Town of NewSalem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

March 12, 2018

Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355

Convened: 7:00 pm

Present: Randy Gordon, chair, Lisa DeWitt, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Ken Bright; Dan Hammock, Trustees of New Salem Academy; Zara Dowling, Green Communities; McKenzie LeBlanc, Tyreese Younger, Sharing Smiles; Cameron Woodcock, Athol Daily News Reporter

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants

Discussion Items

Old Academy Building Lease

Dan started out by providing the Selectboard with edited copies of the proposed lease. These included color coded edits by counsel and by the Trustees. There are a few questions and concerns, with nothing being deal breakers. Dan started with provision 2.2, noting that it is suggested that some changes be made in the verbiage as to what the group may or may not do event wise. They would like to have groups be able to be invited to participate in special events. The provision appears to favor only local groups, and that might exclude non local groups. Randy had a slightly different take on the provision. He felt that the language was more permissive then it’s being viewed. The idea is that if a local group asks a reasonable request for a reasonable reason it would be reasonable to say yes and such reasonable permission not be withheld by the landlord, i.e. the town. Dan suggested that the language simply be modified to clarify the provision. Lisa felt that the provision only limited non local organizations if its read that way, but it doesn’t specifically have to be read that way. Dan elaborated on his concerns a bit more regarding possible future interpretation. Randy suggested that the town would want to see events held at the building, and generally, the implication is that the Trustees are able to plan events. This clause is more about whether there are times when it may be appropriate for permission to either be granted or denied. Dan outlined some examples of events that he could see foresee denied. It was suggested that the language be addressed with counsel to find out if there is a satisfactory way to clarify the language to satisfy all parties.

Discussion then shifted to provision 2.5. The way the provision is worded, the landlord is responsible for certificate of occupancy. He wondered about occupancy and what the Trustees would be limited from using. Lisa elaborated on how that works with the Fire Chief and the yearly requirements for such a certificate. Nancy noted that it would be the towns responsibility as landlord to obtain the certificate and a copy would be provided to the Trustees. Dan responded by going over what changes were made by counsel and the concerns about the new language. Nancy responded by going over the certificate process and how it would be provided. With this explanation Dan felt the Trustees would be comfortable with the provision. Dan then went over Provision 4.1 which concerns the limits to the buildings seasonal use. Nancy explained that provision is necessary due to MGL requirements and it being there allows the signing of the lease since the buildings limitations allow for some exemptions otherwise. Satisfied with this explanation, Dan turned discussion to provision 6.1. That provision concerns some maintenance. Lisa elaborated on some of the maintenance done up to this point. It was then clarified as to whose responsibility it would be for something like painting the interior. Randy stated that maintenance would mostly fall under necessity as the town cannot meet the needs of every building in every year. The most pressing needs will get the most pressing support. If, however, there is a building maintenance account specifically for the building then that would be different. If the issue is easily or readily fixed and the funds are available, then it can be addressed with more immediacy. This prompted some discussion of areas where interior ceiling paint needs attention. Randy suggested that the subject would be looked into. If the Trustees wish for the town to examine any particular maintenance needs, they’ll need to allow access to areas under their control and going over them together. Dan felt the Trustees would be amenable. Lisa suggested making a list and going over it jointly.

From there discussion turned to provision 6.2 which involves a report on use and various other rules of the Massachusetts Historical Commission as well as the New Salem Historical Commission. Lisa elaborated on this provision and suggested any further information be obtained from the New Salem Historical Commission’s chair. The rules mostly have to do with preventing damage to the building and disallowing things like nails and tape on the walls and so forth. There was some discussion as to a report for grant funds, Dan noted that Trustees wouldn’t be responsible for that grant and shouldn’t be responsible for the report that goes with it. This lead to some discussion of the buildings endowment and the interest that has been generated in relation to provision 6.3. Discussion as a result shifted to a suggestion regarding any further use by public groups. Lisa noted that, for example, it might make sense to charge a nominal fee for any group that uses the building for something like the bathroom. This might include, charging a fee to say the 1794 Meetinghouse, should they wish to use the bathroom. For example, when the Meetinghouse used the Church’s bathroom they were charged $25 per day they used it. Dan was amendable, but elaborated on the Trustees desire to have control over the use to prevent unintended harm and the desire as a result to have some kind of liability disclaimer. Nancy then turned discussion back to 6.3 and some ways to clarify it. Randy then inquired whether an itemized list is necessary or whether a single set amount can be set instead. The suggestion being that the Trustees pay one lump sum yearly and the town use that to pay for the maintenance and various expenses of the building. Randy suggested that while itemizing might be useful in some circumstances, it may make more sense not to lock all the parties down with such a list. Then the money can go where it needs to in regards to the building. Whether that be for the elevator or otherwise.

There was then discussion about access for a variety of purposes involving maintenance and the need for mutual trust between all parties. Lisa elaborated on how that can work and dealing with specific issues like the ongoing bat problem. Discussion then shifted back to provision 2.2 and the use of the building by other groups. The Trustees would like to avoid having to ask permission from the town every time they wish to do something in the building that involves another group. Randy suggested that the wording can be clarified. The hope is to see the building used and for there to be enough revenue to see the building maintained. If that means having clarification as to the autonomy of the Trustees over the building, that can be seen to. It was suggested that perhaps there be some manner of default for approval unless some contingency be needed. Nancy suggested simple notice for most cases. It was agreed that some kind of solution be worked out to that end. Nancy then turned discussion to provision 6.6. That involves Historical Commission and they appear to be happy with the provision as written. The provision simply governs how a request for help to the Commission regarding the building. Discussion then shifted to provision 7.4 the provision involves liens on the building. This caused some questions regarding what that means in the context of the town owning the building and the Trustees using it. Dan could not think of any scenario where the Trustees could or would cause a lien to attach to the building. The provision appears to be preventative and mostly regarding the possibility of a lien from labor or work done involving the building. Nancy agreed to inquire with Town Counsel for clarification of that provision. There was a question about provision 8.1 which Nancy referred to the Historical Commission chair. Provision 8.2 involving use of the building by other parties for the bathroom, etc. the Trustees would like to have at least 30 days’ notice of any such approval of usage. They remain open to usage fees.

Discussion shifted to provision 9.2. That provision involves a number of possible liability contingencies. Dan’s concern was regarding the fact that a number of the outlined liabilities either simply don’t exist, such as steam pipes, or would seem obviously to fall under the town as landlord. Nancy explained that this has to do with liability insurance, but she agreed to consult Town Counsel about what precisely the intention of the provision is. There was then an enduring question about grey areas regarding the liability provisions. Randy suggested that the idea is to disclaim responsibility by the town should the Trustees allow a group in to use the building and damage or injury occurs. Dan elaborated on the Trustees perspective, which includes the fact that one of the provisions regarding use is to allow other groups access to the building for use of the bathroom and so forth and the Trustees simply want to be disclaimed of liability should such a group cause damage. In other words, both sides are seeking clarification to ensure that they are not solely liable for any damage or injury caused by a third party allowed in at the request of one party or the other. Randy noted that this provision appears to be mostly boilerplate contract language. Discussion shifted to provision 10.1. This concerns issues that might be under the control of the landlord that might cause problems. Specific concern being damage, bodily injury due to defects to the premises, and requirements for insurance. Nancy suggested that some of the changes to this provision by counsel may simply be due to redundancies with other provisions in the lease as to liability and required insurance. Randy noted that if someone died in a town building, the town would have to deal with it. Nancy reminded that the town has insurance. This prompted discussion of ways to clarify and simplify. Provision 10.2 involves a requirement that the Trustees would like to remove. The provision has to do with an insurance requirement. The Trustees feel that their collection is entirely irreplaceable and the cost of the insurance is too high. Nancy suggested that the change simply be that it is clear the town isn’t responsible for replacing any of the collection should damage occur. It was agreed that the provision either be modified or stricken where possible. Discussion shifted to provision 13.7. The provision is relatively clear, but there was some confusion in the event of default or breach of any terms. The idea is to ensure that there is no personal responsibility either by individual elected or appointed officials of the town or the individual Trustees. It was agreed by all that this provision is hard to read for the legal lay person. Nancy suggested asking Town Counsel to clarify in ordinary English. Nancy then elaborated on why Town Counsel has recommended removing Historical Commission as a signer. Town Counsel sees no reason for them to be party as a signer. Discussion finished on how to set the rent. It was felt that $2,400 a year makes sense, and would work out to about $200 a month. All parties were more or less amenable. The emphasis is on making the building as self-sufficient as possible while also finding a use for the building that is in the public’s interest. The first payment would be after signing and then paid annually thereafter for the term of the lease. The goal being agreed to attempt to have the lease ready for the next meeting of the Selectboard.

Beaver Deceiver Grant

Zara spoke briefly about the Beaver Deceiver. The matter has been ongoing for a number of years. A grant has been found that would help pay for the Beaver Deceiver. The grant would require whoever applies to contribute some funds. If the Highway Department is willing to help prepare the area, a discount can be obtained on the Beaver Deceiver. If the town can supply some of the needed pipe, about $430 dollars’ worth, that could count as the towns contribution. The grant could then cover the rest of the roughly $1,900 cost of the Beaver Deceiver. Nancy noted some possible ways the town can help with that and what lines might be available. If the town gets the grant, the only remaining cost is the yearly maintenance cost. That would then require a line item. The installation company would then maintain it and that would avoid the Highway Department having to do it. That cost should be relatively minimal. That cost for that yearly maintenance would be about $280 a year roughly.

Nancy recommended a request be made to the Finance Committee for the addition of a line item for that sum. This prompted some discussion as to whether the line should fall under Conservation or Highway. Nancy suggested it would make the most sense to add the line to Conservations budget. Ken asked where the Beaver Deceiver would go. Zara responded it is on North Prescott Road. Randy went over some of the history of the beaver problem there and the prior need for the Beaver Deceiver. Ken contended that there is a lack of beaver activity in that area that is near the public road. Zara noted that the beavers are likely to return, and this is meant to anticipate the problem. The area is attractive to beavers and with the grant possibly available now, it makes sense to try and do this now. There was then some ensuing discussion regarding the various beaver activities in town and what areas need to be dealt with. Zara emphasized that this particular proposal is about fixing a problem that has been ongoing and required a great deal of time and effort from the Highway Department on an annual basis to resolve. Nancy felt confident that the town can find the roughly $500 needed.

Permission Letter for Jumptown, USA to Participate in Old Home Day

Nancy gave the Selectboard the permission letter for Jumptown’s participation in Old Home Day activities. Seeing no reason not to sign both Randy and Lisa did so.

FRCOG Traffic Count Requests

The annual inquiry about any counts for roads has been received. Nancy reported that she’s passed the inquiry on to the Police and Highway Departments. A study hasn’t been done in some time. Randy noted that these studies provide interesting data, but apart from road work or requested changes in the speed limit, the data isn’t of great use.

Tree Committee Budget Request

Nancy reported the committee is looking for $10,000 for next year’s fiscal budget. This is due to great need. Lisa noted that her understanding was that their mandate was mostly to work towards tree plantings and tree planning. Hazardous tree removal falls under the Tree Warden. There are procedures that are supposed to be in place. Randy wondered if the idea is for the funds to be available to the Tree Warden or not. Lisa noted that the Tree Warden has no budget for tree removal. Everyone appears happy to work together, but things need to be made clear. Nancy suggested that having the funds be a separate line item like the committee wants makes more sense than having it in the Highway Departments budget, but it should only be accessible by the Tree Warden. Randy suggested that there need to be controls over any budget allocated. Lisa clarified as to what the committee seems to want. The $10,000 ask appears to be under the assumption that the Tree Warden has no funds for tree removal, outside of that they only seem to want $5,000 for their budget. Nancy suggested two lines, one they can access up to $5,000 and one only the Tree Warden can access for $5,000 for hazardous tree removal. It was suggested that the focus for removal should be on the worst trees. Otherwise the focus should be on the original goal. Lisa noted that $5,000 would be about 4 days’ worth of work from a tree removal company. Nancy suggested that the request be put to the Finance Committee. Discussion on the topic ended shortly thereafter.

Veterans Memorial

A mock up plan for design has been completed. The Tree Committee is willing to do plantings and help with maintenance for the first year or two with the hopes of another group taking over. Lisa noted that currently the area falls under the Cemetery Commission’s authority. It was determined to not take action on the topic at this point as it is still early in the year.

Arbor Day Event

April 28th, 2018 from 8:30 until Noon tree saplings will be handed out, and the proclamation will be read as part of an event held on the Town Common in the afternoon.

Sharing Smiles Event

Raising money for Boston Children’s Hospital. McKenzie introduced herself and her group Sharing Smiles. She explained that they would like to use a space in the town to hold a fund raising event. Randy inquired as to what kind of space, indoor or outdoor. The plan would be indoor, likely a dinner event with a show. Randy suggested that dates be put forward. Lisa stated she would help with any food needs. There was then some discussion about what building would be appropriate and the likely time frame. McKenzie stated that the date would be in July. Randy inquired about the group and whether it is associated with any organizations or nonprofits. McKenzie responded that the group at this stage is a private one of friends trying to do good. She hopes to form a formal non-profit in the future. There was then a question about the Town Hall’s capacity limit. Nancy reported its about 114. Randy suggested the group come back when they have more specifics such as dates and times when they are ready closer to July.

Reminder of Upcoming Dog Hearing

Nancy reported the hearing is scheduled for March 26, 2018 at 7:30 pm. There was discussion of the logistics and the procedure for the hearing. Nancy also outlined the notice that has been given to the parties. Certified notice has been sent and a notice by regular mail will also be sent. Part of the procedure will be ground rules. Ground rules help keep the process civil. There was a question about whether the Constable should be present. It was felt that things are likely to remain calm and civil and the Constable wouldn’t be necessary. Nancy suggested having a time limit. The idea being to limit to 30 or 40 minutes. This prompted discussion of how realistic that would be and how it might be handled. Nancy noted that the point is to allow each party a chance to speak and then for there to be questions asked and answered between the parties and the Selectboard. Nancy agreed to provide the Selectboard with more information on the procedures and what the Selectboard’s options are under MGL.

Shelving in the Old Academy Building

There is white shelving in the Old Academy Building that is owned by the Library. They have nowhere else to store the shelving and have requested, in light of the building being leased to the Trustees, that they be told of somewhere they may store the shelves. Randy suggested they be stored in the Town Hall if possible. Lisa noted that the shelving appears to be needed for Old Home Day. Dan felt the Trustees would be amenable to allowing the shelves to stay in the Old Academy Building for a little while longer, but hopefully moved by May. Lisa was not generally in favor of allowing more items to be put in the Town Hall. Unfortunately, there really isn’t anywhere else to store them. This prompted discussion of where in the building to store the shelves. Nancy agreed to research the matter further.

Dog Feces on the Town Common

Lisa reported that she has received a complaint from some citizens about dog feces on the Town Common. Nancy noted that under existing rules, people are supposed to pick up the feces. It was suggested a reminder be placed in the New Salem News.


The Selectboard approved the minutes from February 26th, 2018.

A motion to adjourn at 9:00 pm was made by Lisa. The motion was seconded by Randy and carried by majority vote.

Respectfully Submitted,

Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk