Town of NewSalem Selectboard
January 27, 2020
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Gail Spring, Animal Control Officer; Bruce MacDougall, Police Succession Planning; Carla Halpern; Ken Bright;
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Ø Presidential Primary Election Warrant
Police Succession Planning
Bruce briefly introduced himself. He represents Municipal Resources Inc. (MRI). He was hired in December as part of the joint efforts between Wendell and New Salem. His main job is to identify options for succession planning. He has meet with both Police Chiefs as well as multiple officials and now both Selectboard’s. He is in the process of writing narratives on the various options available to the two towns. Some of them are granted by MGL specifically. He’ll also be looking at things that have been tried by other towns including both those that have worked and those that have failed. A survey will be put out to citizens to garner feedback relative to what they would like to see as to police services. The combination of his report in concert with the survey should help provide guidance to each of the Selectboard’s on how to proceed and plan for the future. Wayne asked about the failed examples. Bruce responded by outlining a few examples. In a lot of cases towns have explored options only to walk away once closer to the nitty gritty. Wayne noted that New Salem and Wendell share a lot of things already, including the Town Coordinator and the Fire Chief. Randy asked about the practicalities of sharing a Police Chief. Bruce responded that fire was easier to share a Chief since the departments already worked very closely. Here it could be more challenging as the Police Departments don’t work together in the same way as Fire Departments tend to. The mutual aid and support is different and the relationships are different. Bruce then outlined how towns share officials. This includes addressing things like how many hours in each town and how to handle various other services. This then takes the form of an intermunicipal agreement.
There are some drawbacks as intermunicipal agreements can become very much business deals and in some cases can result in a lessening of local control. Randy asked if the towns would have to combine departments and if so, would there be one police station located in one of the towns or would you maintain two different stations. Bruce noted that might require a different study relative to the facilities. But he’s not dwelling on that, he’s looking at organizational structure. Still, it is possible to have one police station between two towns if that’s what the towns want. Randy asked about duplication of things like record keeping. Bruce explained by contrasting how those things would be handled whether it’s two-part time jobs with the same employee or one combined department and job. He noted that the Fire Chief has a lot of duplication as he has a department in each town and they are different to various degrees. There were some questions about the differences between “strong” and “weak” Chiefs and how they differ between Fire and Police. The designation is made at town meeting. The power differences depend mostly on autonomy for the Chief’s in their departments. Randy noted that it would likely be hard to find someone for each town individually given the part time nature. New Salem really doesn’t have a large Police Department. Bruce outlined a few thoughts noting the town can always hire someone who has other employment, or a retiree since the hours are part time. Randy asked about the paperwork burden. Bruce responded that paperwork is the hardest part and few people like it. One of the biggest things for departments is putting in place standards, guidelines, and policies. These help to alleviate liability for the town in situations like misuse of force. So the standard is to have things that put in place best national practices. Wayne asked if it is an option to ask the State Police to take over. Bruce responded that it would be possible, but the barracks is located in Athol with the commander for the troop in Holden. Further the State Police would likely not be terribly pleased, and then there is the issue of response times.
Wayne asked if the town could still have local police who would be under the State Police. Bruce elaborated on how it would work and noted multiple challenges that would be posed. Ken asked about the wages for the towns. Bruce noted New Salem pays more than Wendell, and both are too low. Nancy recalled New Salem pays about $28,000 and Wendell pays about $12,000. Jean expressed the feeling that having a local police presence is meaningful and beneficial to the towns. There was a question regarding the potential for regional police with some kind of deal with Leverett. Bruce noted that that question hasn’t been studied yet, but MRI has been hired by Leverett to consider it. No matter how you look at it, if you’re going to do it you have to do it right and realistically that means costs. Jean asked about department differences. Not just in policy, but in department philosophy and how that can be harmonized. Bruce responded that you’d need to hire a Chief that mirrors what you’d want to see in both departments assuming you share a Chief. If it’s one department, it still matters. The way to address it is to put in the contract. Bruce then briefly outlined how the town would go about doing that. Jean asked about the survey and whether it would be one survey for both communities or a different survey for each town. Nancy responded that it would be one survey for both towns and would just deal with police. The questions asked would dovetail into the narrative work that Bruce is doing. Bruce noted that the survey isn’t mandated as part of this, but should be part of it for a variety of reasons. Discussion ended there.
Carla reminded those present of her event and briefly outlined past experiences. In the past, except for one year, the money has been raised for the Recreation Committee. When raising money, she needs to be able to tell donors what the money is being used for. She wants to be accurate and that is part of why she is here and asking the Selectboard for guidance. Nancy noted the Recreation Committee is down to one member and is currently working towards getting more members. Carla reminded that if the town wants to see this event happen, and it is an event that raises a small but significant sum of money, she needs to know what the money is being raised for and the like. She’s happy to organize the event but needs guidance. Nancy outlined the various issues and concerns with how money can be accepted how it would be routed. Jean noted that Recreation Committee is looking at resurfacing some of the athletic facilities so funds raised could be designated to that and go in the Recreation Revolving Fund. Wayne asked how many people participate. Carla responded that the biggest year was 100. It varies depending on what other races are happening, and the numbers can run from 40 to 60 with that 100 participant high mark as a bit of an outlier. She noted that this event is as green as possible too. She asked for specific guidance by the Selectboard’s next meeting. In the meantime, Nancy suggested asking the Town Accountant for a list of what is spent from the Recreation Revolving Fund. The most important thing is to ensure transparency. Randy asked about the police details noting that the event is a town one and is often charged detail fees which doesn’t make sense when it is a town event. When it’s a private event, it makes sense to charge the detail. It was agreed that if this is a town event that doesn’t make sense. Nancy agreed to discuss the matter with the Police Chief. Jean suggested asking Recreation Committee to come to a meeting to discuss further and noted a few candidates who may be interested in serving on the committee.
Dog By-Law – Proposed Updates
Gail started off by thanking Jean for her assistance in drafting the two proposed by-laws. Jean then explained why there are two different by-laws. That was mostly due to various factors such as kennels really belonging under zoning and another by-law being general. It was also about manageability as one by-law would be too long. There were some questions about where fees, funds, and fines would go which was addressed by Gail who elaborated on where they would go. Discussion shifted to other practicalities such as handling cruelty to animals and kennels. Gail made some suggestions and expressed thoughts on what should be changed in the draft. Nancy interjected to ask about the necessity of a public hearing. Jean felt that there should be one. Nancy then asked if Town Counsel should review this first or whether the town should just adopt and send to the Massachusetts Attorney General. Jean noted that she based her work on these by-laws by modeling them off what other comparable towns have already adopted. Gail submitted it’s better to have something very comprehensive and submit it then to strip too much out of it in the hopes of better likelihood of approval. There was a specific question about how to handle unattended dogs. One of the big things, Gail noted, is that tethering a dog to a stationary object like a pole or tree is no longer permitted by MGL. They can be in an enclosed dog run, but definitively not tethered. She suggested that no dog be left outside without proper care. Meaning left without water, food, or other similar. Gail then turned to disturbance of the peace. She wanted some clarification to the language noting various requirements of the Commonwealth such as it being impermissible for dogs to bark for more than 15 minutes without intervention. She conceded that some dogs may act as watch dog, but if a dog is barking the owner should be checking to see why it is barking not leave it barking. It makes the owner accountable for determining why the barking is happening.
Ken asked about a dog that barks at wildlife at night. Gail explained again that it puts the burden on the owner to take some kind of intervening action. Randy noted that having a policy that expects responsibility doesn’t mean the ACO will be unreasonable or won’t use common sense in administering it. Jean then turned discussion to a few areas of discretion for the ACO. Gail noted the necessity of discretion in those places. Wayne asked Gail about how she kennels dogs when they are in her custody. She elaborated on what she does and the resources she has. She has some ability to kennel at her home and otherwise has an agreement with Athol. She always does her best to return dogs to their owners and to find homes for strays. Most of the time the dogs she gets have owners and they are looking for them and want them returned. She then brought up the issue of cats. Cats are becoming a larger problem in Massachusetts. Jean reminded that what is currently proposed focuses on dogs. While Massachusetts law does make provisions for cats, currently licensing and other regulations across towns in the Commonwealth continue to focus on dogs. The by-laws can be modified to address cats if there is a need for it in the future. There was a question about appointment and whether the ACO should fall under the police. Gail noted that only three towns in the Commonwealth presently have their ACO’s outside of the Police Department. Those are New Salem, Buckland, and Dunstable. Being under the Police Department and designated as a Special Police Officer would be useful. It was agreed to get clarification as to the exact powers it would grant. Wayne agreed to speak with the Police Chief to get his thoughts and report back.
Ken asked a question about citation authority wondering if it implies authority to bring cases in court. Gail explained how the process works and noted what Athol does. At the magisterial level the ACO can present the case, and that’s where the Special Police Officer status comes in handy. There was then a question about animals under control in places like town forests and DCR land. Nancy noted that it can vary to some extent depending on the jurisdiction. Jean noted that one of the two proposed by-laws would address the running at large of dogs on public land. She then contrasted the differences between how the running at large would be handled on private land versus public. Ken asked if the proposed by-laws would affect hunting dogs and the training of said hunting dogs. Jean responded that they would not. There was then a brief discussion about reporting by the ACO to the Selectboard. Gail had no issue with the proposal of a monthly report. Randy had some questions about enforcement and process which Gail answered. She noted how Athol handles enforcement and contrasted with what is being proposed. It was agreed that the goal isn’t to get lots and lots of fine, but rather to try and have a fair system adhered by all. She noted it isn’t in her favor to issue a lot of citations. Jean then went over a few areas where other towns have included Town Administrators or Town Managers wondering how to tailor that to New Salem. Gail made a few suggestions on how to handle it. Nancy agreed noting the differences between her position as Town Coordinator. Jean then briefly went over regulations for kennels and submitted that work should be done with Planning Board. It was agreed to schedule with them. Discussion ended with the express desire of the Selectboard to send these by-laws expeditiously to a Special Town Meeting.
Request from Inspector General’s Office
Nancy noted that there was a large request last summer. Another one has been received this year. Fortunately, the town has been able to get the timeline for this extended and the town has been able to locate funding to pay for the work. This request is for 7 years of documents.
District Local Technical Assistance Project Request Form
Nancy noted that this is a bit of old business as it was discussed at the last meeting. She asked the Selectboard if they’d had a chance to review the materials any further. Jean noted a few things that popped out to her. The biggest being housing related. With new business, industry, and broadband coming to town it may be relevant for the town to pursue the option under this for housing. Jean was willing to be the contact. She then asked about public safety, noting that studying that can have a big impact on grant funding available for various projects. Wayne suggested looking into the potential for an electrical charging station. Nancy responded that this could assist in the process of finding money for a EV charger and for installing it.
Legal Boundary Validation Program Form
Nancy reported this has to do with census maps and recommended the matter be tabled until the next meeting. The Selectboard so agreed.
Update on Snow Removal Questions/Michael Lane, Culvert/Cooleyville Road
Wayne reported that for the culvert issue the town should likely hire an engineer to assess the situation. In the meantime, the Highway Department has concerns and reservations about sending any trucks over it. Nancy agreed to research what the cost would be to have an engineer come look at it. It may cost a little money, but is worth pursuing. Nancy then turned to Michael Lane. Wayne reported that part of the issue seems to be that a resident has installed a shed in a way that makes it difficult if not impossible for Highway to make a turn. Further Highway is concerned about a hill in that area where there is the potential for a truck to get stuck. Nancy noted that a letter was brought up in the past as to the town’s assurances. That letter states that the town authorizes the plowing and sanding but does not state that the town is required to do so. Wayne recalled the town providing some sort of tax discount to residents on a private road where the town didn’t do any sanding or plowing. It was unclear how that was established and agreed to research the matter further.
FY2021 Budget Requests
Nancy asked the Selectboard some questions about the budget. These included questions about the sums to be placed in stabilization as well as questions about town building maintenance. On the maintenance issue, Nancy reminded that broadband impacts things. It is currently unclear how the town will pay its broadband, whether the bills will be broken out for various departments or whether there would be one bill. There are also questions about the phone lines that will have to be considered as well. Cellphones and air cards will also likely be effected. That budget should drop considerably with broadband coming online. Nancy noted that there will be officials from broadband at the next Selectboard meeting.
Letter from ABCC Regarding Liquor License Violation
Nancy reported this is an FYI to the Selectboard. An investigator was sent to the General Store and they were able to buy without proper identification for age 21. Now the General Store is under order to retrain employees.
Presidential Primary Election Warrant
Nancy explained that this warrant is for the Massachusetts Presidential Primary which is scheduled for March 3rd, 2020. The Selectboard seeing no reason not to sign determined to do so. The warrants were so authorized and sent to the Constable for posting.
The Selectboard considered the minutes from January 13, 2020 which the Selectboard determined to approve.
A motion to adjourn at 9:10 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed by majority vote.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk