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Board of Selectmen Minutes 3/17/10
Members present:        William Cavanaugh, George Fuller, John Murray

Others Present: Tony Blair, David Bonney, Colleen O’Connor, Beth VanNess, Bill Elovirta, Madeleine Swindlehurst, Gale LaBelle, Ann Spadafora, Ginger Conner, Jake Jurgenson

7:02 PM Meeting opened.

Selectmen’s Comments and Announcements: Bill wished everyone a happy “St. Patrick’s Day”.  He also apologized for not being at the last Selectmen’s meeting and explained that his doctors would not let him out of the hospital to attend the meeting.

The Selectmen reviewed minutes of the previous meetings.  George motioned to accept the minutes of February 17, 2010, Bill seconded.  John abstained from voting because he was not at this meeting.  Motion passed.  George motioned to accept the minutes of March 3, 2010, John seconded.  Bill abstained from voting because he was not at meeting.  Motion passed.

Town Administrator’s Report: Tony advised that the Town received $225,421.37 from FEMA for the ice storm cleanup.  He also advised that tax payments have been rolling in and the town is in good shape.

Public Input: Madeleine Swindlehurst submitted a letter and photos of a collapsed storm drain on State Route 8 Right-of-Way at 2601 Main Street, Becket.  She advised that she has marked the drain and flagged it in orange so that people see it.  She would like the Selectmen to contact the proper authorities at Mass Highway Department.  She feels that since this location is an emergency vehicle lane and school bus stop, the damage should be corrected as soon as possible.  She advised that she spoke with someone from the regional office and has not heard anything from them.  John motioned to send Mass Highway a letter asking them to address this situation, George seconded.  All in favor.  George asked if she wanted a cone placed there.  She advised that she has done that in the past but the cone always seems to disappear.  George advised that he would see about putting up a sign there so people will see there is a problem and avoid going into the collapsed storm drain.

The Selectmen reviewed the letter of resignation from Jeanne Pryor as Town Clerk effective May 17, 2010.  Tony advised that she indicated that this is because of social security and he feels that stress from the job has something to do with why she is leaving.  Bill spoke with her and she said that she has grandchildren now and wants to spend more time with them.  Tony brought up the issue of having an appointed town clerk instead of an elected one.  He wants the Selectmen to think about whether they want to ask the voters if they want an appointed or elected town clerk.  John feels that the town would get better qualified people if it was an appointed position.  George feels that the voters should decide how they want this position filled.  Bill feels that if a person is elected and did not do a good job, it would take months to get the person out of this position whereas if the person was appointed, they would be under the Selectmen’s authority.  Discussed having the town clerk position turned into a fulltime position.  Tony does not feel that this should be a fulltime position.  Bill advised that they could put on the town meeting warrant to change the position to appointed and to change it to fulltime.  Tony thought it would be good, if this position changes to appointed, if we could possibly get a part time town clerk from another town to come and be our town clerk too.  George motioned to put an article on the Annual Town Meeting warrant asking voters to change the Town Clerk’s position from elected to appointed, John seconded.  All in favor.  John motioned to accept the resignation of Jeanne Pryor as Town Clerk effective May 17, 2010, George seconded.  All in favor.

George asked why some departments are being charged interest because the invoices are not being paid on time.  Tony asked what he was talking about.  George said that he was approached by someone about interest being charged to their account because the invoices were not paid on time and he wants to know why this is happening.  George asked why the accountant is not getting these bills paid on time.  Tony advised that it is the responsibility of the accountant and the treasurer to make sure the invoices get processed in a timely fashion, and that to the best of his knowledge they are doing so.  The only late account he was aware of was a credit card that kept getting a late charge put on it, and that Chris had cancelled the card when the company was not able to explain why the charges were being levied.  He suggested that the Selectmen come in to speak with the auditors to see that the accountant has cleaned up the mess left by the former accountant.  Discussed the accounts payable warrant, and looked at some of the current bills in the warrant that was on the table.  George asked how long it took to process invoice payments.  Tony advised that once the town hall receives the invoices, it probably takes two weeks for the checks to be sent out.  Tony asked the Selectmen if they would make a motion to stop signing warrants at the Selectmen’s meetings and come in weekly to sign them.  This may help payments get out more quickly.  George motioned to stop signing warrants at the Selectmen’s meeting and have the warrants ready to sign outside of the meetings, John seconded.  All in favor

Ann Spadafora advised that she paid her taxes and the check has not cleared yet and wanted to know why this takes so long.  She advised that she received an email from the tax collector’s office stating that they were a week and a half behind in opening the mail and she wanted to know why that was.  Tony advised that the tax collector had arranged to take a family vacation a while ago and because the DOR has not set the tax rate yet, it happened that her vacation took place when the tax bills were due.  Madeleine asked if the town does its own payroll.  Tony advised that a payroll service currently does the town’s payroll.

Ginger Conner addressed the Board regarding the Mosquito Control Program.  She advised that, being a member of the Board of Health, she recommends that the town continue treating for mosquitoes.  She stated that there are many children’s camps in Becket and feels that the health of the children is important because of mosquito borne illnesses.  The Board of Health is in charge of testing dead birds for West Nile Virus and she is concerned that we are putting the children at risk if we stop spraying for mosquitoes.  Tony advised that he investigated West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis and found that 26 of 3,410 mosquito samples tested positive in Massachusetts but none tested positive in Berkshire County and that the State considers the risk for these WNV and EEE to be “remote”.  Jake Jurgenson, of Berkshire County Mosquito Control, advised that Berkshire County did not submit any mosquitoes to be tested.  Ginger also advised that there are a couple of farms that will be opening in Becket and they are interested in having their property treated for mosquitoes.  Madeleine Swindlehurst and Ann Spadafora both spoke about being opposed to spraying.  Ann Spadafora stated that when someone has their property sprayed, it could be blown over to their neighbor’s property who does not want the chemicals on their property.  She also wanted to know why the camps are not paying to have their own property treated.  Colleen O’Connor gave a brief description of what the spraying does to other species and what reactions people can have to these chemicals.  She feels that the Board of Health could help by making sure residents do not have places where mosquitoes can breed.  She was also concerned about these chemicals getting into the water in residents’ wells.  She advised that 80% of the cost goes toward administration and 20% goes to the actual spraying.  George motioned to put an article on the Annual Town Meeting warrant asking the voters whether they wish to continue in the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Program, John seconded.  All in favor.

Tony asked the Selectmen if they wished to continue mailing out the Annual Town Meeting Warrant.  He advised that Nina figured out the approximate cost of mailing the warrants.  It costs approximately $725 to mail these warrants out including materials and labor.  He advised that we could post the warrant on the town website and send it to anyone on the town’s email list, put it in the newspaper and also have copies available throughout the town.  Gale and Ann feel that we should continue to mail out the warrant since many voters may not have a computer and do not get the newspaper.  Bill feels that it should continue to be sent out because the voters can decide if they want to be at the meeting or not by reading the warrant.  He also gets a lot of feedback from voters about things that are on the warrant.  He feels that many of the older voters seem to come to the meetings and many do not have computers.  It was agreed that the warrant should continue to be mailed to all voters in town.

The Selectmen reviewed the latest version of the FY2011 budget.  Tony advised that he and the Finance Committee do not agree with the fire chief’s stipend.  He explained that John Hall currently gets paid $10 per day whereas the animal control officer currently gets paid approximately $100.00 per call.  He also advised that this is the only raise that is being considered.  George asked if Tony found out the fuel usage for the fire chief.  He advised that Lenny keeps track of all the fuel usage by department and he could go get the summary if George wanted to see it.  George asked about the animal control officer’s calls.  He advised that the monthly report shows that the animal control officer goes on approximately 20 calls a month.  Tony advised that he should only be responding to dog calls and not wild animals.  Colleen asked if the fire chief could submit a monthly report to the Selectmen like the other departments.  Tony advised that he has asked John to submit a report every month.  Ann would like to know what other towns pay for their fire chiefs.  Tony advised that he has asked John to see what other towns pay their fire chiefs and he has also asked other town managers to get this information to him.  Tony advised that the rest of the budget was tweaked a little so there were not any big changes.  He explained the highway department budget.  Lenny took some of the overtime out of the budget but Tony felt it would be better to keep it in.  He would rather have too much overtime budgeted than not enough.

The Selectmen reviewed the preliminary warrant of the 2010 Annual Town Meeting.  Tony advised that he had Bruce Garlow review the warrant and was told that he should remove the wording that states “or take any other action related thereto” on some of the articles because it may change the scope of the article.  Bruce also suggested that they do not have a special town meeting before the annual town meeting.  The reason for this is because you can do the final cleanup of the fiscal year at the annual town meeting; you do not need to do this at a special town meeting.  He feels that it is simpler to do it all in one meeting than to open and close two different meetings.  Tony also spoke about the article that asks voters to change the Board of Selectmen from a three member board to a five member board.  He originally thought that the town could hold a special election after the annual town meeting if it was voted to be changed.  He cannot do this because anytime the charter needs to be changed it has to go through the legislature.  Bill was concerned that if the wording “or take any other action related thereto” was removed then the Selectmen could not change what was voted on during the meeting even if they felt it was in the town’s best interest.  Briefly discussed this issue.  The Selectmen would like to know how town counsel feels about removing the wording and how the moderator feels about possibly putting the wording back on the articles.  Tony will check and let them know at the next meeting.

The Selectmen reviewed the Seasonal Liquor License Renewals.  George asked if the taxes were current.  Nina stated that she forgot to check with the tax collector.  George motioned to sign the seasonal liquor license renewals for Berkshire Berries for a seasonal all alcoholic package goods store license; Becket Country Store for a seasonal all alcoholic package goods store license; and Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival for a seasonal all alcoholic restaurant license as long as there are no taxes due, John seconded.  The Selectmen will come in tomorrow to sign the renewals after the tax collector has checked the taxes.  All in favor.

The Selectmen discussed changing the ambulance department billing rates.  Tony advised that back in January, he received a request from Comstar asking if the town was going to stay at the same billing rates or change them.  The town has not changed our rates for four or five years.  Tony advised that Medicare and Medicaid cover approximately 70% of the runs that the ambulance department goes on.  Medicare and Medicaid pay for the level of care that was given to the patient.  We currently bill only 20% more than what Medicare and Medicaid bill for, which is on the low side of the spectrum.  If we increase the billing, our revenues would go up.  It would not change for the people who are on Medicare or Medicaid.  Only the 30% of runs for people not on Medicare or Medicaid would increase.  The man he spoke with at Comstar advised that most ambulance services charge 50 to 100% more than Medicare and Medicaid.  George motioned to go up to 50% over Medicare on our billing rates, John seconded.  All in favor.

The Selectmen reviewed the invitation to attend the WMECO annual informational meeting for town officials.  Tony advised that John Hall and Ray Tarjick will be attending this meeting.

The Selectmen reviewed the letter of resignation from David Graves from the Agricultural Commission effective March 9, 2010.  George motioned to accept the resignation of David Graves from the Agricultural Commission effective March 9, 2010 and to send him a letter of thanks for serving the town, John seconded.  All in favor.

George motioned to appoint Dorothy Bellavance to the Board of Registrars term to expire March 31, 2013, John seconded.  All in favor.

The Selectmen reviewed the monthly report of the Board of Assessors.

Any other business: Tony advised that we received the Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant and he was sent the contract documents to sign.  Tony thought that if paperwork needs to be signed on an ongoing basis, it would be good if the Selectmen authorize him to be the signatory.  This would eliminate Bill from having to come in and sign paperwork.  John motioned to have Tony be the authorized signatory for the Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant, George seconded.  All in favor.

Tony advised that he received a Becket Ambulance Department Request for Write-Off Report from Comstar.  There are three requests and all three are from Becket and have not responded to the collection letter.  George motioned to write-off the first two and send the third to the collection agency, John seconded.  All in favor.

Reviewed correspondence.

9:20 PM  George motioned to adjourn, John seconded.  All in favor.

Reviewed payroll/expense warrants.

Respectfully submitted,                                                         _______________________________
Nina Weiler, Secretary                                                          William F. Cavanaugh, Chairman