address them. He further noted that after the Host Community Agreement is signed this matter would go to the Planning Board which could impose requirements.
Many of the concerns could be readily addressed in the Planning Board process. Randy asked for clarification as to the request relating to Town Counsel. Bradford responded by outlining the legal process on his end and why it makes sense for both Ancient Growth and for New Salem’s legal counsels to communicate directly. The hope is that both attorneys will be able to hash out the final details so that this agreement can be put to a vote. Randy asked if the document is largely done. Bradford responded that it is. He noted a few different things that need to be hashed out as a matter of basic legal terminology in the agreement. This is important in part because the CCC has been rejecting some of these agreements. So the desire is to see both counsels in agreement. Randy asked a question as to the 3 percent impact fee. Bradford responded by explaining the process and how it works, this including what the town can spend the funding on. The fees can cover things like attorney’s fees, police training, and the like. There is also a 3 percent tax the town can adopt above the impact fee, but that has to be adopted at a town meeting. Randy responded that this will be an article on the upcoming Special Town Meeting. Wayne noted that Bradford is correct that this will go to Planning Board and they will have to hold a public hearing. To that end he advised that such a hearing should be planned for soon given the weather.
A motion was made by Wayne to permit Town Counsel to communicate with Ancient Growths counsel and related consultants to discuss the draft Host Community Agreement. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed without objection.
Pole Hearing/South Main Street
Jared reported that he’s meet with various property owners on South Main Street. He asked given this being the town center how sensitive the town is to the placement of poles. Jean responded there is nothing that prevents the poles placement. The town does have a historic district, but it is honorary and it is not a local historic district. Wayne asked if this pole is needed for Barletta. Jared responded the primary driver is to serve Barletta, but it will also serve to help decongest a pole nearby. He suggested that the pole could be placed on the Barletta property if the town is amenable to it and there are no zoning concerns. Wayne was in favor of it since it is being driven by them even if it has other benefits to National Grid. Randy noted a few design concerns and upgrade questions that may need to be considered. Jared responded to this by explaining National Grids thinking. Wayne asked about the pole that is congested. Jared elaborated on the need to move some of things off the pole and how the pole would facilitate some things going underground. If the pole can go on private property it becomes an easement with the private party. Randy asked if the town would still be included. Jared responded that if the pole could be placed on private property it would ease the need for the petition before the town. Wayne felt that private placement would be better. Jean concurred noting that she would like to see more go underground as it would enhance the town center. Randy inquired further about the location of the pole on private property. He was concerned about there being enough room given the changes made by Barletta. It was his suggestion that before a location is committed to that National Grid keep the abutters in mind. Jared responded that this could potentially be entirely put underground, but it would require construction in the public way and would be the more expensive option. So the pole would be abandoned and the lines put underground. Jean asked if National Grid would pay for the construction and reconstruction of the public road. Jared confirmed that it would be. Peter interjected to say that the one detail he would have as to the pole is that a leeching field is in that general area. Assuming that pole can avoid that, that wouldn’t be an issue. That said they would be open as abutters to the entirely underground proposal. Jared agreed to re-petition the matter.
Recreation Committee’s Halloween Plans
Randy expressed misgivings on Halloween occurring this year. With this pandemic ongoing children going door to door right now seems imprudent. Karen suggested Board of Health could consider this matter and advise on it. Wayne concurred noting there is still time to make this decision. It was agreed to table the matter.
Veterans’ Cemetery Plot/North New Salem Cemetery
Wayne provided a brief updated on the project which remains ongoing.
Village Ultra Race
Carla reported that there has been a change in the plans for restroom facilities. Board of Health has approved the Village Ultra for use of the Town Hall’s restroom facilities over bringing in temporary porta-potty’s. The event would still be the first Saturday-Sunday in September. The organizers would absolutely follow all requirements put forward by the Board of Health. Jean expressed support for this change. Wayne asked about hand sanitizer. Carla responded they will have soap and hand sanitizer and she personally committed to ensuring the bathrooms are cleaned between each use or whatever else Board of Health requires. The Selectboard agreed to the change.
Response to Advertisement/Lawn Mowing/Mowing Fields
Nancy reported that an ad was put in the paper looking for replacements for the Lyman’s. There was only one response. The response was from two residents in town who proposed that they would both handle the mowing. One of them has experience with mowers and keeping them maintained. Wayne was in favor of hiring both persons and asked if they were both willing to accept the hourly rate. Nancy responded that they both were perfectly fine with the hourly rate. Jean asked what the rate is. Nancy recalled it was about $16 an hour. Jean asked if this is involving a contract or something in writing. Nancy responded this isn’t a contract, this would be the hiring of two as at will employees. Wayne then asked if they would be using town equipment. Nancy responded that they would mostly use town equipment. Jean asked about insurance and liability coverage. Nancy responded that they would fall under the towns insurance including Workman’s Comp. Randy asked if they had any ideas for the athletic fields. Nancy outlined some ideas and proposed that they may be able to assist. Discussion then shifted to the area behind the towns community garden and whether that would be mowed or not. Wayne felt that could be discussed further in the future. Nancy proposed that both candidates are likely willing to help in any way they can, they just need perimeters. Still that doesn’t have to be entirely hashed out now. The town can hire both now and work that out subsequent. Randy asked if these persons would be mowing the cemeteries as well. Nancy responded they would not as the Cemetery Commission has decided to go with a company that is familiar with mowing cemetery grounds. She then outlined some areas to start such as the Town Common and other pieces of land in the town center. It was agreed to hire both and get started.
A motion was made by Wayne to hire both candidates. Jean seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
Q&A / Proposed Dog By-Law
As there were no questions concerning this matter further discussion regarding the proposed Dog By-Law occurred as part of the review and signing of the Special Town Meeting Warrant.
Special Town Meeting – Review & Sign Warrant
Nancy went over the 9 articles. Article 1 would propose a wage increase for elected officials, Article 2 would amend some appropriations for Mahar and the Library Article, Article 3 would raise and appropriate funds for a COLA for non-elected employees, Article 4 would adopt the 3 percent tax on marijuana. Articles 5, 6, and 7 would cover unpaid prior fiscal year bills. Article 9 would be the Dog By-Law.
A motion was made by Wayne to approve the Special Town Meeting Warrant. Jean seconded the motion and it passed without objection.
Question Regarding Authorization for Consultation with Town Counsel
Randy asked David Cramer about the Planning Board’s agenda noting that there will be a lot of things on the plate. David Cramer responded by outlining the last Planning Board meeting and noted that the next meeting will be in early September. Randy proposed that Town Counsel be consulted in a conference call with two members of the Planning Board and himself for the Selectboard. David Cramer opposed that idea asserting that Planning Board is working on this matter and may decide the need for Town Counsel on its own. David Skillicorn expressed concern at the response from Planning Board. He emphasized that this is a very complicated matter. David Skillicorn expressed concern over an appearance that Planning Board is taking Barletta’s attorney at face value. David Cramer objected to this characterization. He noted that Planning Board has not decided that it is unwilling to consult Town Counsel. Discussion is ongoing for Planning Board. There is only so much in the budget to spend on counsel and these are taxpayer funds. Still the Planning Board has not finished its deliberations on the matter. Randy reminded those present to keep comments precise and avoid personal comments. Steven noted that usually in other towns when a party brings their counsel into a matter, the towns usually bring in Town Counsel. Peter and Sandy then expressed their position of being in favor in including Town Counsel in such meetings. Peter felt that there was the appearance of undue influence. David Cramer responded by asking what precisely was viewed as undue influence. Sandy and Peter both explained their basis for this assertion. David Cramer noted that the details discussed were really minor and while it is acknowledged that Barletta’s counsel says what he wants and makes suggestions they realize they are free to not follow what he says and are familiar with this process having considered special permit requests before. Wayne again renewed his belief that the town could make the applicants pay for legal counsel for this. David Cramer felt that the town does not have the legal basis for that at this stage. He reminded that Planning Board is an elected body and is independent of the Selectboard. They will do their best to come to a reasonable decision and any aggrieved parties are welcome to appeal that decision.
Amy asked whether Planning Board may decline to have Town Counsel present or in an advisory capacity. Kay spoke briefly to note her own impressions. To her this is to the benefit to the Planning Board. Steven asked about the opposition. David Cramer responded that deliberations are not concluded and Planning Board has not decided as of yet what they would even ask Town Counsel. He noted this isn’t like a law suit or a court setting. The applicant is not the public and they are allowed to interact with the Planning Board. Randy asked how many deliberations would be had on this. David Cramer responded that the law sets a 90-day limit. The Planning Board would likely not need the entire time. Randy apologized for any impression that Planning Board is being judged on this. It is recognized that Planning Board is doing its job on this subject. Sarah then reminded all present that the ordinary way this works is that Planning Board would ask for this when it needs to. Planning Board did ask, the Selectboard has approved that and so Planning Board may ask questions when it is ready to do so. Planning Board has not yet finished its deliberations. People need to have faith in the process and have faith in the elected officials that sit on the Planning Board. Should Planning Board have questions for Town Counsel they will be asked. The Planning Board appreciates that Town Counsel is there for them. Having that authorization allows them to know that once they have formulated questions they can go and consult counsel. The Planning Board should not be badgered in this. The public hearing has occurred, the input has been received, and now the Planning Board must have deliberations and move forward from there. Jean interjected to express appreciation for all parties coming forward and expressing their concerns. Still Planning Board is doing exactly what they need to do, and she expressed faith in them. Peter expressed concern about a lack of further input or further hearings.
Sarah responded that it was the request of the Board of Health that the hearing be conducted in the manner that it was. Normally Planning Board’s don’t take written input after the close of the hearing. Still time was allowed at the very end to seek responses from the public as to whether the hearing should be continued. There being no person in attendance who had anything further to say beyond what the Board of Health was allowing. Again, she extended the time for public comment by writing to midnight that night. That was highly unusual for any Planning Board. This she felt was more than fair. David Cramer concurred noting that written comment has been provided by all parties in this meeting and all of this is still under consideration in the deliberations of the Planning Board. David Cramer noted that this truly was above and beyond and any further acceptance of input would be problematic as a matter of due process. Randy asked about the correction of inaccuracies. David Cramer reminded that what is said at a public hearing is not necessarily accurate or truthful. Planning Board takes everything with a grain of salt that is expressed in hearings and does its own research. As to any minutes, they represent what was said not what was correct. Sandy asked about a submission by 62 persons asking for no commercial events. David Cramer confirmed that Planning Board has this submission. Sarah noted that the Planning Board is reviewing all submissions and statements as part of its ongoing deliberations. David Skillicorn interjected to apologize for comments about appearances of the Planning Board, but noted he still strongly supports Randy’s proposal. Sarah responded that Planning Board cannot just walk up to Town Counsel and dump the whole thing out and expect it to make sense. There’s been one deliberation and once Planning Board has formulated its questions it can consult Town Counsel. Discussion concluded with the Selectboard thanking the Planning Board for its work.
Traffic Count on Neilson Road
Nancy noted that the FRCOG does these for free and doing so may be helpful in looking at other processes for the town. Wayne agreed and asked if Blackinton Road could also get a traffic study. He’s been told traffic down there is heavy but hasn’t personally seen that himself. He figured this would be a good way to settle that. Nancy agreed to ask FRCOG about both.
Board of Health Request to Consult Town Counsel
Jen started off by going over the mask covering order that Board of Health has drafted. The Board of Health requests that it be reviewed by Town Counsel. The sooner this can happen the better. Board of Health would not adopt it otherwise. Karen briefly outlined the thinking of the Board of Health on this matter and felt it important to adopt. Randy felt this acceptable as Town Counsel can tell the town if it is legal or not for the town to do. Jean put forward reasoning against this being put before Town Counsel. She encouraged that this be redrafted with certain considerations. At this stage sending it to Town Counsel, in her opinion, would be a burden on counsel. Jen responded that the Board of Health spent a lot of time reviewing other mask and facial covering orders, the town is allowed to make its own order. Further towns are permitted to adopt a stricter order than the Commonwealths on a local basis. Karen agreed that while it is wise to hear as many views on this as possible, she still felt the order that was drafted is proper.
A motion was made by Randy to authorize the use of Town Counsel by the Board of Health to consult on the Board of Health’s proposed mask and facial covering health order. Wayne seconded the motion and it passed by majority vote.
Plans to Reopen Library
Nancy reported on the plan that the Library Trustees have put together. They are looking to reopen on a partial basis on September 1. Randy felt it advisable to make certain that this goes to the Board of Health. There is a current safety issue and Board of Health should be consulted. The Selectboard then went over the plan. There would be limit numbers of patrons allowed access on a part time basis. Curbside pickup would continue and patrons would be asked to schedule appointments. Patrons would be able to browse and use computers for up to half an hour. Jen then reported that the Director will be joining an upcoming Board of Health meeting scheduled for prior to the start of September. Board of Health will review and proposed any needed changes. Randy then asked Nancy about the opening of other town buildings. Nancy touched on some of the particulars noting the town can allow this one building to open. Whether or not other town buildings need to be reopened is a question that can be answered separately. She submitted that perhaps Board of Health could consider that in their upcoming meeting as a matter of how and when. The decision remains with the Selectboard, but any input from Board of Health would be helpful. Randy proposed approval of plans contingent on Board of Health concurrence. Nancy didn’t see an impediment, but noted that there aren’t any other plans for other buildings at this stage. She then outlined a few challenges for the Stowell Building in particular as well as some for the Annex. Randy felt the timeline for the Library’s plan was too short. Nancy expressed confidence that for this specific plan the Selectboard could approve it contingent on the Board of Health’s concurrence. Jean felt confident that the Library and the Board of Health could come to an agreement for reopening. There was some discussion of the threshold requirements that may be placed on patrons. It was agreed that the town cannot impose more than what the Governor’s orders permit. Karen noted that gloves offer false reassurance as people feel safer than they should. She felt it important that people be encouraged to wash their hands. Jen generally agreed and reassured all parties that Board of Health will be discussing this directly with the Library Director at its next meeting. Jean asked for some changes to the proposed motion for the reopening of the Library. Randy having made by the motion rejected the proposed changes and renewed his motion.
A motion was made by Randy to approve the Library’s reopening plan contingent upon meeting the standards for safety set out by the Board of Health prior to reopening. Wayne seconded the motion and it passed by majority vote.
The Selectboard considered the minutes for July 27 which were tabled at the last meeting. It was agreed to approve them and to table the minutes from August 10. Randy asked if prior approved minutes can be reopened in order to allow for corrections. None present were familiar with the legal process to do so. It was agreed to research the matter further.
Jean made a motion to approve the minutes for July 27. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed without objection.
A motion to adjourn at 8:55 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk