Town of NewSalem Selectboard
August 26, 2019
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Phil Delorey, Building Inspector; Brad Foster, 1794 Meetinghouse; Kathy Soule-Regine, MLP Board; Eric Harris; Vincent Barletta, Mike Lovezzola, Barletta Engineering; Ben Lamora, Architect
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Ø Letter to MassDOT Regarding Tree Cutting on Rt. 202
Ø Special Town Meeting Warrant
37 South Main Street
Ben started off by introducing himself. He is the architect and general manager for the project. He reported that discussions with the Planning Board have been very fruitful and briefly described the project. What they are proposing is that the white house at 37 South Main Street be converted into the New Salem Museum & Academy of Fine Art. It would have a residence for an artist and their spouse as directors for the space. The remaining parts of the building would be for museum and gallery space. They provided copies of some initial plans. Vincent introduced himself as the owner of the property. Most of the art will be paintings in the contemporary realist style. A lot of media will be included. One of the main ways being the use of social media to document the creation process. There will also be some sculpture. Wayne inquired whether this would be open to the public. Vincent responded that it will be. The artists name is Michael Klein. As the gallery space curates, it will grow and the hours will be set for the space. They also hope to have a school space as well. Wayne asked how the building would change. Ben responded that some code concerns would need to be addressed the biggest being an elevator, the second being a fire suppression system. Another step of consequence is how to accommodate parking. So they would install a very simple parking lot which would be worked into the landscaping and existing topography. It would be primarily gravel with a boarder. Lighting would be low key. Jean noted that light pollution has historically been a concern for the community. Ben then discussed some of the accessibility such as the installation of a ramp, and a proper pathway to the parking. The scale and character of the building is a big feature to all involved, so the only changes will be to add function and accessibility. Wayne inquired about the elevator plan. Ben elaborated on how that would be installed and the various options under consideration. Randy inquired as to longevity. Vincent responded by outlining the uses that are permanent. The museum itself would stay, as the financial commitment to creating it is not insignificant. Other uses can be found over time, and further curation may occur including temporary exhibits. The school itself may be of help in keeping artists in residence. He noted that it may even be possible to establish connections to other art schools where artists may come and stay for a period. Jean inquired whether this museum and gallery will stay specifically focused on the contemporary realist style. Vincent responded that it could change over time. He noted that he’s known this artist for the past 20 years and he is well established in his craft. Vincent finished by stating he will have a website for the project up soon and will have space for public interaction and commentary.
Building Inspector’s Pay
Phil reprised the information he provided at the last meeting. He’s done a 10-year review of the permit history since he started and he’s has had the same exact salary for that 10 years. With inflation he is actually making less and is now doing about twice the number of permits. Just this year alone he has 3 new houses, a number of renovations and additions. So he’d 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 of the fees less $10 to the town. He noted that he does other things besides just permits, that includes hearings and similar. So again, $3,600 annual base, with all fees paid going to him minus a $10 fee to the town. The thing that offsets it for him is the fact that it adjusts depending on how busy he is. Nancy then updated the Selectboard since the last meeting. Town Counsel has determined that the necessary revolving fund for this proposed change would have to be done at the next Annual Town Meeting. From there Nancy reported on her discussions with the Town Treasurer. The Treasurer’s concerns revolved around how to conduct the transition and with ensuring the pay is done properly until a revolving fund can be setup. Phil then had a few questions about the process which Nancy responded to. Jean asked a few questions relating to the volume of work. Phil elaborated on the amount of work he does on average and again highlighted how his proposal would adjust the wages based upon the work. Nancy concurred that it would work out more equitable. Randy inquired about how much would likely be collected. Phil stated that it really would depend on the work done as each permit can be different based upon the type of work, the size and scope, and so forth. A new house, for example, requires him to go to the site multiple times. This contrasting to say a woodstove permit. Obviously a new house would be a higher permit fee than a woodstove. Jean noted the current salary is $6,200 with no fees kept by Phil. She inquired whether the fees reflect the labor. Phil responded that it does, at least since the last change in the structure. Wayne recalled that this structure is not all that different than how the other inspectors are paid. Randy sought clarification as to work that is started prior to the change. Nancy elaborated on how that would be handled noting that this won’t really cost the town since the fees will be paid by the applicants. There will be some need for adjustment this fiscal year for the change, but that can be dealt with at town meeting. Jean requested some details about what has been received and what work is in process prior to making this change. Nancy suggested scheduling the Town Treasurer along with Phil to work out those details.
Fee Schedule for Building Permits
Phil reprised his report on an issue with the existing fee schedule which he brought up at the Selectboard’s last meeting. 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. Typically, the fee is calculated by a valuation assigned per square foot. So it is a formula. 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. Randy had a question about the reasoning as to why this distinction exists. Phil explained that this was to allow lower fees for things like rebuild decks. New construction is new construction. So an entirely new deck would not fall under that distinction. It was determined to table this change until the next meeting.
Pole Hearing – William Rice Road
Nancy reported that this will include 3 new poles to be installed on the public portion of William Rice Road and this hearing was asked for by the MLP Board. Kathy noted that the hearing is only for the public portion of the road. The poles going on the private portion don’t need a hearing. These poles are to be installed to allow the installation of broadband.
Jean made a motion to approve the poles and their siting as presented. Randy seconded and the motion passed without objection.
1794 Meetinghouse License/Lease
Nancy started by outlining what Town Counsel has provided the town. Counsel has drawn up a one-year license to allow the town time to negotiate a proper multiyear lease that can be approved. A multiyear lease will likely have to go through the formal Request for Proposals process as outlined in MGL Chapter 30B. Nancy explained how that would work noting the experience of Wendell with its Meetinghouse. The RFP process will likely take 2-3 months from start to finish. Brad noted that it may be best to simply forego the license matter as the season is almost over and they aren’t going anywhere. Randy reminded that the town has no other interested parties and the intent is not to kick the 1794 Meetinghouse out of the property. It was determined to simply proceed with the RFP process. Because this will be a multiyear lease, it’ll ultimately need to be approved at a town meeting. Brad reminded that there are two purposes. First being that they are there and it would be nice to be legally there. The second is that 1794 Meetinghouse is planning on proceeding with renovations, and before that is done they should have a lease. To that end Jean had a few questions about the funding sources for the renovations, primarily grant sources. Brad responded that he’s sought help from the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Each entity has grant programs focused on different things. There would also be other efforts at fundraising. Discussion concluded with Nancy promising to send materials for the RFP.
Branch Bridge & Blackinton Roads
Eric started off by asking why the paving for Blackinton Rd was put on the end that it was, that being the end connecting with Rt. 122. He noted that he and other residents asked for paving, but it was done on the end of the road that needed it the least. The area that needed it most was closer to Branch Bridge. It was understood that if any paving was done at all it would be done on other sections of the road. Maintenance has clearly been stepped up for the road on the dirt part. The hope was that paving would be added over time starting with the worst sections. Wayne elaborated very briefly on what he understood to be the thinking of Highway as to what they paved and why. Eric provided photos of Branch Bridge and Blackinton showing the conditions of the road. It’s not just the road, people abandon trash, electronics, and animals. Branch Bridge is open seasonally, and in his opinion, barely maintained. It was noted that any time there is significant rain, Branch Bridge gets nearly entirely washed out. Nancy interjected to stated that there are changes in personnel at the Highway Department. Randy agreed and noted that there appear to be two different issues. One being the issue of dumping in the area and the other being the paving. The most immediate addressable issue being dealing with the paving question. Randy stressed that the town will be hiring a new Highway Chief and should these two roads continue to be in the most need they will remain a top priority. The town uses Chapter 90 funding for things like paving. The town cannot undue the location of what was paved. But the town can attempt to improve the situation. Wayne interjected to note that the secondary issue is a Police one and they have made efforts toward that end. Eric suggested closing Branch Bridge and suggested placing the gate on the causeway itself as this would prevent people from getting around it. This would help prevent people from being able to do the same dumping and preserve access for recreation. Nancy noted that this would require closing or discontinuing the road. Eric offered to pay for the gate. The area is beautiful, but it needs to be protected. People could still access from the New Salem side. Nancy recommended discussion with Town Counsel and the Fire Chief. It was agreed to seek consultation on a gate and to look into further paving. Clearly this area should remain a high priority for the Highway Department.
Set Date & Review the Signing of the Special Town Meeting Warrant
Nancy reported that the dog by-law changes won’t make it for this and Broadband needs the meeting to go forward. There will need to be a debt exclusion vote, so a Special Town Election will follow the Special Town Meeting. It is likely more prudent to hold a separate Special Town Meeting later in the year or early next calendar year for dog related by-law changes. It was determined by the Selectboard to proceed with signing the warrant for the Special Town Meeting set for September 16th, 2019.
Highway Training Update
Nancy provided an update on training. Current personnel are signed up for a chainsaw safety program. In the meantime, Nancy reported she has inventoried all hazardous items there and filled out the appropriate paperwork. A part of this is about compiling the appropriate safety data sheets. Otherwise she hopes to schedule a quarterly safety committee meeting in October.
Retirement of Highway Superintendent – Next Steps to Find Replacement
The Highway Chief will be retiring on September 6th, 2019. Originally it was hoped that a particular employee would be interested in being promoted. That individual was not interested. That said another employee has expressed interest. So the question is whether to pursue an internal promotion and seek a new laborer, or whether to pursue hiring a new Chief. It has been suggested to seek a contract or some kind of probationary period. This prompted some questions regarding status as appointed or non-appointed. Nancy felt that the employee who is interested would do fine, this person will need support, but so did the last Chief. Wayne noted that at the moment things are running fine. The outgoing Highway Chief has been out on vacation and the two laborers have been okay. They’ve reported to him that the equipment is in good shape except for the mower which has needed some repairs. Wayne expressed support for the internal promotion. Jean expressed the feeling that whoever gets the job needs to be people oriented. Nancy noted that both laborers were hired in part for each one of them being friendly and willing to talk with the public. Randy stressed the need for yearly plans. Essentially, what we expect to see done in any given year. Obviously things will come up, but there should be a plan. Any new Chief should be prepared to put that forward. Nancy agreed feeling that is an important part of the job. An internal promotion can be done and the town would then need to advertise for the newly vacant position. Randy had a question about salary. Nancy responded it would clearly be more than what the employee is making now but not as much as the outgoing Chief. As for Tree Warden, that can be settled later after consultation with the Tree Committee.
Wayne made a motion to extend an offer of promotion to Jacob Cooley to be Highway Chief. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote with Jean abstaining.
Letter to MassDOT Regarding Tree Cutting Along Rt. 202
Nancy provided the Selectboard with a letter regarding the need for tree cutting on Rt. 202. This letter is the result of prior discussion regarding the need for tree cutting in town. Given this particular roads status with the Commonwealth the tree cutting for it falls within MassDOT’s jurisdiction.
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 without objection.
The Selectboard considered the minutes tabled from July 29, 2019 and the minutes from August 12, 2019. It was determined that the minutes should be approved pending modification.
A motion to adjourn at 9:00 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed by majority vote.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk