Town of NewSalem Selectboard

Meeting Minutes

October 7, 2019

Stowell Building, New Salem, MA 01355

Convened: 7:00 pm

Present: Randy Gordon, Wayne Hachey, Jean Derderian, Selectboard; Nancy Aldrich, Town Coordinator; Jen Potee, Board of Health; Tamara Conde, Recreation Committee; Eric Harris; Ken Bright

Selectboard Reviewed & Signed the Following:

Ø Payroll & Vendor Warrants

Ø Cemetery Deeds

Ø Debt Exclusion Election Warrant

Ø Emergency Management Planning Grant (EMPG) Paperwork

Discussion Items

Board of Health to Discuss Blackinton Road & Wendell Road Issues

Jen started off by reporting on a particular property that has been flagged by the Board of Health’s Agent. Deb Vondal is the new BOH Agent. She is also the BOH Agent in Athol. The property being 100 Blackinton Rd. They appear to be developing a junk yard and this issue appears to date back to 2009. Possibly 2008. The landowners won’t allow the Board of Health on their property. The Board of Health has obtained the help of the Building Inspector who has informed them that Town Counsel will need to be involved and that court action is likely the only option left. Nancy clarified that the Building Inspector would be the authority to follow up in court. Jen affirmed he would. Wayne inquired about whether there are any animals involved. Jen responded that to her knowledge there are not. Ken highlighted another property and asked if it is owned by the same owners. Jen was uncertain but it could be. She noted that there have been multiple complaints from neighbors. Jean asked about the Board of Health’s goals for the property. Jen responded they are to get the property cleaned up. The sooner the town works on this the better. Wayne had questions about what the court would do. Nancy responded that the court would likely issue orders to clean up the property. She noted that Wendell has struggled with similar issues, and the problem can be that the property owner may defy the court. In that event, the Commonwealth usually steps in. Jen then brought up another property. 210 Wendell Rd. Nancy noted that 210 Wendell Rd is on the Selectboard’s agenda to discuss with the Building Inspector for its next meeting.

Jean recalled receiving some complaints about that property. Jen expressed several concerns about the person living on the property. That property owner has let the Building Inspector on his property a few times, but probably won’t in the future. Jen had some concerns about his mental status and has contacted the Disabled Persons Protection Commission. Wayne inquired about whether this person is a veteran. Jen was uncertain, but recalled he lived out of town until recently. It has been reported that he’s approached the nearby Swift River Elementary School and communicated with schoolchildren. Swift River has been advised to contact the State Police if that is repeated. Nancy recalled an incident with this person at the New Salem General Store. He has also been seen standing in the middle of Wendell Rd, which has also been of concern. Wayne inquired about whether this person has a firearms permit. Jen was uncertain. Randy had questions about Swift River. Jen responded by outlining further what steps the school has taken. Jen expressed the desire to see this person helped, as it appears he is in need of it. Jean had some questions about services that may be called to help with clean up. Jen responded that there are services in the area that have been utilized in the past that will come in and help with getting things like dumpsters. However, people have to be willing to accept help. The challenge is sometimes people are hoarding due to mental health and it can be challenging for them to part with the junk. Randy asked Jen about a property on Lovers Ln. She reported there is nothing new for Board of Health as to that property. The matter is in Land Court. Jean asked Jen about the flea market on Rt. 202 also known as Daniel Shay’s Highway. Jen responded that the Board of Health is aware of it, but has not been involved. Nancy recalled that the Building Inspector is working on that property right now. Discussion concluded with the note that 9 Fay Rd might need to be looked at by Board of Health.

Pandemic Response

Jen reported on the work being done for this subject. Deb Vondal is assisting the Board of Health with it. There is work that needs to be done in connection with for a designated site. The site right now is in Orange. The plan and site designation has to be updated. Wayne noted that some of this doesn’t pertain to New Salem, as the town’s population is too low. Wayne asked about how a flu outbreak would be handled. Jen responded that Board of Health would be involved and would likely coordinate with the schools. Whether or not school closures would occur would depend on the percentage of students ill. Jen noted that the flu is expected to be bad this year, so getting the flu shot is more important than usual. Randy had some questions about other viruses like Measles, which Jen briefly answered. The responses are for the most part substantially similar.

Branch Bridge Road Issues

Eric started off by outlining a few questions and inquiring about the towns efforts. Wayne reported that police patrols have been stepped up. He has visited the area several times. Randy noted he too has visited the area recently. Eric inquired about some of the properties on Blackinton Rd which Randy answered noting that the Board of Health is working on several including 100 Blackinton Rd. Eric then inquired about whether there is anything new as to the question of Branch Bridge suggesting that the experience of the past indicates to those who live in the area that they should continue to follow up. Randy and Wayne both advised that should things like parties happen down there that residents call police. Wayne in particular expressed concern about trash and outlined his efforts to combat it. He noted there are definitely ATV’s coming in from Athol. Eric agreed that ATV’s and 4-Wheelers are part of the problem. They come through Mount Grace’s lands that were formally Morgan Memorial. Eric was pretty certain these particular persons are coming from South Athol Rd in Athol. It is frustrating with dirt roads for people to come down in those kinds of vehicles and do donuts and the like. This prompted a question about the next time the road will be graded. Wayne responded that the weather hasn’t been ideal lately, but Highway Department will seek to grade it soon before the ground really freezes. Wayne turned to the question of the barrel in that area that has been used for trash. He feels that the barrel should stay for the time being. He noted that there are some people who don’t even live in the area who are actively trying to pick up trash and appear to utilize the barrel. That shouldn’t be discouraged. It was agreed by all parties that the area is a very nice part of town and it should be preserved. Wayne noted that Highway will assist with emptying that barrel. Nancy briefly reported on her discussions with Athol’s Town Manager as to the issue. Athol hasn’t experienced many problems on their side. Discussion ended with the agreement that all parties will continue to work on the subject.

Recreation Fields & Recreation Committee Update

Discussion began with the Selectboard outlining a number of fields that need help. Tamara agreed that the Tennis and Basketball Courts need work the most. She provided the Selectboard with some quotes for resurfacing them. The fence will need to be taken down temporarily around the tennis court in particular. Jean asked about the quotes Tamara had and whether she has been able to get any more. Tamara responded by outlining what companies she’s contacted and who has responded to date. Jean and Wayne both felt they could help with getting more bids. The ones Recreation provided appear to be on the high end. Jean asked about soccer goals on the fields. Tamara responded that the goals in question are very heavy and hard to maneuver. Recreation has purchased new nets over the years for them. Unfortunately, the hooks for the nets are mostly gone. They aren’t heavily used due to their heaviness and lack of portability. They are also hard for the mowers to get around. Most soccer field goals are made of PVC. New ones would likely cost a few hundred dollars. The nice thing about PVC ones would be their portability, but they would have to be stored somewhere during winter. Other options include aluminum. The current ones are made of steal and are in good shape if new hooks could be put on and new paint. That said they are heavy and not easily moved. So the goals are likely the most affordable fix. Jean felt confident the town could find money to update and repair the facilities, the issue is getting a handle on the actual costs. Tamara suggested if the town is going to spend money on the facilities in question, the town should consider putting in a skate park as that has often been asked for of the Recreation Committee.

Jean suggested that if this is something people want a proposal should be put together. Randy inquired as to how many have requested a skate park. Tamara responded that over the years, a number of people have asked and when Recreation did a questionnaire in the past it was something that residents wanted. The idea prompted a question about liability for the town. Tamara responded that municipalities are able to avoid that based upon it being at peoples own risk as most injuries occur from people not wearing proper safety gear. Jean asked about any other vision by Recreation Committee beyond a skate park for the fields and athletic facilities. Tamara responded that really the goal, beyond the skate park idea, is to get what is there back up to date. Wayne asked what the measurements for the basketball and tennis courts. Tamara provided some documents she had for the sizes. Tamara inquired as to whether or not the Highway Department could help with asphalt paving. Nancy felt that would be outside of the department’s knowledge. Wayne generally agreed noting that it often requires a special machine that Highway doesn’t have. Tamara suggested also considering other materials noting that concrete lasts longer. Tamara reminded those present that if the town adopted the Community Preservation Act, it could provide funds for projects like this. Tamara then took a moment to talk about a few other events in town that Recreation Committee supports like the annual Halloween party. In the past, this party wasn’t something officially under Recreation’s umbrella, but as of this year it is. Tamara also asked for the relocation of a bike rack near the Veterans Memorial. It was agreed to consider doing so. Wayne otherwise reported on efforts around the memorial. Tamara felt the project simply requires funding. She then finished by reporting that the committee is down a member. Jean recalled several people who might be interested. It was agreed in conclusion that these facilities are assets to the town and having them, back in good repair is a priority.

Request from Personnel Board to Attend Upcoming Meeting

Nancy reported that the Personnel Board has sent a letter requesting the Selectboard send a member as a liaison to a meeting they plan to hold. They hope to discuss several matters most prominently the succession planning the town is doing. Jean expressed interest in possibly attending. Nancy agreed to send the dates over to her for further consideration. Personnel Board appears flexible.

Request from Tree Committee Regarding Electrical Wires along Center Cemetery

Nancy reported that the Tree Committee has expressed some concerns about the planning for trees to be planted in front of the Center Cemetery. They’re asking whether it might be feasible to bury the electrical lines that run in front of the Cemetery. Wayne inquired as to who would pay for that, the utility or the town. That was unclear but Nancy suggested she could talk to National Grid to determine that. Jean felt the supposition that it might be cost prohibitive is likely in some error. Tamara agreed suggesting it’s likely worth the investment.

Perambulation – Finalize Date

Nancy asked if November 2, 2019 would work for a date. That day is a Saturday. Jean inquired as to how much time this would take. Wayne responded that it takes about 2 hours. He suggested starting at 9:00 am. Chief Cuneo will assist with a GPS. The November 2 date was agreed upon as was the 9:00 am start time.

Storage of Trailer in Pole Barn for Non-Profit Organization

Nancy reported on interest to rent the pole barn for the storage of a trailer. The town rents space in the Hagerville Fire Station, which provides some income to the town. The entity interested is a non-profit. Jean asked about the non-profit. That was uncertain, but Randy felt it likely to be the Lion’s Club as the party that’s inquired is affiliated with them. Jean didn’t have a problem with it, but the town should not commit to more than a month to month. Nancy suggested making a short-term deal, say no longer than the winter. Randy asked whether the non-profit should be charged anything. Wayne felt it right to do so, but suggested keeping the charge low. Jean noted that there are a few liability concerns but wasn’t opposed to allowing a non-profit to rent the pole barn. Nancy suggested using a waiver but conceded that they don’t address every concern. Randy felt that the town should be careful as the town is not actively in the business of renting property. He suggested that it shouldn’t be permitted for longer than the winter. It was agreed to request more information and take no further action on this subject for the moment.

Update on Dog By-Laws

Jean provided a brief updated on the current work. She needs to follow up with the Animal Control Officer before further action is taken.

Tree Hearings & Input from Planning Board

Nancy turned to the matter of Tree Hearings. Planning Board is willing to help, but in that event, they would have to be at night. This raises some questions about compensation for hourly employees attending. The Tree Warden is a Highway employee and is hourly. Randy inquired as to how often these hearings happen. Nancy responded that they require some advertising and record keeping. Most of the time few people come to the hearings. They aren’t that frequent, but several times a year is the norm. Having the hearings during the day during normal hours eliminates the compensation question. Wayne recalled this coming up in the past. It may be best to try to do as much as possible in as few hearings as feasible. Randy felt that if there is a cost to having the Tree Warden come at night, it may be more prudent to keep the current arrangement. While the desire to have the hearings at night may make the hearings more accessible, the cost to the town should not be ignored, as that is not a good use of resources. Nancy suggested telling Planning Board that they can run the hearings if they wish but they must be done during work hours.

Debt Exclusion Election Warrant, Cemetery Deeds, & EMPG

The Selectboard signed the warrant for the Debt Exclusion Warrant as well as deeds for the Cemetery. As to the EMPG, Jean had a few questions that Nancy answered. The Fire Department has been able to acquire a few things including some computers through the grant program over the years.

Old Academy Building

Jean gave a brief update on where things stand with the mold removal and the bat problem. The first priority is the mold. The bats remain an ongoing issue.

Missing Stop Sign on Fay Rd

Ken reported that there are missing stop signs on Fay Rd. Nancy responded that MassDOT has to be involved as the stop sign in question belongs in the right of way for Rt. 202, Highway Department is aware of it and is working with MassDOT to have the stop sign replaced.

Police Succession Planning Meeting & MMA Conference

Jean reported briefly on her attendance of the last meeting in Wendell. This really is at the beginning stages and Leverett is interested. Her only concern about including Leverett is the geography. Nothing has happened yet aside from discussion. Wendell’s Police Chief will be retiring in a year so this is very pressing for them. Jean then turned to an MMA conference she attended where they spoke about sharing resources like police departments. There’s only really one similar in the Commonwealth and those two towns are right next to each other. Meanwhile MMA also reported on a few other topics of rural concern that the General Court is working on.

Minutes

The Selectboard considered the minutes from September 9, 2019 which the Selectboard determined to approve. The minutes from September 23, 2019 were tabled until the next meeting.

A motion to adjourn at 8:47 pm was made by Jean. The motion was seconded by Wayne and passed by majority vote.

Respectfully Submitted

Jakob K. Hamm, Selectboard Clerk