Town of New Salem Selectboard
May 18, 2020
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Joe Cuneo, Fire Chief; Jen Potee, Board of Health; David Cramer, Planning Board; Ken Bright
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
- Payroll & Vendor Warrants
- End of Year Transfers
Coronavirus Response Update & Ideas Regarding Reopening
Joe started off by providing a general update. The Governor has started a phased reopening of the Commonwealth. There is guidance that will be put out as to what that will mean. Construction sites are able to open in most cases as of today. More will begin to reopen on May 25. MEMA is providing every municipality with another rounds of KN95’s and related masks. They will also be providing cloth masks. Call volumes have ticked up, but not related to COVID-19. Randy asked how close the town is to reopening public buildings. Joe wasn’t certain how soon that would happen. He submitted that once things are better understood, there will likely be a checklist of items for each facility that once met will permit reopening. He did not see anything specific from the Commonwealth about municipal buildings. Jean noted that she’s read the most recent guidelines. They were rather specific on what to do as to office spaces. They are encouraging people to continue working from home as much as possible. Joe agreed noting that office spaces may reopen in the near future, although Boston will be later than the rest of the Commonwealth. Thankfully most town buildings have low traffic in persons.
Barletta House Construction – Status of Project
Jen reported that work was resumed as of May 18 after having closed the week before as to the outdoor work. Inside work had been finished before that. The reason they’d closed was that one of their subcontractors tested positive for COVID-19. There was a lot of discussion between the Project Manager and the Board of Health. The contractors hired cleaners to disinfect the entire house. Jen was present for part of that staying outside and meeting with the Project Manager. She then reported on her discussions with Commonwealth officials. She was informed that New Salem may be being overly cautious, but the fact is that a worker was exposed and was quarantined. All of that said things are back in operation. Jean then asked about how the testing done. Jen reported that from her understanding clinical testing was done in addition to quarantining. Randy asked whether it would be possible to have someone attached to this project report. This wouldn’t be a hearing of any sort, just a discussion. Nancy agreed to reach out and determine if someone from this project can attend the next meeting of the Selectboard. Jen submitted that the Project Manager would probably be a good candidate and promised to provide contact information to Nancy.
Cooking Fire at the Overlook
Joe reported on the situation. Cooking and campfires are no longer regulated as they were in the past. The property in question is either town property or DCR property. As far as he understands it this hasn’t happened a lot, but it certainly happened at least once. Basically, if someone sees something while its happening the Fire Dept. can be called, but if it’s well after the fact there isn’t much that can be done. Randy noted that he understood there was some trash left on the site as well. Jen interjected to address the trash. Board of Health was made aware and sent their Transfer Station Attendant to remove it. Last she was there the trash was gone. It was agreed by all to be weary of any future issues there. Wayne felt confident that the Overlook is DCR land. Joe noted that if it is indeed DCR property he can notify them and see if they want to pursue the matter in some way. Jean asked if this appears to be some kind of one-time event or an ongoing issue. Joe responded that he’s only aware of it being one event and saw no evidence of reoccurrence. Jean asked if any permeant damage was done. Joe felt that there wasn’t.
Electrical Aggregation – Indicative Pricing from May 13
Nancy reported on the indicative pricing. The town has to pick a supplier, terms, and a “default” product. The first term will start August 1 and end in December. Then from there the term would for 3 years thereafter. She then went over the various rates and information. This included green products and varying generation and purchase of various classes. In most cases the green option is wind. Her recommendation is to purchase through a 100 percent green product. That price would be below the current National Grid price. The terms will provide price stability. There should be more than one option so that people can opt into if they so choose. So if they want to get power exclusively local over say interstate, would likely pay more. So there would be a standard supply and then the optional product. Jean asked about the opt out from the entire program, wondering if a person who opts out can do things like opt back in. Nancy responded by outlining how the process works. There is a mailing to anyone not already opting to use a different supplier than National Grid. It appears possible for people to opt in later. So if someone says no now they should be able to join later. Wayne asked about those who may have solar and are selling into the grid. Nancy felt confident that this program wouldn’t have an impact on that. This should only effect supply. Jean then asked about the differences between different levels of services. Nancy elaborated that distribution is almost always National Grid and then there is the supplier. Usually that’s also National Grid, but sometimes it’s another company like Constellation. As long as the basic service is through National Grid then a resident will get the letter about this program. Randy asked Nancy for her formal recommendation. She recommended going with supplier number 2 on the indicative pricing with pursuit of 100 percent green product and then picking an alternative that is local. The consensus was to support Nancy’s recommendation.
A motion was made by Wayne to approve the 5 month and 36 month terms as recommended, and to go with supplier number 2 as defined by the indicative pricing for 100 percent green product for both contracts, with the alternative option being the second instate supplier as defined by the indicative pricing which may only be 41 percent green. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed without objection.
Memorial Day Events in Town
Nancy briefly reported on the holiday. The planned ceremonies would start earlier than usual and the gathering would not be able to be greater than 10. Wayne expressed reservations about proceeding feeling that it may be worth canceling the event. Given the age of most participants and veterans it is likely wise not to hold the ceremony. Randy asked about alternatives such as still putting wreaths out and other similar things. Wayne felt that doable. Jean inquired about the regular expenses for this event. Wayne responded that a few fees are paid for several persons to attend including taps players. It isn’t significant but is a few hundred dollars. Jean suggested that for Independence Day the town could prepare a celebration to encompass elements of both holidays. Wayne noted that Memorial Day events could also be done for Veterans Day later in the year as well. That said the various things put out for Memorial Day like flags, wreaths, and ribbons would still be done. Wayne stressed that the veterans who participate are older and he would be concerned. The services ordinarily only last 10-15 minutes, but still the gatherings would be of high risk persons and likely hitting that 10-person participant limit. Randy agreed submitting that this is probably best postponed to a timeframe that is safer for all those involved. Nancy reminded that if this is postponed past July 1, the current funding wouldn’t be available. The consensus was that the funding could be found from different sources. Rushing to do this just to use such funding from FY20 would be unwise under current circumstances. It was agreed that rescheduling be revisited at a later meeting.
Upcoming Liquor Licensing Transfer Hearing
Nancy reported that at the next meeting the Selectboard will need to hold a liquor license transfer hearing for the General Store. The hearing has been noticed in the newspaper as required. This is a process that involves the ABCC. Because this is a transfer and not a new license notice to abutters isn’t necessary. The new licensee is a resident in the town. Wayne asked about the license being transferrable. Nancy responded that it is with the hearing and the ABCC’s approval.
Sneeze Guards for Town Offices
Nancy reported on requests from employees for “sneeze” guards. These would be placed at counters like the Tax Collector and the Town Clerk. These would be similar to what are being installed at grocery stores and other places. Jean asked that such guards be constructed such that they are temporary and removable. Nancy submitted that these would be constructed to just sit on the counter. Wayne felt confident they could be put in a frame that could sit on the counters. Randy asked about the funding for this. Nancy felt confident that the funds could be found in Town Building Maintenance. If not there, departments might be able to fund them out of their own budgets. The consensus was that the Selectboard was in favor of such guards so long as they don’t damage the buildings or town furniture.
Randy reported on some concerns with some of the soil on the south end of the Town Common as well as near the Fire Station. There appears to be something killing grass in those areas and some residents have asked the town to consider determining what the issue is. Jen noted as a resident who lives near the Common, there is certainly something going on there. She felt it necessary to look into the matter. It’s a large patch and isn’t just along the edges of the Common that might suggest it to be road salt. Wayne suggested it could be due to ants or perhaps voles. Even some types of grubs could be responsible. It could also be a shortage of lime. It was agreed to pursue the matter further.
Chickens on the Town Common
Randy reported on a large area on the north end of the Town Common that has been dug up. The town doesn’t have any policies regarding animals on the Common, but this is an area of 20 x 30 feet. There is no question about this being done by chickens as they have been seen doing this. The chickens have also been digging up by new trees and this has elicited concern from the Tree Committee. They have also dug up by the Meetinghouse and a resident in the town center has also complained about some seeding of their lawn being disturbed by the chickens. Randy contrasted this with what’s going on in the south end of the Common. That is clearly from something going on with the soil. But what is happening to the north end of the Common is definitively due to chickens. Wayne asked about how many chickens there are in question. Jean responded there are about 11. She’s had chickens for years and her chickens have free ranged that entire time. She’s been proactive personally by seeding in the area. She noted that the residents who complained have been responded to and their concerns addressed amicably. She felt that the chickens are not the problem, they are usually useful for eating ticks and other pests. There has never been a problem before with chickens free ranging in the town center. Jean felt that this is ultimately not about the chickens and more likely a further result of whatever is happening to the soil. She stressed that it isn’t normal for their activities to cause such damage.
Annual Town Report
Nancy provided a brief update on the report noting that it will be printed soon. The report takes a while to complete but it is just about at the finish line.
Line-to-Line Transfer Form
Nancy reported on an End of Year Transfer request from the Finance Committee. It should be signed with the warrants. The town is allowed to pursue such line-to-line transfers from May 1 through the end of June. It was so agreed. Wayne asked about deficits from COVID-19, particularly Emergency Management. It was agreed that compensation from the Commonwealth or the Federal government is likely to be slow. Costs should be tracked nonetheless. Nancy briefly reported on how those costs are being tracked. She is working with Joe to keep track of everything and will speak with the Accountant about the towns options for any related deficit spending.
David provided a general update on the board’s work and asked the Selectboard to consider the appointment of an alternate member to the Planning Board. It was agreed to pursue such an appointment. There was then an inquiry about a public hearing for the Special Permit for Barletta House. David felt that it remains likely that such a meeting not be had until restrictions from COVID-19 are lifted. Wayne felt it possible that a virtual hearing could happen but it might be difficult. Randy noted that until broadband is completed many residents might not even be able to participate in a remote hearing. It’s likely best to continue waiting for the time being.
The Selectboard tabled the minutes of April 4, 2020 until the next meeting do to late submission.
A motion to adjourn at 8:16 pm was made by Jean. The motion was seconded by Wayne and carried without objection.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk