New Board Gets Down To Business

A robust gathering greeted the new Select Board at their first business meeting.  The Board met last Thursday evening to organize itself.  At that meeting, John Cronin was elected Chair, Tina Hein was elected as vice-Chair, and newcomer Ben Sparrell was elected as Clerk of the Board.

Mr. Ben Sparrell, right, joins the Select Board.

Monday’s meeting was called to order by Chair Cronin at 7:13 pm following an executive session.

COVID-19 Update: As has been the custom, Fire Chief Michael Cassidy, briefed the Board on the COVID-19 status in Holliston.

  • For the first time in 98 days there are no active cases of the virus in town residents
  • There have been no new cases since June 8th
  • Cassidy noted the safe and successful Town Election held last week
  • Next on the Town’s agenda is the Annual Town Meeting – July 20, 2020
  • Cassidy reported that he, the Town Clerk, and Town Moderator are proposing the Placentino / Miller Cafetorium as the safest and easiest to sanitize location for the meeting
  • The Board discussed reducing the Town Meeting from 100.  No decision was made and Chief Cassidy will survey neighboring communities to see how they have addressed the quorum this year.
  • Whatever the final plan, Cassidy pointed to Southboro as an example of effective pre-meeting safety communication.  Holliston will get the word out via many communication channels (including Holliston Reporter)
  • Chief Cassidy discussed the re-opening of Town departments.  Here’s what he said, “I will be communicating a plan to department heads that would allow employees who have been working remotely to return to some municipal offices on Monday, July 6. There would be a few days of on-boarding (education and training around the new working environment) before some buildings reopened to the public at a reduced capacity (50% in this Phase). This would be department specific; some departments or buildings may open later, depending on their physical space and the way they interact with the public.  Departments may open for public access beginning on July 9th.  All State and Town safety measures will be followed.”
  • The Chief recommended that the Board approve the contracting for temporary cleaning services to keep Town offices sanitized.  The Board approved the recommendation.

Warrants – The Board approved warrants totaling $1,519,572.45.

Town Administrator’s Report- Jeff Ritter shared the following:

  • Ritter welcomed Mr. Sparrell to the Board and wished him well
  • Next, Mr. Ritter congratulated John Cronin as the new Board Char and wished him well
  • The Finance Committee meets Tuesday (tonight)
  • 9 Green Street work on an RFP has begun
  • Ritter supports the budget transfer to cover the Facilities Manager software request
  • The work at 260 Woodland Street is done!
  • An RFP for work at the Linden Street wastewater treatment plant is being developed
  • Work is underway on an alarm system at the Senior Center
  • Ritter reminded the Board that the Town Meeting Warrant needs to be signed very soon
  • Mr. Cronin asked Mr. Ritter to create a transition report to help Town Administrator Designate, Travis Ahern, to get up to speed as soon as possible.

Water Rate Study and Rate Hearing

DPW Director, Sean Reese presented the water rate study conducted by Stantec Engineering.  Before he began the presentation, he alerted everyone to the availability of the annual water quality report which -can be accessed here->

The bottom line of the report was that Mr. Reese recommended a 3% DECREASE in the water rate, with the Infrastructure and meter fees remaining the same.  He is confident that the new rate will cover expenses and the debt related to the new water treatment plant.  Some exhibits from the presentation follow.

The current financial status of the water revenues.

On the left, an example of a future water bill showing the 3% rate decrease, on the right, how Holliston compares to area towns (note – the Holliston numbers include the infrastructure and meter fees.  The entire report will be posted on the Town website.  The new rate is effective July 1, 2020.

The Board approved the new lower water usage rate for all tiers of consumption.  The Board also voted to close the annual water rate hearing which was opened on April 13, 2020.

School Committee Chair Stacey Raffi

School Committee Capital Request

School Committee Chair, Stacey Raffi announced that the School Committee has offered the Interim Superintendent position to Dr. Susan Kusta pending contract negotiations.  (See announcement here ->

Mrs. Raffi then turned the meeting over to Budget sub-committee Chair Anne Louise Hanstad who presented the Committee’s proposed Capital request.

Shown below is how the $747,214 request comes together.

The Board thanked the Committee for the presentation.

Town Meeting Warrant – Minor edits continued. The big change was the location of the July 20th meeting.  The Moderator may use a consent agenda to bundle related articles in an effort to reduce the time spent together at Town Meeting.

Board Business

  • The Board appointed Alecia Thomas to the Cultural Commission.
  • The Board approved the Information Technology job posting for a temporary part-time contract worker to help manage Zoom meetings
  • The Board accepted a $100 gift from Jon Sutherland earmarked for the HPD
  • Police chief Matthew Stone shared some recently revised policy language with Board.  This notification is a courtesy.  This completes the excellent work by Lieutenant Thompson and Leurini for the recent successful reaccreditation.  Chief Stone pointed out that it is harder to get reaccredited than it is to initially get accredited.  Mr. Cronin asked if chokeholds are [art of HPD use of force policy.  They are not authorized, or part of any training HPD personnel receive.  Chief Stone pointed out that HPD uses the ‘best of the best’ use of force procedures.
  • The Board approved two budget line transfers totaling $92,000.

Other Business / Public Comment –

  • Mr. Sparrell – none
  • Mrs. Hein –
    • Attended MW Regional Collaborative meeting last week
    • Attended MW Regional Transportation Authority meeting today
    • Recommends a solar canopy be part of the 9 Green Street work
  • Mr. Cronin –
    • Heartfelt thanks on Town election, 17% (1,817) of voters participated, 664 in person
    • Tomorrow’s (tonight) Lowland industrial Park meeting is postponed to after Town Meeting
    • Cronin wants new Town Administrator to work closely with the Board and FinCom.
    • Town Administrator hiring negotiations are progressing
    • The Board will meet next Wednesday, June 8, 2020.
  • Public – None

The meeting adjourned at 9:38 pm.

Chris Cain

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