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Board of Selectmen Minutes 6/2/10
Members present:        Mark Karlberg, William Cavanaugh, George Fuller

Others Present: Tony Blair, David Bonney, Colleen O’Connor, Bill Brownhill, Geri Galliher, Madeleine Swindlehurst, Bob Will, Bob Ronzio, Steven & Ruth Rosenthal, Brian Domina, Bruce Garlow, Jeremy Dunn, Mark White, Doug & Geri Walter, Jeanne & Richie Pryor, Rita Furlong, Sandra Sayward, Barbara Stuhlmann, Robert Gorden, Harry Roff, Gale & Stephen LaBelle, Gerald Dezess, Meredyth Babcock, Zina Jayne, Lukas Horn, Ann Krawet, Jeff Penn, William Girard, Bud Moylan, Hildegard Freedman, Mitch Greenwald, Audrey Schlanger and others

7:02 PM Meeting opened.

Selectmen’s Comments and Announcements: Mark thanked George for the luxurious ride at the Memorial Day Parade.  He also thanked anyone that had anything to do with this parade.  Bill thanked Bill Mulholland for organizing this parade year after year.  He also thanked him for helping the Boy Scouts to put up flags for all of the veterans in the cemeteries.

The Selectmen reviewed the minutes of the previous meetings.  George asked Tony if he spoke with John Murray before the election about doing the perk tests on the land auction properties.  Tony advised that he spoke with John on May 12, 2010.  George asked Tony why he did not ask the Selectmen if this was something he could do.  Tony did not think it was necessary to ask the Selectmen if he could get John to do the perk tests.  Tony advised that Valerie Nickerson cost $500 and John Murray cost $480 for the two perk tests that were done.  Bill motioned to accept the minutes of May 19, 2010, George seconded.  All in favor.  George was not sure when he made the motion to have Mark Karlberg chairman of the board if this was done properly.  Bill explained that traditionally when they vote to reorganize the Board, the person whose term is up next year becomes chairman, the person whose term is up in two years becomes vice-chair and the newly elected person becomes the clerk.  Tony advised that it was perfectly legal the way they voted to reorganize.  George motioned to accept the minutes of May 5, 2010, Bill seconded.  Mark abstained since he was not on the Board on May 5, 2010.  Motion passed.

Town Administrator’s report:

Tony advised that on May 25, 2010 the application designating our town as a Green Community was accepted.  As a result of this, the town is now eligible to receive $141,326.  Tony is working on the grant as he speaks and needs to have the grant in by Friday.  He explained what the grant application is looking at and wants to get some feedback from the Selectmen.  One thing he is looking at is using the Green Community funding along with the grant we already received to upgrade Fire Station #2.  Another thing he is looking at is putting up a second sand and salt shed on the other side of town.  This would save on fuel, time and wear and tear on the trucks.  It was estimated that the savings would amount to approximately 12,000 miles a winter if we had a second sand and salt shed which would amount to a 7% fuel savings.  This shed would have enough space to hold the salt and sand, store two trucks and the loader and fuel to fill up the trucks and the ambulance.  George was concerned about storing the trucks in the shed with the salt.  He feels that the trucks will deteriorate more quickly if they are stored with the salt.  Bill feels that it is a good idea but it needs some fine tuning.  Mark advised that a heated garage does not seem to stop a vehicle from deteriorating in fact it seems to make the vehicle deteriorate quicker.  Bill motioned to go forward with the green community grant as presented, Mark seconded.  George was opposed.  Motion passed.  Tony asked if he could finish his report after the tax classification hearing.

Tax Classification hearing.  Susan Donnelly addressed the Board regarding the tax classifications.  The first thing that needs to be decided is whether to have a single residential tax rate.  Bill advised that traditionally we have gone with a single tax rate because Becket does not have a lot of commercial properties.  Bill motioned to keep it as a single tax rate, George seconded.  Ann Krawet asked if accessory apartments would affect the single tax rate.  Sue advised that the bylaws have to be approved by the Attorney General’s office before they are effective.  She also advised that the building inspector would notify the assessors if there were permits for accessory apartments and they would assess them properly.  All in favor.  The second thing that needs to be voted on is an open space discount.  Sue advised that we do not have any open space properties.  Bill motioned to not have an open space discount, George seconded.  All in favor.  The third thing that needs to be voted on is a residential exemption.  This would shift the tax burden to the second home owners.  Bill always felt that the second home owners do not have children in our school systems and should not be taxed more than year round residents.  Bill motioned to not have a residential exemption, George seconded.  All in favor.  The last thing that needs to be voted on is a small commercial exemption.  Sue advised that we have a small amount of small commercial properties and that in the past the Selectmen opted not to have a small commercial exemption.  Bill motioned to not have a small commercial exemption, George seconded.  All in favor.  Sue advised that the town has an excess levy in the amount of $3,057.99.  The Selectmen signed the LA5 form.  The tax classification hearing ended.  Ann Spadafora thanked Susan Donnelly for her years of service to the town.  This was her last tax classification hearing because she is retiring on June 30, 2010.  Susan thanked everyone for allowing her to work for the town and said that she has enjoyed serving the residents and tax payers of Becket.

Town Administrator’s report continued.  Bill asked what the timeline for this grant is.  Tony advised that the grant needs to be in by Friday, June 4, 2010.  Bill feels that we are always under the gun to get these grants in and do not have enough time to research each aspect of the grant.  George motioned to hold off on this grant until we get more information.  Motion was not seconded.  George asked how the grant would be submitted to Boston.  Tony advised that he would be bringing this grant to Boston himself.  George asked if the taxpayers pay for this.  Tony advised that he has never charged the town mileage, tolls or anything when he brings the grants to Boston.  Madeleine Swindlehurst asked if this grant is only available to municipal buildings or uses or can some of the funding be marked for residential use.  Tony advised that he believes that it is only for municipal use.  Tony advised that this type of grant can be amended if in the long run what was submitted does not make sense to complete.  George Roberts asked when the grants would be awarded.  Tony advised that we could hear anywhere from 45 to 60 days.  Bill asked how long Tony has been working on this grant.  Tony advised that he has been working on the designation part of this grant for about 2 ½ months and has been working on the funding portion of this grant for approximately 3 weeks.  Tony advised that after the town received notice that it had been designated “Green” he heard from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership that said that Becket had written the best Technical Assistance grant application in the state and will be awarded approximately $10,000 for services that will include a market study for affordable income housing and other services.  

Tony advised that the town held a land auction on May 22, 2010 and sold 60 of the 80 lots that were for sale which will bring in about $180,900 not counting pro-forma taxes.  He thanked Kathy Hayn, Bill Girard, Susan Donnelly, Christine Bleau and the rest of the town hall employees for their assistance in getting the land auction completed.  

George asked Tony where the money was coming from to pay for the perk tests that were done on property that was up for sale at the land auction.  Tony advised that the money was coming from the septic system repair fund that the town had from past block grants.  Bill asked if this fund was for residents who were having issues with their septic systems.  Tony advised that no one has used this fund in over five years.  Bill did not think that this fund should be used for perk tests; this fund is set aside for septic system repairs.  Jeremy Dunn advised the Board that they have the power to transfer excess funds from any account to pay for this if they do not want the funds coming from the septic system repair fund.  Bill advised that Tony had asked a sitting Selectman to complete the perk tests and this gives the appearance of improprieties.  He said that Tony should have asked the Selectmen if he could do this and if he had, Bill would not have approved this because it shows favoritism.  Tony advised that he did nothing illegal and he read a letter that he wrote to the Ethics Commission and advised that he is awaiting a decision from them.  Bill feels that this has put him in an uncomfortable position with the other contractors in town because they may view it as favoritism.  Mark asked Bill to finish up because they have a lengthy agenda and Bill asked him not to shut him down at which point there was shouting from the audience and Jeremy Dunn called for Bill and George’s resignation and Bill left the table and sat out with the audience.  Madeleine Swindlehurst agrees that there is a lengthy agenda and Tony has contacted the Ethics Commission so everything has been done so there is no point in continuing with this discussion.  

Public Input: Hildegarde Freedman advised that she has dealt with Tony on a number of issues and always found him to be accountable.  She feels that he speaks beautifully and is always willing to help people.

Mike Falk asked how they would be handling item 10 on the agenda.  He asked if they are looking for input because the Finance Committee is meeting on June 10, 2010 and they could provide a report on how the Finance Committee feels Tony is doing.  Mark has asked Tony to find out how other towns deal with evaluating their town administrator.  Tony found out that other towns have their employees and department heads complete a confidential questionnaire.  Mark has asked Tony to get a copy of one so this can be completed.  He will make sure that everyone gets a copy to fill out.

Jeremy Dunn apologized to the Board of Selectmen and the audience members for speaking out of turn and making a complete idiot of himself.  

Colleen suggested that one way to do an evaluation of the town administrator is to take their ego out of it.  She also advised that she has asked and pleaded to take the church out of the town.  She said that she had attended the Becket Fair and found that it is not the Becket Fair it is the Becket Federated Church Fair.  She asked why it was the Praise Team Memorial Day parade.  She also complained that some things are not included in the minutes to the Selectmen’s meetings so that is why she is taping the meeting.  She stated that Bill Cavanaugh called her a name and he denies saying it.  Mark stated that public input was now closed.  Bill stated that he was not finished speaking and did not like being told to stop talking when he still had an issue he wanted to address.  He asked Tony what word he used often in front of the women employees and residents in town.  Tony stated that he used the words thank you.  Bill stated that there have been complaints that there is a hostile environment at town hall and people are afraid to speak with Tony.  Steve Schatz expressed appreciation for Tony’s work as Town Administrator and asked the Board to send out notification if they do not wish to extend his contract so that people could attend the meeting and state that they wish him to continue as Town Administrator.  Audrey Schlanger asked if there was ever a formal complaint against Tony.  Tony advised that there was never a formal or informal complaint against him.  Tony admitted that he used colorful words at times and he would make every effort to stop using them.  

8:40 PM The meeting briefly adjourned for a break.

8:45 PM The meeting reconvened.

Jeff Penn of the Jacobs Ladder Trail Scenic Byway addressed the Board regarding the 100th Anniversary of the Jacobs Ladder Trail.  There was a typo on the agenda.  This discussion was not regarding the Becket’s 250th Anniversary Celebration.  Mr. Penn advised that he spoke with the Kushi’s, who own the Summit House property, and received permission to use this property for the Jacob’s Ladder Trail 100th Anniversary event which will take place on September 25, 2010 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  He asked if there were any permits that they would need to acquire from any boards before this event takes place.  They have gotten permission from Mass Highway to put up signs warning people to slow down for this event.  George asked Mr. Penn if he contacted the Becket Police Department about this. He advised that he had been in contact with the police department.  Tony advised that he would be in touch with Jeff if he needed anything and also gave him contact information if Jeff needed it.

Brian Domina from Berkshire Regional Planning Commission addressed the Board regarding the Natural Hazard Mitigation Grants.  He advised that FEMA and MEMA are funding the updates for the Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan but towns that received grant funding for their local hazard mitigation plans need to have these plans updated.  He is asking for input from the town and the public.  Tony advised that on other issues, the town has held one or more public hearings to get input from residents and thought they should do this for this plan.  George thought that Mr. Domina should contact Len Tisdale since a good portion of this plan deals with road issues.  Jeanne Pryor asked if this plan only includes town roads or can the three road districts be represented in the plan.  Brian has been trying to find this out because the same issue was brought up in Otis.  He will contact Jeanne when he gets an answer.  Mark asked if there was a way to get the current plan on the website and Tony said it could be done.  Brian will try to set up a public hearing with the highway superintendent, emergency management director, police, fire and ambulance departments.

Sue Donnelly addressed the Board regarding the finalists for the principal assessor position.  There are three finalists that the Selectmen need to interview.  Tony would like these interviews to take place as soon as possible so that the person has some time to work with Sue.  Tony will ask the candidates what date will be best for them and then get back to the Selectmen.  Bill came back up to the table.  George advised that he would not be in town for the next Selectmen’s meeting on June 16, 2010.  Briefly discussed when the Selectmen could meet again.  Bill advised that he needs time to assess whether he wants to continue to be a Selectman.  It was decided that the Selectmen would meet on June 22, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.

Mike Falk addressed the Board regarding Jeremy Dunn.  Jeremy resigned from the Finance Committee because he was offered an assignment that would not allow him to continue working on the Finance Committee but this has changed so Mike is asking the Selectmen to appoint Jeremy until the next election.  Mike strongly supports this appointment.  Robert Gorden also supports this appointment.  Bill motioned to appoint Jeremy Dunn to the Finance Committee term to expire May 2011, George seconded.  All in favor.  Tony advised that this is a joint appointment and the Finance Committee would also need to vote on this.

George motioned to move item 10 (Selectmen to review Town Administrator’s contract) to the Selectmen’s meeting on June 22, 2010, Bill seconded.  All in favor.  Steve Rosenthal asked if there would be a public forum for input on how the public feels Tony is doing.  Mark explained that he had Tony research how other towns handle this.  One way would be to have an anonymous questionnaire for employees and department heads to provide input.  Steve asked when the public could provide input.  Mark advised that this could be done at the meeting on June 22, 2010 and if the Selectmen decide not to appoint Tony then there would be a thirty day comment period.  There was a question of whether Tony was still on probation.  Mitch Greenwald, an attorney advising Tony, advised that there was a six month performance review that took place and the result of this was that the Board found Tony’s performance as exceptional.  George advised that only two Selectmen rated him as exceptional.  Under his contract it reads that if the Board found his performance as exceptional then it would extend the agreement for another six months, with negotiated salary increase.  If performance still exceptional after the second six month period, three year agreement to be offered.  Mr. Greenwald asked if that is what the Selectmen are planning to do at their meeting.  Mark advised that that is what they would be doing.  Meredyth Babcock asked if the public could also be involved with the evaluation and have a separate questionnaire.  George asked what the town is supposed to do if their attorney cannot act because of a conflict.  Mr. Greenwald advised that he is not representing the town but he believes that our town counsel should find the town an attorney that is competent to cover for them in the case of a conflict.  Bill advised that he wanted to speak, along with the other Selectmen, with all of the department heads and employees to see how they felt about how Tony was doing so he called to speak with Sally Bell.  Sally Bell advised that because she was Tony’s friend and had worked with him in the past, she could not advise him so she referred him to Attorney Pollard.  Mr. Pollard advised that he and the other Selectmen could not meet with the employees and department heads because it was a violation of the open meeting law but he could, as an individual, meet with them.  A few days later Bill received a call from Attorney Pollard and was told that as a member of the firm of Hannon Lerner, he was also in conflict on issues pertaining to Tony’ performance evaluation.  Bill wanted to know why Attorney Bell did not advise the town to get another lawyer when Tony was first hired because now the town is without counsel.  Mark advised that he spoke with Sally Bell and was told that her office would arrange for another lawyer to support the town.  Tony advised that there is $3,000 in a legal funds account that could be used for this purpose.  Mitch Greenwald advised that if more than one person is speaking to someone and not bringing it to an open meeting then this could be a violation of the open meeting law.  Mike Falk supports Tony and feels that if the Board of Selectmen should terminate Tony that it does so legally so there are no legal consequences.  He also stated that he has read the employee handbook and there are ways to resolve conflicts and that if there are conflicts that they be handled according to this handbook.  Tony advised that the only conflict with our current town counsel would be if it involved him.  All other matters could still be handled by current town counsel.  Tony also advised that it was on his resume when he was first hired that he had worked for the firm of Hannon and Lerner so this should not be a surprise to the Selectmen.  Bill asked how the survey would be handled.  Mark advised that he asked Tony to find out from other town administrators how they handled evaluations in their towns and he would be compiling a list of questions that could be asked.  The Selectmen could add/remove/change anything and once the survey is complete it could be distributed to the employees and department heads.  Mark thought that the town clerk could take the information from the surveys and compile it.  Tony thought that the Selectmen should do that.  The Selectmen would need to review the surveys in an open meeting.  Briefly discussed the Town Administrator’s contract regarding the options of renewing it.  George Roberts recommended that the Board stop talking about it until they speak with a new attorney.  He is concerned that whatever is said here in front of Tony’s attorney could be used against the Board.  George motioned to move on, Mark seconded.  All in favor.

Tony was asked by George to try to find out if the chain that goes across the property located at 21 Maple Street is allowed to be there.  Tony has spoken with the principal of Becket Washington School, the school superintendent and the town attorney who is dealing with the suit that Colleen has against the town.  There is a disagreement as to where the right of way is and who owns what property.  He feels the best solution would be to have a survey done on the property.  Tony discussed this with Colleen and she is okay with this and the school is agreeable to having the survey done.  George asked if this could be done while Colleen has a suit against the town.  Tony advised that the right of way is not part of the suit that she has against the town.  Colleen advised that this is purely a retaliatory action because she has not had potable water for five years and is tired of having to travel to take a shower and having to purchase water to drink.  Bill feels that a survey is a good idea but he would like a test done on the septic line.  Bill motioned to authorize the survey of 21 Maple Street to include all properties that abut 21 Maple Street including across the river on Main Street, George seconded.  All in favor.

The Selectmen reviewed the letter from Susan Donnelly requesting payment of her unused sick/personal time.  George motioned to pay Susan Donnelly’s request for unused sick/personal time, Bill seconded.  Bob Ronzio asked if there was a policy that states that the employee could get unused sick/personal time.  It is in the employees’ contracts that they could get up to 65 unused sick/personal days when they retire.  Tony advised that the money would come out of a surplus account.  All in favor.

The Selectmen reviewed the town administrator’s appointments.  Tony advised that he has not heard from Ray Tarjick about whether he wants to continue serving as Emergency Management Director.  Tony will try to get the Selectmen an Emergency Management Director as soon as he can.  George motioned to accept the Town Administrator’s appointments for the upcoming year, Bill seconded.  (Copy attached)  All in favor.

George motioned to issue a one-day beer and wine permit to the Becket Arts Center on June 19, 2010, Bill seconded.  All in favor.

Tony advised that there have been complaints about the Harbor Master mooring his boat at the town beach.  He has done this in the past and he continues to do this and the town continues to get complaints.  Bill advised that he spoke with the harbor master and was told that Camp Greylock has allowed him to keep his boat moored on their property that is next to the town beach.  Tony asked if he could speak with the harbor master to see if this is still the case.  Bill thought that that was fine.  George motioned to table this until June 22, 2010 so the harbor master and Brian Bean and Tina LeVasseur from the Recreation Committee could come in to speak with the Selectmen, Bill seconded.  All in favor.

Tony explained that because we do not have a tax rate set and have not collected the fourth quarter tax amounts, we need to borrow $250,000 in anticipation of revenue.  George asked where the money from the land auction will go.  Tony advised that the money from the land auction would go into the general fund and will go toward our free cash for FY2011.  George asked where the $85,000 from the ice storm went.  Tony explained how much money the town received and where it went.  George motioned to sign the revenue anticipation bank note in the amount of $250,000, Bill seconded.  Bud Moylan asked how much the town received in voluntary tax payments.  Tony advised that the town received just over $200,000 from voluntary tax payments.  All in favor.

The Selectmen reviewed the letter from WiredWest.  This organization is looking for Becket representatives to serve on their committee.  This committee is working to get high speed internet to the underserved towns.  Tony advised that Jeanne Pryor has shown interest in this committee.  Bob Ronzio would like to serve as the alternate.  George motioned to appoint Jeanne Pryor as the primary representative and Robert Ronzio as the alternate representative on the WiredWest Organizing Committee, Bill seconded.  All in favor.

The Selectmen reviewed the Special Permit application from Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival for the installation of temporary banners along Route 20 and George Carter Road.  George asked is this is allowed by our bylaws.  Bob Ronzio stated that they have gone through the planning board in the past and were approved but they need to get permission from Western Mass Electric Company.  Tony was not sure if they received permission from WMECO but he could make a call to find out and report back to the Planning Board.

The Selectmen reviewed the monthly reports of the Ambulance Department, Police Department, Citations Issued and the Building Inspector.  George motioned to accept the reports, Bill seconded.  All in favor.

Any other business: Nina advised that the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority needs a representative to serve on the advisory board and in the past it was the chairman that served as representative.  Bill motioned to nominate Mark Karlberg as representative to the BRTA Advisory Board, George seconded.  Mark abstained.  Motion passed.

Ann Krawet asked if the Board of Health could look into the issue of boats leaking oil into Center Pond.  She advised that the oil that gets caught in the current is directed toward the town beach where people, children included, swim.  She also asked if the town ever spoke with the camp about acquiring the land by the beach.  Bill advised that he did not think this was done.

Reviewed correspondence.

10:40 PM  George motioned to adjourn, Bill seconded.  All in favor.

Reviewed the payroll warrants.

Respectfully submitted,                                                         _______________________________
Nina Weiler, Secretary                                                          Mark L. Karlberg, Chairman