Board of Selectmen
September 16, 2009
Members present: William Cavanaugh, George Fuller
John Murray-absent until 9:20 PM
Others Present: Tony Blair, David Bonney, Alice Briggs, Colleen O’Connor, Beth VanNess, Gail McGeer, Stephen Bird (Windsor Selectman) . . . _____________________
Meeting was called to order at 7:04 PM.
1: Minutes of the meeting of 9/2/09 were reviewed. Motion made by George Fuller to accept. Seconded by Bill Cavanaugh, all in favor.
2: Public input:
Colleen O’Connor asked what it means that, on the Town website; the Selectmen’s minutes are noted as being “updated”, sometimes in groups of meetings on a single day, such as 8/26/09. She wondered if that means that after minutes have been voted on they are changed. She was told that this is not the case, and that the reason for them showing up as updated would be looked into – it may have to do with a day on which they are posted to the website. Tony Blair will investigate and report back.
Gail McGeer asked if the Selectmen could make a fund for Christmas parties, she has been involved in putting them on in the town for many years. She also was concerned that there is no place to store the stuff she is accumulating for a penny social she will be holding in November that raises money for the Christmas party. She would like to see the Town appropriate about $500 for the parties, as a start. There was discussion about what activities and support are available for children in Becket. George Fuller made a motion to request $500 in support of the Christmas party from the Recreation Committee. Bill Cavanaugh seconded. Motion passed. Tony Blair to write a letter requesting consideration of this request.
Colleen O’Connor asked what the process is for allocating the funds that a committee has at its disposal. She was told that the Committees hold open meetings and make those decisions by voting on budgets for their committee activities. These meetings are open to the public and posted in Town Hall.
Mrs. McGeer asked who maintains the fire pond in Sherwood Forest. She was told that the Sherwood Forest Road District is responsible for doing so.
3. Bill Cavanaugh read the UN Day Resolution and cover letter received from the United Nations Association of Greater Boston. Bill Cavanaugh made a motion to sign and send in the proclamation, George Fuller seconded, all in favor.
4. Tony Blair asked that signing of vocational transportation agreement not be signed at this time as the agreement was still being revised. George Fuller asked what the revisions were going to be. Tony Blair said § 5 of the agreement about compensation is being changed. We originally planned to pay Chester $2,500 more for 5 students ($500 each) but Chester would prefer to use our dump to allow their Highway Department on a limited basis, up to a certain value, to bring construction debris to our dump instead of paying cash. Other than that change the rest of the agreement will be the same. All agreed to delay decision to next time.
5. Tony Blair showed the draft Slum and Blight report for the North Becket Village area, and described how it is a necessary step in applying for a CDBG grant. He stated he had given a portion of the entire report to the Selectmen ahead of time for them to review. The Slum and Blight report looks at infrastructure in a specific part of North Becket Village, as shown on maps in the back of the report. Only a portion of North Becket Village is being looked at, basically what abuts Route 8 and nearby.
One of two conditions a CDBG grant can be used for is to assist people of low and moderate income in the area and the other is to remediate areas of slum and blight. Although the term “slum and blight” is unfortunate, it basically means that there are a high enough percentage of issues with decayed infrastructure, or properties that are abandoned, in run down condition or potentially contaminated sites to qualify the area for that designation. This designation is applied for separately from the CDBG grant itself, and if obtained, allows the Town to seek funding for North Becket to “remediate an area of slum and blight”. That is why we need the Selectmen to accept the report and submit it as part of this process.
George Fuller recommended putting this on hold until he does a few things on this. Two things he sees that are in the report – one concern pertains to the Mohawk Garage (page 6) right hand corner. George Fuller asked if we had even talked to the owner, and was told that the Town had not. He stated that this report would be setting this place up. He quoted from page six the statement that it may be a contaminated site “based on the historical and current use of the site as an automotive repair facility and the presence of fifty-gallon drum barrels with brown puddles.” and asked. “Do we even know what the puddles are?”
He went on to point out that on page 9 it shows and speaks about a large hole in a railroad track bridge, and that that bridge belongs to the railroad. Tony Blair stated that we know that, ownership is not relevant to this issue. Tony Blair told him that the report was done by BRPC, and that it consisted of an inventory of all properties within the area that is seeking the Slum and Blight designation. Pictures are taken from a public way for the report. The report is not saying that it’s Becket’s road that has a crack in it, it could be a road or bridge owned by the state or the railroad – the fact that it has the hole is what is important not who owns it.
The purpose of the report is to show that the area qualifies because of deteriorated infrastructure, broken sidewalks, drainage issues, damaged roads etc. This qualifies the town to be eligible for close to a million dollars worth of grant money, it is not saying that any one owner has caused a problem in the community. If this were called a “deteriorated infrastructure report and inventory” nobody would have a problem with it, but it is called a “Slum and Blight Documentation Inventory and Report” so everybody is concerned about it. So as far as High Street is concerned the description is about the general condition, not about ownership.
Tony Blair pointed out that there are three identified contaminated sites, and they are separately listed – this will not get the owner of the Mohawk Garage in trouble. Each piece of property in the target area was photographed from the street and the summary of them all is part of the report and used to determine eligibility for this designation.
Mr. Fuller stated that the Mohawk garage is private property, so why are we putting private property in the report? He stated that before he is going to vote on that he would like to talk to Mr. Talback, (owner of the Mohawk Garage) himself. If he doesn’t want us to do be doing that with his garage he has the right to either say yes or no.
Mr. Cavanaugh asked if Mr. Fuller was willing to jeopardize a million dollar grant over this? Mr. Fuller responded “Why should I jeopardize him?” When told that this would not put the Garage in jeopardy, his response was “That’s what you are saying. It is entirely up to the landowner to make that decision. If he doesn’t want the property on it then he could just take it off the report.”
Dave Bonney stated that, as he understood it, only property in North Becket can be fixed up with this block grant money. Tony Blair said that is not true, that when you apply for a CDBG grant you have two possible bases to obtain funds from the state. The first is to provide supportive services, facilities and assistance to people of low and moderate income. The second is to remediate an identified and accepted area of slum and blight. To make a determination that an area is an area of slum and blight requires an application like this one to the DHCD which they look at and may then be adjudicated by them to be an area of Slum and Blight.
What BRPC saw in looking at the North Becket area was a concentrated area that has deteriorated infrastructure, deteriorated buildings, abandoned properties, properties that had a history of contamination on them – all of those being conditions that support a designation as an area of Slum and Blight. So that they can use that as a hook for some of the funding.
This is not the final grant application – it is only a way for us to access that particular part of the CDBG money. Mr. Bonney asked if Sherwood Forest could be identified as an area of slum and blight? Mr. Blair answered that it would not be possible this year due to time and funding constraints, but it could happen in a future year. To do this in Sherwood Forest would require walking every road, taking a picture of every property and rating it. Sherwood Forest is eligible like the rest of the Town for the general funding, but not the funds that are tapped into to work on an area of Slum and Blight. Mr. Bonney asked what we would need to do to get a report like that for Sherwood Forest. The answer is to appropriate funds in next year’s budget for putting a report together,
so that the Town can hire people to get it done.
Beth Van Ness is on CDBG committee, it is very complicated and time consuming. BRPC people are at the meetings, every Monday, people should come. It is a million dollars that will improve the Town, increase property values. It’s very competitive – we need to show the need.
Colleen O’Connor is curious about BRPC’s involvement in a grant for the Becket General Store to clean up a brownfields site, which she believes was never carried through on – will that hurt our chances any? Mr. Blair stated that an existing known area of contamination in fact increases the viability of a slum and blight determination in the area.
Alice Briggs said that the key word seems to be “hook”. Why? Mr. Blair answered that you can use that term to describe the two bases for funding discussed earlier. The designated area of slum and blight will get focused on in the eventual application, but it is not clear in exactly what way, since we have not yet even finished the Community Development Strategy. Once there is a public hearing to approve and adopt the CDS, then the actual grant will build on that strategy as its core.
There may be elements of the grant (as they are called) for improving sidewalks in North Becket Village – actual construction costs covered: and there may be an element to assess how to provide better services to elders in the community or to residents of Sherwood Forest – a planning element. CDBG grants are not all about on-the-ground construction: they can be used for planning, building, acquiring property, acquiring vehicles, providing services, etc., so there are very broad possibilities in a CDBG grant. As a result the exact nature of our eventual grant application is not known yet. The Slum and Blight designation is a necessary step to get us eligible for CDBG grant funds for that portion of a CDBG grant – there is not a requirement to spend a certain number of dollars on the area of
Slum and Blight.
Mr. Blair asked Mr. Fuller if he is willing to support this. He said he would rather go down and talk to the owner of the Garage. Mr. Blair asked if Mr. Fuller could give him a call? Mr. Fuller stated that the owner’s phone is not listed. Mr. Fuller stated that on some of what you have here I agree, but when you start using personal people’s stuff to get a grant you definitely should go talk to him before you use his property. Mr. Blair stated that we are not “using” his property.
Mr. Cavanaugh and Mr. Fuller debated that point and in the end Mr. Fuller stated “No, I will not support that – OK that is the end of it.” Mr. Cavanaugh asked if we should then go to every household and ask if they should be included. Mr. Blair asked George Fuller what would you need to support this. Mr. Cavanaugh asked whether he is in violation, that he assumes he is licensed every year, and so he is not in violation. The question was asked that if he were in violation should he be allowed to continue to be in violation. Mr. Fuller’s response was that if he is in violation you’re setting him up.
George Fuller stated that he would go along with it if the picture is removed. George Fuller made a motion to take the Mohawk Garage out of the report. No second.
A question was asked about how does the Slum and Blight designation affect the viability of the Grant? Mr. Cavanaugh answered that when an application has an area of Slum and Blight it gives you a better chance of getting the Grant. He stated that now Mr. Fuller wants to take out that one property – why one place? Why not take other houses out?
Mr. Fuller stated that I’m not going to set someone up to have the DEP go on their property from a picture that we have. Why are we going to send a picture in and have the DEP see it, look at and go look at this guy, it raises a red flag, same deal with the pallet shop. If we don’t get the grant does the DEP come in and make these guys clean up their property. You’re using private property to get a grant for the Town.
Mr. Fuller asked Mr. Blair what did Mr. Roberts say about his property (the former lumberyard in North Becket)? Tony Blair stated that he had talked to him about whether he was willing to consider selling the property. Mr. Fuller asked if he had discussed contamination with him. Mr. Blair stated that he believed that the owner had stated that he was aware of possible contamination on the site during their discussion. It seems to be a matter of common knowledge that there may be some left over contamination from the prior owners.
Mr. Fuller stated “Take Pete out of there and then I’ll go for the contract.” Mr. Fuller made the motion to withdraw the Mohawk Garage property out of there and then we can go from there. There was a call for a second. Bill Cavanaugh, “No I won’t second. I won’t have personal relationships enter into what the Board does. I’m not going to sit here and do one person’s bidding. If George suspects that the Mohawk Garage is in violation somehow or he has knowledge of that and he wants to keep him out of the report for fear that that will be found out, I’m not for that.”
Mrs. McGeer stated that if we get the grant he will have money to clean it up. Mr. Fuller responded, “If we get the grant, and if we don’t then he’ll have to clean it up himself. A guy was turned in because he buried 55 gallon drums of oil in his yard, they brought DEP up, showed them where it was, they were paid off and nothing ever got done. I don’t think Pete is a millionaire guy who can pay the DEP off, but I don’t believe we should be using him without asking his permission.”
Mr. Cavanaugh stated that he thinks you just threw a monkey wrench in our application process and wasted 20,000 dollars. Mr. Fuller said so be it. Mr. Cavanaugh made a motion to sign the resolution as presented. He read the resolution. No second. The matter was tabled until the third member of the Board could be present.
6. The Selectmen reviewed the August 2009 report of the Board of Assessors. There were no questions. The Selectmen accepted the report.
7. Mr. Blair reported that he had obtained sample bills from COMSTAR which provides the ambulance department billing. Only the third bill had a statement about seeking a hardship waived, but COMSTAR indicated that they could place that information on every bill, starting with the first one. Mr. Fuller made a motion that COMSTAR include the hardship information on the 1st and every subsequent bill. Mr. Cavanaugh seconded. All in favor.
8. The Selectmen reviewed a letter from the State Lottery Commission regarding the availability of Keno-To-Go (a new card based lottery game) at the Becket Country Store and Becket General Store. There were no objections on the part of the Board to allowing both stores to carry the new game.
9. The Selectmen reviewed a request from the Town of Windsor to sign off on a request for a reduction in their payment to the Central Berkshire Regional School District for FY 2009. They are allowed to do this because there was a one-time jump in the income levels in their town (perhaps due to a lottery winner) which skewed their income levels. The State is replacing the money being refunded to Windsor with stimulus funds. Mr. Blair explained the issues, and Mr. Bird, a Windsor Selectman, said he appreciated the Town’s willingness to consider their request. Mr. Fuller made a motion to sign the letter, Mr. Cavanaugh seconded. All in favor. Mr. Blair brought to the Board’s attention that similar funds might be available to the Town due to the
expenditure of funds for the ice storm cleanup as it is a one time expenditure that may qualify. But, he had checked with the State Department of Education and Department of Revenue and been told that if the Town of Becket did seek such reimbursement it would not be replaced with state or federal funds. The result is that the cost would either be shifted to other communities in the CBRSD or the CBRSD’s budget would have to be cut, impacting the education of the children in the district. The Board discussed this and agreed not to seek any reimbursement.
10. Mr. Blair gave the Selectmen a draft job description for the harbormaster position. They reviewed it and accepted it.
11. Mr. Blair gave the Selectmen a draft charge for a Becket Energy Committee, which was an issue that was identified in the Green Communities Planning Grant process as something the state would like the Town to create. Mr. Fuller made a motion to accept the charge and Mr. Cavanaugh seconded. All in favor. The Town will advertise for volunteers for the Energy Committee.
12. Other business:
Colleen O’Connor stated that she felt there should be some punitive recourse for Selectboard members who do not attend meetings. In connection with the CDBG grant application process she felt we should not be petty and fail to move it forward.
Mrs. McGeer spoke to the Board about her concerns relative to the assessed value of land that she bought at auction.
Mr. Blair informed those present that Kathy Hayn, Town Tax Collector has arranged for the Bloodmobile to be at Town Hall on Tuesday, September 29th from 11AM to 6PM, and that walk-in donors are welcome.
He also stated that he had been able to reach the Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, Suzanne Bump, in connection with the unemployment billing that the Town had been paying for an ambulance hourly worker. The Secretary had consulted with their chief counsel who informed the Town that we had been billed incorrectly, and although there was still some liability on the part of the Town, it is $2,512.00 less than we had paid. That money will come back to the Town.
A letter from Mike Falk regarding the committee of the CBRSD to look at restructuring the districts agreement was provided to the Selectmen. Mr. Falk is recommending voting against two proposals, both of which would change the apportionment of costs to the detriment of Becket. The Selectmen agreed with Mr. Falk’s position.
13. The Selectmen reviewed correspondence.
At about 9:10 the Selectmen declared that they were taking a short break to see if Mr. Murray was nearby and could be at Town Hall in a reasonable period of time. The break began at 9:10 and ended at 9:20 PM.
5 – continued. Mr. Murray arrived at 9:20 PM. Mr. Blair briefly explained the positions that had been taken by Mr. Cavanaugh and Mr. Fuller in connection with the draft Slum and Blight report. The Selectboard continued that discussion for a short time, with Mr. Cavanaugh and Mr. Fuller explaining their positions to Mr. Murray. Mr. Fuller made the motion to take anything pertaining to the Mohawk Garage out of the report and, with that proviso, to approve and submit the Slum and Blight report. The letter approving the report to be signed by the members of the Board after the revisions have been made. Mr. Murray seconded. The vote was 2 in favor (Mr. Fuller and Mr. Murray) and one opposed (Mr. Cavanaugh).
At 9:40PM the motion was made by Mr. Fuller to go into executive session to discuss litigation strategy and not to return to open session. Mr. Fuller voted yes. Mr. Murray voted yes. Mr. Cavanaugh voted yes.
A motion was made by Mr. Fuller to adjourn the executive session at 10:02 PM. Mr. Fuller voted yes. Mr. Murray voted yes. Mr. Cavanaugh voted yes.
Respectfully submitted, _______________________________
Tony Blair, Town Administrator William F. Cavanaugh, Chairman