Town of New Salem Selectboard
May 4, 2020
Held Virtually via Zoom
Convened: 7:00 pm
Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Joe Cuneo, Fire Chief & Emergency Management Director; Jen Potee, Board of Health; David Cramer, Planning Board
Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:
- Payroll & Vendor Warrants
- Annual Town Election Warrant
Coronavirus Response Update
Jen reported on this topic. The town continues to have no cases on MAVEN. But this does not include people who are self-quarantining. Due to a continued lack of testing the true numbers are unknown. She noted that there is a new testing sight in Franklin County. Jen then reported that you can go to any community health center in Massachusetts and can get tested. The community health center in Franklin County has a satellite facility in Orange. Otherwise it’s in Greenfield, the county seat. Wayne asked Jen if she can recommend people to be tested. Jen responded that she would advise people to talk to their doctors and get tested. She can’t write an order for testing, but she knowns enough to be able to tell people when they should call their doctor. Wayne noted that it appears likely that there will be a second wave. Jen agreed that it is predicted that the second wave will occur in the fall. It’s uncertain if it would happen sooner. She expressed the hope that we would have adequate testing by that point. If we don’t she’d be worried about schools being able to re-open. Joe took a moment to remind folks that this is going to be a long haul and is by no means over yet. Discussion concluded there.
Board of Health Order Regarding Masks
Nancy noted that the Governor has issued an order regarding the wearing of masks in public. This order supersedes the Board of Health’s prior orders, but permits them to enforce the Governor’s order and allows for a fine for noncompliance of no more than $300. Jen confirmed that New Salem’s order was the same as Governor Bakers, so they will continue to go that way. Wayne interjected to note that he has found some masks and was willing to donate them should Board of Health need them. Jen thanked him, but didn’t feel they were needed just as of yet.
Barletta House Construction – Comments from Town Counsel
Wayne briefly reported on the construction site. Work has continued on site with roughly 7 men working there. They do not appear to be social distancing and when he last saw them they weren’t wearing masks. Although that was prior to the Governor’s order which doesn’t take effect until May 6, 2020. Randy felt it imprudent to judge those workers for not wearing masks prior to the effect of that order. As for social distancing, they should be observing that. Jen then reported on her discussions with those on site. She has spoken with the assistant to the Project Manager and gave them information and materials that should be reviewed with the workers on site. She also told them she is willing to answer questions and provide education in person if need be. She hasn’t heard from them, but plans on going up on May 6 to ensure that compliance is happening. Social distance must occur and where necessary masks should be worn. Jean reminded that there is an exception in the order that those with medical grounds are not required to wear masks and they do not have to provide evidence on demand of such a medical ground. Jean then outlined a number of common medical grounds that would be legitimate such as asthma. Randy noted that in such a situation they absolutely must be social distancing. People are allowed to forego masks under the order as long as they are strictly observing social distancing. If they can’t maintain social distancing they must wear the mask. Randy then asked Jen about enforcement. It has been suggested that if towns have difficulties the Commonwealth might provide assistance. Jen responded by outlining what she’s been told by DPH. The Police Chief is allowed to send officers, including on overtime if need be, to enforce. The Commonwealth would then reimburse. Board of Health can directly enforce, but it would make more sense to have an officer dispatched.
Jean noted the fine is optional and that she is not in favor of it. She was also concerned about the overtime cost. She then reported on her discussions with the towns State Representative who has told her that any such reimbursement could be more than a year out. So nothing is guaranteed. Jen responded that Board of Health is not in favor of having to fine. But in some instances like the Barletta House project, it could be necessary. These workers are from out of town and from out of State. It would be hard to know then what their exposure is. Wayne asked how long the project has been going on and what amount of time it has left. It doesn’t look like they’re finished, but they have been going for nearly a year. It was generally felt that they have a few months left. Randy clarified that Board of Health is hesitant to fine, but would if need be. Jen responded that she is against issuing in general, but when it comes to specific instances like the Barletta House project, things are a bit different. Again because you have workers traveling not insubstantial distances and because there hasn’t always been compliance seen. Randy noted there have been some complaints about smoking at the work site as well. Jen felt that a discussion should be had further on this subject to determine when the project is going to be done and what appropriate steps to take. She recommended bringing the Building Inspector back into the conversation. Randy asked if the owners are available. Jen responded that they don’t appear to be day to day at the moment. It’s the Project Manager in charge. Randy then asked if there is anything else the town should do.
Jen recalled that some of Town Counsel’s comments directly go to the Building Inspector and that’s another reason he should be brought back into this discussion as he really has to respond to the comments from Town Counsel. As far as Board of Health is concerned further discussion would have to be had by them in a meeting. Otherwise the feeling is that compliance must be seen from May 6 on. Nancy agreed to talk to the Building Inspector and to get him in touch with Town Counsel. Jean expressed appreciation for Jen’s willingness to talk to these contractors, but expressed concern about any action by the town to shut down the project. She was uncertain that the town had exhausted its options prior to official action. Wayne felt that some of the ongoing work is beyond the building permit and some of it really should be held until the Special Permit is issued by Planning Board. If the town has to take legal action regarding that, it would fall under the Special Permit and the applicant could be on the hook. Jean was uncertain as to that, but reminded that there is a matter of good will. This project could be an anchor of culture in New Salem and the town should do what is professionally sound first. She felt that they could have a strong case against the town shutting them down. It is not as clear cut as people may think and the town might not be successful. We should try to bring them into compliance and avoid incurring costs we don’t need to. Wayne generally agreed noting that the project is advanced enough that trying to stop it now wouldn’t be optimal. Randy agreed submitting they are neighbors now, but we need them to comply for the sake of public safety. Everyone wants this to be polite and friendly. Discussion concluded with the Selectboard thanking Board of Health for their work.
Dumping in Town
Nancy reported on some dumping in town. The dumping appears to be happening all over town in random places. Wayne then reported on what he’s seen and found himself. He found a mattress in one part of town, near Neilson Rd. This is similar to some issues Wendell has had. There appears to be an upsurge in illegal dumping at the moment. Wayne proposed the town consider increasing fines for dumping and littering. Randy noted on a related point that the Board of Health has at the Transfer Station a policy that if people pick up trash as road cleanup they can bring them free of charge to the Transfer Station and they can be entered to win free town trash bags. Wayne interjected to note that he and his wife have done just that. Not being private investigators, they could still tell from it that the trash they picked up is from the same person. The only problem he saw with potentially increasing fines is that sometimes there’s a backlash.
Thank You Note Sent to Police Department
Nancy reported on a note the Police Department received. A resident in town thanked the department for helping her find her husband who suffers from dementia who had gone missing. It’s always nice to hear positive feedback and to have a positive ending to what could have been a tragic situation.
Electrical Aggregation—Indicative Pricing Meeting, Need for Town Signatory on May 20
Nancy then reported on the history of this briefly. The town is close to succeeding at the electrical aggregation. All residents in town would be transferred unless they choose to opt out. On May 13 the town will get indicative pricing. Then on May 20 the town will then get executable pricing. She would then act as signatory. The pricing would have to be decided right then and there. She can report what the indicative pricing is to the Selectboard and the Selectboard can instruct her generally on what to do. Wayne felt that this is a good for the town. Nancy agreed noting that Wendell has done this for years and is paying far lower prices than they were before. The price currently beats National Grid. We can lock into contracts of various lengths depending on the bids. Sometimes the pricing can be strange and so we may have to go with a shorter contract the first time round. Jean asked when things take effect. Nancy responded that it usually takes a few months as notifications have to be sent around town. The only problem she foresees is that the vote the town took at town meeting to do this was long enough ago that many people have likely forgotten about it. So the town may get calls. Jean suggested the town send out a notice to residents reminding them of this and the right to opt out. Wayne asked about whether this is clean energy only. Nancy responded that the town will get that option when this happens. Wendell has gone entirely with wind. The Selectboard agreed to put this on the May 18 agenda. This will allow the Selectboard to look at the indicative pricing and to give Nancy direction.
A motion was made by Randy to authorize Nancy to act as the towns signatory. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed unanimously.
Election Warrant & Annual Town Meeting
Nancy reported on the Election Warrant. It is ready for the Selectboard to sign and will be made available along with the vender warrants. Wayne noted the town will be level funding and it’s unlikely that there will be COLA’s this year for employees. So the town is going to have to tighten up its belt and hope to come out better in the end. Discussion then briefly shifted to some condolences to various residents in town who have lost family. Nancy then turned to the Annual Town Meeting. The social gathering rules limiting to 10 people do not apply to the town meeting so the town will need to consider how to implement social distancing and other related policies. Thought may have to be put into the location. Likely in the Town Hall basement as usual. It was noted that some towns are planning to hold theirs outside with social distancing. For New Salem this would likely require switching the date to a Saturday. Jean recalled that it has been reported to her in the past that some would like to try a Saturday date. So she expressed willingness to set it as a day time meeting on a Saturday. Nancy reminded that in her experience Saturday meetings don’t usually bring more people out then business day evenings. Wendell has tried Saturday day town meetings and they have not resulted in higher turnout. An outdoor meeting also poses the issue of sound systems. Joe briefly turned the discussion to the potential for a virtual meeting. There are limits on how many people can participate and voting can be challenging. Nancy was unsure if voting remotely could occur for town meeting. Joe then finished by reminding that if New Salem does a Saturday meeting it will have to make sure it’s a different date then Wendell which is planning a Saturday meeting this year. Discussion concluded there.
Access to Town Counsel
Randy reported that after consulting with Town Counsel he recently realized that he did not consult fully with his fellow members of the Selectboard prior to talking to Town Counsel and he acknowledged that and apologized. Nancy suggested that outside of an emergency if a member wishes to consult counsel they should let her know and she will put it on an agenda. It was also agreed that when other town officials wish to consult with Town Counsel, they should first ask permission of the Selectboard. It was so agreed. Jean then asked how the town is billed by Town Counsel. Nancy responded that the town appropriates a sum of money every year and is billed by the hour with a 20-minute minimum. The town can be billed extra for things like mailings. The current rate is $180 an hour. The town has rarely in recent memory used more than what has been appropriated. It is only when the town is involved in a major lawsuit that it exceeds. In the past prior iterations of the Selectboard have put out letters to departments reminding that the official policy is that they need to make the Selectboard aware of the need to consult Town Counsel prior to doing so. This is because the budget for legal services falls under the authority of the Selectboard and the Selectboard should know if there is going to be a cost to that budget.
Old Academy Building Windows
Randy reported on notification he received regarding the windows at the Old Academy Building. The plastic being used to cover the windows that are being repaired has broken a few times but appear to be fixed. Jean interjected to say she and her neighbors have been ensuring that the windows are fixed. One gentleman in particular has been seeing to it.
The Selectboard considered the minutes from April 20, 2020. The Selectboard determined to approve the minutes.
A motion to adjourn at 8:07 pm was made by Wayne. The motion was seconded by Jean and passed without objection.
Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk