May 11, 2020 Select Board Meeting – Full of Action
Select Board Chair Mark Ahronian called the May 11, 2020 meeting to order at 7:03. Mr. Ahronian was joined in the Town Hall conference room by Town Administrator Jeff Ritter, Technology Director Chris Meo and an HCAT representative – hence the wearing of a face covering by Mr. Ahronian.
The provisions for meeting remotely as approved by recent legislation, were read to advise all participants about the proper procedures to comply with Open Meeting regulations.
COVID-19 Update: Emergency Management Director, Fire Chief Michael Cassidy updated the Board.
- He noted that he has been providing these updates for two months and that “I would like to suggest that we might be entering the post surge phase of our response to the coronavirus.”
- 22% of Holliston’s 45 cases have been in long-term care facilities
- The 45 cases have been located at 37 separate addresses in town
- Depending on the restrictions included in the Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan (announced earlier on Monday), the earliest the recycling center on Marshall Street could reopen with extended hours would be the weekend of Saturday, May 23.
- Brainstorming with the Town Clerk regarding the town elections, the Schools regarding graduation, and the Facilities Manager regarding a safe return to work plan.
- Cassidy anticipates that physical distancing and face coverings will be with us for a long time.
Follow up with Chief Cassidy:
- Mrs. Hein spoke on behalf of Holliston merchants who are most anxious to find ways to open for business as the state reopens (more on this later).
- Mr. Cronin thanked Chief Cassidy for his tireless work as Emergency Management Director AND Fire Chief. He also checked that appropriate steps are being taken to protect Town Hall employees and citizens when the Town Hall reopens.
- Mr. Ahronian echoed the request from local merchants to look at creative options for conducting business in very small stores.
- Stacey Raffi, School Committee Chair, thanked Chief Cassidy on behalf of the Holliston Public Schools
Warrants: The Board approved the weekly warrants totaling: $800,158.49
Mrs. Hein read a letter from DPW Director Sean Reese regarding recent water quality issues and that the 4-6 week hydrant flushing period will begin May 13, 2020. Information about the areas impacted will be updated frequently on the Town website and using Blackboard Connect (and the Holliston Reporter scrolling banner will include daily updates).
Hein also alerted citizens to the availability of $80 gift cards from the Holliston Community Action Fund HCAF website. When these cards to make purchases at local merchants, the user will receive a 20% discount!
Mr. Cronin had no comment at this time.
Mr. Ahronian thanked first responders (those who live in town and work elsewhere and those who serve Holliston) for their service during this difficult time.
Town Administrator Report: Jeff Ritter, while not on camera in the conference room, provided the following updates:
- Thank you to Chris Meo for completed the 2020 Green Community Grant application. This is the town’s fourth year of applying for these grants to upgrade our energy efficiency – we have received grants in the past three years
- Matt Zetteck, the Town’s Sustainability Coordinator will update the Board on his work at the next week’s meeting.
- Hill Street will be closed from May 18-20, 2020. Central Street and Ashland Streets will be closed starting on May 20, 2020. Detours will likely cause traffic delays. Check the Town website for updates.
- The Signs and Lines work was recently completed by the Holliston DPW. Read the recent Holliston Reporter story about this project.
- Mr. Ritter presented on behalf of DPW Director Reese a breakdown of the costs for the recent water repairs on Winter Street. The total cost was $3,000. Mr. Ahronian requested that all future breaks/repairs be similarly reported so that citizens get a true picture of what our aging water infrastructure is costing each year.
Follow up for Mr. Ritter:
Mrs. Hein asked about the status of funding for the crossing signals at Pinecrest Golf Course. Ritter is waiting for a response from the Golf Course Advisory Committee.
Mr. Cronin asked when the Water Rate Hearing will reconvene to set the water rate. Mr. Ritter expects to hear from Mr. Reese in the coming weeks.
Vincent Murphy asked if the water break was in the main line or the connection to a home. It was not clear from the cost breakdown – additional info will be requested. He pointed out that the water infrastructure plan focuses on repairing / replacing mains.
Annual Town Meeting and Annual Town Election:
Town Clerk Elizabeth Greendale asked that the Board, using the authority granted by Mass General Law, approve the amendment to hours that the polls will be open on election day – June 23, 2020. Her reasoning is:
- Typically, about 13% of registered voters turn out for an election such as the upcoming one
- Voters and poll workers are reluctant to be out in a group
- ALL voters have the option to vote by mail. The application to do so is on the Town website Early Voting By Mail Information
- Medfield recently held a town election with the polls open from 7 am – 8 pm with only 122 of the 644 voters voting at the polls.
- She is proposing a four-hour window for in person voting – with safety shields in place
- Candidates who may campaign at least 150 feet from the polls will need to follow all safety requirements in place at that time
The Board unanimously approved her proposal to have the polls open on June 23, 2020 for the Annual Town Election from 12:00 – 4:00 pm.
The Board unanimously approved postponing the Annual Town Meeting to July 20, 2020. This delay will give all parties involved time to better prepare for the important work and decisions made at the meeting.
School Committee Capital Request:
Anne Louise Hanstad, Chair of the School Committee’s Budget Subcommittee led a discussion about what capital projects are still in play for this year’s Town Meeting. Three items remain on the list – technology acquisitions, roof repair and Kamitian field upgrade. The discussion concluded with no action taken by the Board at this time given the additional financial information that will be needed to finalize the Annual Town Meeting Warrant.
Separately, Mrs. Hanstad presented the Board with revised language for the Capital Request Policy. The Board asked Mrs. Hanstad to check with the entire School Committee to gauge its support for her edits and that perhaps the schools’ legal counsel would help in crafting any changes. No action was taken by the Board as this item was not on the meeting agenda.
FY 21 Budget Presentations: The following budgets were approved by the Board as presented:
- Treasurer / Collector
- Employee Benefits
- Council on Aging
Senior Center Director Linda Marshall alerted the Board to a staffing change happening next month. Assistant Director Linda Sottile is moving south in June. Linda Marshall has confirmed that it will be able for Linda S. to work remotely through September 1, 2020 (with the potential for extension). Linda Sottile is technologically savvy and using her knowledge and skills to produce needed Senior Center materials and programs. Sottile will be able to continue the one-to-one work all the Sr Ctr staff are providing by phone these days from her new location. (Not only is Linda tech savvy, she is a wonderful cook who makes use of the bountiful harvest grown at the Sr. Ctr each year.)
- Work will begin soon, based on guidance from Town Counsel and the Department of Revenue, on a 1/12 Town budget
- The Annual Town Meeting will be the focus of a separate Select Board meeting soon as there is no urgency to complete the work until a clearer financial picture emerges.
- Three on-call EMT’s were appointed to the Holliston Fire Department.
- Jonathan Foster
- Sarah O’Connell
- Caroline Ward
- The Department Head Salary payments are moving forward as previously authorized. This led to a lengthy and passionate dialogue between the Select Board members and Dan Alfred of the Finance Committee. The Board took umbrage at Mr. Alfred’s comments at last week’s Finance Committee meeting. Mr. Alfred contends that the Board created a mess by eliminating Article 1 from the October 2019 Town Meeting. The back and forth concluded with no conclusion or outcome. The entire exchange can be viewed on HCAT.
- Three donations were accepted by the Board on behalf of the Senior Center nutrition program:
- $100 from Ellie Stackpole
- $100 from Jane Davis
- $100 from Linda Marshall
- Facilities Manager James Keast requested a year-end budget transfer from available budget line items to purchase a facilities management software package. The Board approved his request.
- Paul LeBeau was appointed to a 2-year term on the Town’s Governance Committee creating a quorum of three on this five-member committee.
- Meeting minutes were approved
- No other year-end of reserve fund transfers were presented at this meeting
- Mrs. Hein presented an advisory memo, drafted by HPD Chief Matthew Stone that; reminds businesses in the Lowland Industrial Park use the proscribed truck route to access the park, and alerts those businesses that the Town is seeking a truck exclusion on Woodland Street. Karen Apuzzo-Langton, Planning Board member and Woodland Street resident, confirmed that the businesses in the Park have specific conditions on their business permits regarding the correct truck route. The Board asked that the Planning Board provide highlighted copies of the truck route to all businesses to reinforce Chief Stone’s letter.
- The Board authorized Chief Stone to send the letter on the Town’s behalf.
Mrs. Hein reminded the Board that the local merchants do want to get input from the Town’s public safety officials about using sidewalks as sales space. The topic will be on next week’s meeting agenda.
Hein also commended Chris Meo for his exceptional work at managing the many ZOOM meetings being held. Of note was his quick action at the beginning of tonight’s meeting to shut down what appeared to be some hacking.
The meeting adjourned at 9:50 pm.