Town of NewSalem Selectboard
May 21, 2019
Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, chair, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Ken Bright
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants
Ø Requests for Appropriation Transfers
Ø Chapter 90 Paperwork
Ø Broadband Easements
Request from Inspector General’s Office for Records
Nancy outlined a request from the Inspector General’s Office. The IG is requesting documents relating to the Highway Department. These included payroll records and other documents relating to procurement. The IG is also looking for information on disposal of equipment, bid responses, contracts, and correspondence. The IG is particularly interested in records relating to Brookside Equipment. The request also encompasses financial records from the town as well as minutes both public and executive for the Selectboard. This covers nearly 7 years of records. Randy noted that the town doesn’t have the resources to respond quickly. Nancy noted that some of this the town simply doesn’t have because it wasn’t legally required to at the time. Randy asked if this is the result of a complaint. Nancy responded it is. Some sort of complaint has been lodged. Rather than asking the town about any concerns, the IG has simply responded with this omnibus request. Nancy felt that the IG’s office is fair and impartial and simply doing due diligence. She felt confident that some of the requested documents should be those that can be provided readily. Randy suggested responding initially by explaining the towns limited resources and how long responding will take. There should be some measure of reasonableness when the Commonwealth makes these kinds of requests. The town will of course comply. Jean asked what this has to do with Highway and with Brookside. Nancy explained that some people have expressed concern about the relationship between Highway and Brookside. Randy elaborated on the practices of the town, noting that the relationship has been mutually beneficial. The town often rents equipment from Brookside. Sometimes the town delivers equipment that it rents, if Brookside has another renter nearby, to the new site when needed which results in lower costs from Brookside. Jean felt that this matter is unfortunate considering the town has been aboveboard about the relationship and given that it is beneficial cost wise to the town. Randy asked if it could be expressed to the IG’s office that some of this appears to be about personal dislike for officials in the department. Nancy felt confident that producing the records available and trusting the IG’s impartiality is the best course.
MIIA Mock OSHA Inspection from May 15th – Update
Nancy reported on the mock OSHA inspection. The MIIA representative that conducted the inspection found positive results. There were a few concerns in the Fire Department, but nothing substantial. Some questions for Highway Department, but again those mostly involve training and simple common sense steps. Again training along with documentation will help. There’s a lot to think about and address, but ultimately this is about safety and that’s a good thing.
Approval of Selectboard Annual Report
Nancy provided the Selectboard with a copy of the Selectboard’s report. The Selectboard had no objections with the report and approved it. Jean asked about the cover picture that was chosen for the Annual Town Report (ATR) itself. Nancy reported a loon will appear on the 2018 ATR cover.
Overdrawn Civil Defense Account
Nancy reported on this account which is for Emergency Management. It appears a large item was taken out of the account that should have been taken from a different expense line. This appears to have been a minor matter resulting from an erroneous account number.
Invitation to Grand Opening of Library Community Room
The grand opening of the Community Room is on June 8. Light refreshments will be served.
Vote Recount Update
The Town Clerk has requested that Town Counsel be present for the recount. Randy expressed the feeling that it is necessary to permit this. Still, it should not be lost on people that this cost is a direct result from a request for a recount. The reasons appear to be the insinuation of some kind of voter fraud through some kind of ballot tampering. If the town is short as a result on legal expenses, this could be very well the reason. Jean felt it appropriate for her to abstain from this to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
A motion was made by Wayne to approve the use of Town Counsel as requested by the Town Clerk for a recount. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote with Jean abstaining.
Highway Department Cell Phone Stipend Question
Nancy gave some history on this. Finance Committee some years ago felt it best to provide stipends for cellphones where possible to avoid having to pay town plans. This is a flat amount that would be paid to the employee and the employee is responsible for their own plan. The amount simply offsets. Not all departments have done this, some still have department plans or are on the towns larger Sprint account. Randy suggested that the Finance Committee should be consulted again. The impetus for this is the new Highway employee requesting a stipend instead of a town issued phone. Nancy noted that there is a new third employee and the department appears to be very happy now back at 3.
Memorial Day Events
The schedule is the same as last year. Starts at 11 am on Sunday, May 26th at the Center Cemetery. Wayne had some questions regarding the location of the wreaths which Nancy answered.
Request for Appropriation Transfers
Nancy started off the discussion by explaining that one of these transfer requests is from the Finance Committee. It’s to cover Fire Department salaries and wages that are short. The funds are from another Fire Department line. Randy inquired about which line this came from and what the funds were originally for. Nancy responded by outlining that the line the transfer is coming from would usually cover utilities and equipment. Wayne asked if this would cover the wages for the rest of the fiscal year. Nancy stated that it does. Randy noted that at least this is coming from within the department. Nancy then highlighted the other transfer. This involves the town’s building maintenance account. She felt confident that the funding could come from a few other sources, including an insurance line that will not be fully expended this fiscal year. Thankfully the town has been doing well at seeking out discounts from its insurer. Jean had an inquiry about the legal expense line. Nancy responded that the town has done well this year in controlling legal expenses, recount expenditures aside.
Chapter 90 Paperwork
This involves paving some of Blackinton Road as well as some resurfacing for Old Dana Road. Wayne took a moment to note that there is a pavement management plan. Some citizens have expressed concern on the topic, but there are limited funds. Randy agreed and noted that the weather hasn’t helped either with washouts to dirt roads. Jean had a few questions about the Chapter 90 paperwork. Nancy elaborated on the process and why there is paperwork to be signed. She noted the costs and other constraints which prevent the town from paving every road.
These are easements for William Rice Road. This will allow extension of broadband to houses on that road. Poles will have to be installed on private land which is what the easements will permit. Nancy noted that these are substantially the same as with other private property owners in town for broadband.
Swift River School Window Project
Nancy updated on this topic. The town has previously approved the initial stages of this project at a Special Town Meeting. The Commonwealth will ultimately pick up 76 percent of the ultimate project costs. The cost for the town after that will ultimately be around a $150,000 in borrowing and that would be contingent on a debt exclusion vote. Union 28 would likely do the borrowing on behalf of the towns. Randy noted that this is a program that the Commonwealth has for these kinds of school building projects. He then outlined how it works and noted the benefits to the town. Nancy agreed stating that there are savings from the project and the windows truly need to be replaced.
Parking on Daniel Shay’s Highway / Rt. 202
MassDOT has responded in a letter received as of May 21. MassDOT says that there is no parking along State Highways. The issue is with enforcement. The Commonwealth appears unlikely to take any direct action and the town lacks jurisdiction to provide enforcement.
The Selectboard considered and determined to approve the minutes from April 22, 2019 and May 6, 2019. The Board noted that it may be worth clarifying to the public that the process for minutes requires that they be adopted at a subsequent meeting. This means that minutes will not typically be available earlier than the Selectboard’s meeting schedule allows.
A motion to adjourn at 7:40 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Randy and passed by majority vote.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk