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Board of Selectmen Minutes 7/28/10
Members present:        Mark Karlberg, William Cavanaugh, George Fuller

Others Present: Liz & Bob Will, Hildegarde Freedman, David Bonney, Bill Brownhill, William & Maddy Elovirta, Beth VanNess, Colleen O’Connor, Madeleine Swindlehurst, Julia Maynard, Michael Richard, Ann Spadafora, Andre Ledoux, Maryann Loria, Bruce Bosworth, Marge Fuller, Steve LaBelle, Gene Pike, John Hall, Jeanne Pryor, Josh Lombard, Phyllis Zieky, Shannon & Mark Perusse, Geri & Doug Walter, Geri Galliher, Joel Bard, George Roberts, Mark White, Jeremy Dunn, Kathy Hayn, Chris Bleau, David Zagorski, Justin Elovirta, Meredyth Babcock, Richard Furlong, Steve Rosenthal, Bob Ronzio, Kris Massini, Bud Moylan, Howard Lerner, Ann & Ken Smith, David Scribner, Derek Gentile, and others

7:08 PM Meeting opened.

It was announced that Beth VanNess is audio taping the meeting.

Selectmen’s Comments and Announcements: George introduced Joel Bard, Attorney from Kopelman & Paige.  Bill advised that the CDBG was not awarded to the town.  He explained that it is not uncommon to not be awarded this grant in the first round.  He also advised that BRPC will be meeting with a state agency to explain the weaknesses with the grant so that BRPC can assist the town in re-applying for this grant.  The next grant round will be in December and he was not sure if the town would be able to get this grant application in by then.  Bill also advised that the bids that came in for the Fire Station #2 energy retrofit came in higher than the $150,000 that was awarded from the EECBG.  He would rather go back to the voters to see if they want to spend approximately $50,000 more to complete the work.  George explained that the town website was informational only and that the agenda for this meeting was posted on time at the town hall.  There was an issue with the website so that is why the agenda was not posted on the website on Monday.

Mark motioned to accept the minutes of July 8, 2010, Bill seconded.  All in favor.  Bill motioned to accept the minutes of July 14, 2010, Mark seconded.  All in favor.

Public Input: Colleen O’Connor stated that at the meeting on July 8th, she asked Bill about a comment that he made in the Berkshire Eagle about being back on track.  She took the liberty of looking back at past meetings to see what track the Selectmen were on.  For a long time there were dog complaints and it was said that the town could not have dog laws because they were too hard to enforce.  The town now has a dog bylaw and the complaints have stopped.  She also explained that there was an urgency to remove the dams in town for the future of trout but she does not think there will be any trout in the river because the drain to the school runs into the river.  She questioned the fire protection that the school has and for the fire protection in the village.  She also advised that the school regularly has failed water tests and does not have a valid title 5.  She said the Selectmen continue to support a corrupt Board of Health that does not enforce the most basic sanitation health code that says you do not defecate where you eat.  She advised that the Board sent the DEP a letter of recommendation asking that they waive the shallow well at the Becket General Store.  She continued speaking about the town mowing and plowing the churches in town and also the Tony travesty.  She said this Board recklessly and without foresight fired a man for cussing.  That was all they said that Tony did.  She said that this was all done outside of an open meeting because it could not be done at a thirteen minute closed session meeting.

Shannon Perusse, who lives on Benton Hill Road, complained that there are people speeding on this road and that the speed limit signs that were up were taken down then put back up then taken down again.  She feels that this is very dangerous and witnessed her mother-in-law almost get hit by a car.  She feels that something should be done before someone gets hurt.  George asked what time of day the traffic is the worst.  She advised that it is between 7 and 8 in the morning then between 5 and 7 at night.  George asked Bill Elovirta if he could have this patrolled during this these times.  Bill explained that speed limit signs cannot just be placed up without getting approval from Mass Highway.  Bill Elovirta explained the steps that need to be taken to have signs put up.  He advised that the signs that were put up were regulatory signs.  These need to be approved by Mass Highway.  He explained that the highway superintendent could put up yellow advisory signs for the meantime but the police department could not ticket someone unless they were traveling at an excessive rate of speed.  Once the regulatory signs were approved, the police department could enforce and ticket anyone going over the speed limit.  George will check with Lenny Tisdale about putting up the yellow advisory signs.

Colleen O’Connor had asked before public input why the Board of Health does not post their agendas before their meetings.  George Roberts advised that he checked to see if the agenda was posted outside and it was posted on time.

Meredyth Babcock asked the Selectmen if the survey that would evaluate the Town Administrator’s job performance was ever done.  Mark explained that it was not done but they would like something placed in the next contract so the Selectmen could more easily rate the administrator’s job performance.  She also advised that she requested a copy of the Executive Session minutes on July 16th but was told that the minutes were not released yet.  She asked if they were released and if she could get a copy.  Nina advised that she would have copies available for her tomorrow.  Colleen advised that Steve Rosenthal requested that he get a copy also but has not gotten a copy.  George explained that the minutes were not released until last Friday.  Meredyth asked if the Selectmen could respond in a way that did not make her feel like she was a child.  She is just trying to get answers and is asking in a way and would like the Selectmen to respond in the same way so she does not feel like they are treating her like a child.  Jeremy Dunn asked what process the Selectmen are going to follow to get a fulltime administrator hired.  George advised that this would be addressed when they get to item #20 on the agenda.  Steve Rosenthal advised that he sent a request immediately following the executive session meeting asking for the minutes but still have not received them.  Nina advised that she would get them to him tomorrow.  George Roberts advised that people need to understand that the minutes are not immediately available right after the meeting.  The meetings have been quite long and it takes time to get the minutes completed.  He also gave a quick explanation of public record requests.  Meredyth Babcock would like the recordings of meetings available for people to come to listen to them or if the audio taped meetings could be placed on the website.  Nina explained that the audio files are quite large and the website cannot handle files that large.  Andre Ledoux explained that modern technology has made our lives more difficult in some ways because people expect to get things easily but they should be doing their own legwork to get this information.  Meredyth explained that she would love to attend all of the meetings but having three children involved in different activities prevents her from being able to attend all of these meetings.  

Bob Ronzio advised that he asked about the Sherwood Forest Lake District two weeks ago and wanted to know why this is not on the agenda.  Nina advised that she spoke with Elizabeth Goodman today and she would like to be on the agenda for the August 4th meeting.  Bob said that he heard that the town attorney and the attorney that is working on the legislation have been talking back and forth about this but he has heard nothing.  George Roberts advised that he spoke with Attorney Goodman and she found out on June 29th that the Governor had signed the bill on May 20th.  He advised that there is no mechanism available for the state to notify the town that this has been done.  George advised that at that meeting the Selectmen asked that someone from the SFNA advise them of what is going on and nobody did that.  Bill explained what needs to be done once the meeting is called of all proprietors but he said the Selectmen could not do anything until the person in charge of the SFNA came before them and asked that a meeting be scheduled.  Jeanne Pryor asked George if he received the signed copy of the bill.  He advised that today he received a copy of the letter that was sent to the SFNA that advised that the bill was signed.  He downloaded the exact bill that was signed by the governor but it does not have the governor’s signature on it.  Jeanne advised that if George Roberts called Senator Downing or Rep. Guyer’s office and requested a copy of the signed bill they would send him a copy.  Joel Bard explained that the Board was waiting to hear from the SFNA and the Town Clerk should have been notified but this is what happens in government sometimes.  He advised that there is still plenty of time to get what needs to be done completed.

Beth VanNess asked, since the executive session minutes were released, why Tony was let go.  Bill motioned to release the Separation Agreement that the Selectmen and Tony Blair signed, Mark seconded.  All in favor.  Bill explained that he was told by a number of town officials that there was something wrong at the town hall.  He was told that the employees were being abused.  He asked the employees to put something in writing but they were afraid of retribution.  He explained that Tony used the “f” word constantly and that in itself could cause a lawsuit against the town.  He asked Tony to stop using the word and speak more professionally with the staff but he continued to use the word.  Tony also wanted to know who complained about his language and got combative when he was approached regarding this.  Bill also advised that Tony was constantly giving information to the Selectmen that needed to be dealt with immediately but the Selectmen did not have time to review anything and were expected to make their decision based on information that Tony gave them.  He also advised that Tony withheld information that would help the Selectmen make the best decisions.  When he asked Tony about this Tony’s reply was that he had the right to do this and got combative.  Bill asked him back in April about completing an evaluation on his job performance but Tony did not feel this had to be done.  When he suggested having the Selectmen speak with each employee about how they felt Tony was doing he was told that this was a violation of the open meeting law.  He spoke with Town Counsel to see what could be done and he was told that Sally Bell could not be involved because of the conflict with Tony.  He was referred to another attorney in the office but was also told that this was a conflict and he had no one else to speak with.  Bill said that he was called by Bruce Garlow who asked what Tony would need to do to continue his employment with the town.  Bill stated that he wanted Tony to address his language issue with the employees at one of their monthly staff meetings and apologize and also work on the other issues that Bill had.  Bruce relayed what Bill had said and Tony met with him one day at the cemetery.  They spoke for about two hours.  Bill offered him a six month probation period to work on these issues but Tony would not accept it.  He wanted a three year contract or nothing.  After this the lawyers got involved and this agreement was written.  Bill never had a chance to evaluate Tony or renew his contract.  He believes that he acted with the best interest of the town and if people still feel that Tony should be employed they could vote how they want to in May.  Beth VanNess asked how much it cost the Town in severance pay to get rid of Tony.  Joel Bard advised that it cost the town nothing to release Tony from his employment.  He advised that it is very rare when a separation agreement does not include a payment amount.  Kris Massini advised the Board that Colleen O’Connor was using profanity and is threatening him and if it happens again he would like to have her removed.  He also said that people should learn about meeting etiquette.  The room at that moment erupted with applause.  Steve Rosenthal asked if there was any documentation of the steps along the way.  Bill said no.  He was responding to the overwhelming complaints and was asked to get information about it.

Joel Bard, Attorney from Kopelman and Paige, addressed the Board.  He wanted to come out and meet everyone and tell them a little about himself and the firm.  He explained that 90% of their business is working with cities and towns.  There are 50 firm members who specialize in municipal law.  He gave a synopsis of his work experience.  He also did some research on what other towns are paying this firm to represent them.  He advised that the Town of Hinsdale only went over $15,000 for one year out of the fourteen years that they have represented them.  The Town of Peru paid $36,000 for 17 years of service.  He explained that because they work with so many towns that if a town calls with a question and they know the answer right away they do not charge anything.  He said in most cases they have the answer when you call but if they need to research it then it would cost something to research it.  He said he looks forward the working with everyone and the Selectmen thanked him for coming out.

Kathy Hayn, Christine Bleau and David Zagorski addressed the Board about issues with tax bills. Kathy explained that because this was a revaluation year, the tax rate was set very late and because of this the fourth quarter tax bills are due when the first quarter taxes are normally due.  She also explained that the road district due dates were scattered throughout August.  She is asking the Selectmen how they feel about issuing the first quarter taxes on the back of the fourth quarter taxes.  She feels the taxpayers will not be happy about this and will also be very confused about this.  If the Selectmen want the bills to be issued right away she will need some additional help in her office because between the issuance of the tax bills she will also need to do demands.  She explained that because they asked for voluntary tax payments to bring in some revenue, she is now spending most of her time answering the telephone.  She advised that she has Nina helping whenever she can and she has her part time assistant helping and they are still two weeks behind.  Bill asked what the tax collector, treasurer and head assessor thought would be the most equitable solution to this problem.  David Zagorski feels that the taxpayers should know that they will need to pay both quarters and it should really be decided by our financial situation.  Christine advised that the town has already borrowed twice this year and will need to borrow again because the revenues are not coming in quick enough.  The Selectmen feel that the bills should go out as soon as they can and they would try to get Kathy as much help as possible.  Briefly discussed how to get information out to the taxpayers so they understand what is happening.  Jeanne Pryor suggested that the collectors take a couple of days during the week that they do not deal with the public so they can get their work done.  Jeremy Dunn feels that the bills should go out right away and maybe some seniors that do the work off program could answer the phone to take the pressure off the collectors.  George will meet with the employees tomorrow to see if they could come up with a solution.  Beth offered to volunteer in town hall if they need her.

Bill motioned to reschedule the pole hearing on the proposed installation of four jointly owned poles to shorten the spans for larger sized wires located on Benton Hill Road on August 11, 2010 at 7:30 p.m., Mark seconded.  All in favor.

Bill Elovirta addressed the Board regarding issues at the Becket Quarry.  He explained that Ken and Ann Smith from the Becket Land Trust were also at the meeting to address the issue.  There have been many problems at the Becket Quarry from people from out of the area who are going up to the quarry to party and there has been a lot of vandalism happening there.  The gate has been cut a number of times and people’s cars have been broken into.  Bill feels that this is partly due to the quarry being on the internet which is bringing people from Westfield, Springfield and other areas to the quarry.  He advised that cars are driving up to the quarry and there have been underage people charged with OUI from drinking up there.  Bill has spoken with Ken Smith to see if there was something the Becket Land Trust could do to try to stop these issues from happening.  Ken advised that he met with the Board of the land trust and decided they could put up signs that say that no one is allowed at the quarry after hours and no one should be parked there after hours and also a sign that prohibits campfires.  He explained that they are trying to come up with a solution in regard to the gate.  Ken talked with the fire chief about putting boulders where the gate is to prevent cars from getting up to the quarry.  He advised that legal counsel could tell the police department if it could issue citations once the signs are in place.  He also thought that if cars could be towed out after hours that this would deter people from going up there.  George was not sure if the boulders would be a good idea because if someone was injured the emergency vehicles would not be able to get to them.  George thanked them for bringing this issue to the Board and asked them to keep trying to come up with solutions to solve this problem.

John Hall and the fire department addressed the Board about the water issue at fire station #1.  He advised that the water is tested frequently and the tests come back failed due to ecoli and other things that are in it.  He advised that they cannot drink the water or use it to wash up.  He wants to know what the town is going to do about it.  He feels that a new well would probably correct the problem.  Jeremy asked John if he ever asked for money in his budget to pay for a new well.  He advised that this was included in the grant that the fire department applied for but did not get.  George asked John to call Meyer Well Drilling and get an estimate and get back to the Board and they would go from there.

The Selectmen reviewed letter from Jesse Briggs, Instructor of the First Responder classes, regarding the fire chief’s failure to authorize payment for services rendered.  Maddy Elovirta advised that this instructor came in to teach CPR to 22 firemen.  He did this with one mannequin and in two hours.  He charged over $700 to teach this course and gave the answers to the firemen taking the course instead of testing each person.  She spoke with someone at the OEMS Office who told her not to pay this bill and gave her his supervisor’s number.  She spoke with his supervisor and she asked if there were any books given to the firemen or was there a movie shown and if there were enough mannequins for everyone to practice on.  Maddy advised her that the answer was no to all of the questions.  She advised that Springfield College sent four instructors for two nights to teach this class.  After the class was finished, all of the firemen took the test.  It took some time for two of the firemen to pass this test and Jesse Briggs had passed them without knowing they could not pass the test.  The Selectmen agree that this invoice should not be paid.  Maddy advised that OEMS never teaches this class for free but they did it this time because they felt that this instructor did not provide adequate instructions to the fire department.  George asked that the fire department keep them informed about this.

Andre Ledoux addressed the Board regarding his assessment.  He does not feel that it is the assessor’s fault his assessment went up so high but he feels his children will never be able to afford living in Becket if the taxes keep going up.  He feels that the Selectmen should send the Department of Revenue a letter to see if something could be done.  He feels that the State is increasing all the fees so he is paying more for services but the State is doing nothing to help the people with their taxes.  George advised that they will send a letter and see what happens.

Pam Riel was not in attendance to address the Board regarding a waiver for her son to attend Westfield or Smith Vocational School.  George asked Nina to call her to see why she was not here.

The Selectmen reviewed the letter from the Police Chief and Fire Chief regarding road closing barriers on Big Bass Lane.  Bill Elovirta explained the issue with having these barriers up.  The emergency vehicles would lose time on calls to Crystal Pond because there was only one entrance and exit to this development.  He also advised that if there were trees or wires down on Mallard Drive there would be no other way to get into this development.  Both Bill Elovirta and John Hall feel these barriers should come down.  Bruce Bosworth advised that a letter was sent to the Police, Fire, and Ambulance Departments along with Tony Blair a week before the barriers were put up.  Bill Cavanaugh advised that the new open meeting law requires that any letters that are referenced at the meeting need to be given as part of the record.  Bruce Bosworth feels that if they are in violation of the Subdivision Bylaws then it is a Planning Board issue and the Planning Board needs to tell them if this is allowable or not.  Bill feels that if the distance from Mallard Drive to Big Bass Lane is over the allowable distance for a dead end street then the barriers should be removed immediately.  Bill motioned that, upon confirmation of what Bill Elovirta stated here about Big Bass Lane being over the allowable distance for a dead end street is fact, that a letter be sent to the Crystal Pond Association demanding that the barriers be removed, Mark seconded.  This letter will be sent to Michael Rhein, President of Crystal Pond Association.  All in favor.

Bill motioned to renew the subscription for the Berkshire County Selectmen’s Association, Mark seconded.  All in favor.

Bill motioned to issue a one-day liquor license to the Becket YMCA Chimney Corners camp for a wedding reception, Mark seconded.  All in favor.

Bill motioned to sign Extension Agreement between CET and the Town of Becket for the Collection of Hazardous Waste through the Multi-Town Collaborative, Mark seconded.  All in favor.

The Selectmen reviewed the email from Karl Rausch regarding the Chambers Advisory Group Review Report.  Bill motioned to table this and refer it to the interim town administrator as soon as possible, Mark seconded.  All in favor.

The Selectmen reviewed the Town of Becket’s fiscal year 2010 engagement letter from auditor.  Jeremy Dunn advised that the Finance Committee recommends that the town do an audit every year.  He also advised that there was money budgeted for the audit of FY 2010 records.  Bill motioned to sign the Town of Becket’s fiscal year 2010 engagement letter from auditor, Mark seconded.  All in favor.

Nina advised that the Town of Becket has charged the Town of Washington $6,000 a year for fire protection provided by the Becket Volunteer Fire Department for many years.  John Hall would like to see the town charge $10,000 for fire protection.  Jeremy Dunn feels that we should charge a percentage increase for the service.  The Finance Committee will research to see how much the fire department budget increased from the last time we increased the fee and make their recommendation to the Board.  Bill motioned to table this until the Board hears from the Finance Committee with their recommendations, Mark seconded.  All in favor.

Bill motioned to sign the Dog Officer Warrant, Mark seconded.  All in favor.

Bill advised that he spoke with Richard Furlong about coming back on a part time basis until the town finds a new town administrator.  He feels that Richard would be the most up to speed person to handle this position.  Mark advised that he spoke with Peter Menard about coming back and he would be willing to come back but it would be very part time and only for a few months.  He did not want to be driving to Becket from Windsor during the winter.  Bill motioned to appoint Richard Furlong as temporary part time administrator until a new one is hired, Mark seconded.  Richard suggested that the motion be amended to say on an hourly basis with no benefits.  Bill motioned to amend the motion to include on an hourly basis with no benefits, Mark seconded.  All in favor.  George advised that a search committee would be formed and the position would be advertised soon and if anyone wished to be on the search committee they should send a letter of interest to the Selectmen.

Bill motioned to list the monthly Select Board meetings on the 2011 Becket Washington Community Calendar, Mark seconded.  All in favor.

Any other business: Nina advised that she spoke with Ed MacDonald, the Town Administrator of Chester, regarding the spring.  The Town of Chester has had problems with its water so people are flocking to the spring and have been waiting for hours to get water.  He advised that some people are filling about thirty gallons at a time and some senior citizens have been waiting for hours to get one gallon of water.  Briefly discussed the spring.  Richard Furlong advised that there really is nothing the town can do to stop anyone from getting water at the spring.  The town cannot monitor who gets water and how much they get at a time.  George will speak with Mr. MacDonald.

Nina advised that she received a complaint from a resident after the agenda was posted.  He advised that someone broke into his garage and vandalized his tractor and Harley Davidson motorcycle.  He has contacted the State Police about this because he and Maddy and Bill Elovirta are in a heavy dispute and he does not feel he can go to the local police department.  He is not asking for anything from the Board.

Hildegarde Freedman spoke regarding the last Selectmen’s meeting.  She said that three women were complaining about how the Selectmen were choosing to appoint people to different committees and positions.  She said that tonight’s meeting was more controlled because a lawyer was present but the Selectmen have a right to have someone removed if they are disruptive.  

Reviewed correspondence.

10:15 PM Bill motioned to adjourn, Mark seconded.  All in favor.

Reviewed the payroll/expense warrants.

Respectfully submitted,                                                         _______________________________
Nina Weiler, Secretary                                                          George Fuller, Chairman