The Select Board Covers a Lot of Ground at Their Meeting

A lengthy meeting of the Select Board began at 7:00 pm called to order by Chair, Mark Ahronian.

COVID-19 Update:

Emergency Management Director, Fire Chief Michael Cassidy, provided his weekly COVID-19 update.

  • Holliston has to date: 56 total cases; 50 recovered, 2 fatalities, 4 active cases
  • Working with Town Clerk in preparing for Town Election and Town Meeting
  • He continues to finalize the CARES Act grant application, which is due Friday, June 12, 2020
  • He partnered with Chief Stone and school department to organize / conduct a Class of 2020 car parade on Sunday, June 7, 2020

Mrs. Hein – Thanked the Chief and all those who were responsible for yesterday’s car parade.  Great partnership between town agencies and class of 2020 parents.

Mr. Cronin – Asked when / how the State declaration of an emergency – Chief Cassidy expects it to last into fall 2020.  He asked what progress has been made to get the Town offices ready – when they reopen at some time in the future.  Chief Cassidy mentioned several steps / actions underway.  These actions are not related to schools.

Mr. Ahronian – What is Chief Cassidy’s current thinking on the July 20, 2020 Town Meeting?  He wants to wait to see what data suggest as we get closer to the July meeting.

Warrants: The Board approved warrants totaling $830,698.53.

Public Comment:

Mrs. Hein – Reiterated her gratitude as a parent of a Class of 2020 graduate for the tremendous outpouring of support from the community.

She also shared, “Congratulations to the Fred Miller Elementary School. Our schools’ partnership with SRTS has been positive and impactful and will continue to grow moving forward. The collaboration among HPD, DPW, PTO, the Schools, the Rail Trail Committee and this Select Board has led to the success with a Gold Level award and Honorable Mention from SRTS today at the Annual Awards Ceremony. This represents the Town of Holliston at its best, supporting some of the most vulnerable residents…our students on their way to school.”

Mr. Cronin – None

Mr. Ahronian – Congratulations to the HHS Class of 2020 from the Select Board.  He thanked Stacey Raffi, School Committee Chair for her many efforts on behalf of Holliston students.

Ahronian also mentioned that the Select Board will be interviewing three Town Administrator finalist candidates.  If citizens have a question that they want to be asked during the public interviews, please submit them to a Select Board member before Friday, June 12, 2020 at 4:00 pm.

Beth Hoffer, a Winthrop Street resident, asked the Board for clarification of her several requests for improved water quality service to her home.  She has received different answers from different people.  The Board has requested that DPW Director Sean Reese attend next week’s Board meeting to address Ms. Hoffer’s questions and other water related topics.

Town Administrator Report:  Mr. Ritter attended the meeting remotely.

  • Chris Meo is handling a multitude of Zoom meetings.  He needs some staff support.  Mr. Ritter gave a heads up to the Board about a possible Reserve Fund Transfer
  • Holliston is on track for applying for a recycling grant
  • Holliston merchants have received the new sales policy.  None have returned a request to date.
  • Signals for the Pinecrest crossings have been ordered
  • 260 Woodland Street cleanup should be done in the next two weeks

A technical issue required the agenda to be adjusted. 

The 9 Green Street Committee presented its final report to the Board.  Kevin Conley, on behalf of the committee, spoke to the committee’s recommendations (raze the building to ground level and develop a paved parking area). 

The Board accepted the report.  Thanked the committee for its thorough work.  Discussion then turned to next steps.  The Board took two actions in this regard: 1) Approved a motion to disband the 9 Green Street committee; 2) Authorized Health Director, Scott Moles to work with the current engineering firm and the Facilities Manager to get MassDEP approval to move on to the next phase of the remediation.

With the technical difficulties repaired the Board received the presentation of Bernie Lynch, Founder/Principal of Community Paradigm Associates.

Mr. Lynch walked the Board through the process and the topics explored during the Screening Committee’s first round of interviews with seven potential candidates.  That round of interviews yielded three strong finalists that the Committee unanimously put forward to be interviewed by the Board.

The finalists are (in alphabetical order):

The Board thanked Mr. Lynch and the Screening Committee for their tremendous work that followed the initial timeline of work – yielding viable candidates from which to select.  Mr. Cronin asked why Holliston had attracted 42 applicants.  Mr. Lynch indicated that the town’s location, competitive compensation, and Holliston’s reputation played a big role in the large pool of candidates.

The finalist interviews begin this Friday at 4:00 pm and will last for a few hours.  The interviews will be broadcast on HCAT.

Ambulance Receivable:

Fire Chief Cassidy returned to talk with the Board about the possibility of using a collection agency to recover unpaid ambulance charges.  He and Town Treasurer, Mary Bousquet, have discussed the hiring of such a firm that might recover about 25% of the outstanding receivables.  The Board requested the Chief and Treasurer to draft a collection policy for future action by the Board.


Chief Cassidy recommended that the Town submit its CARES Act Grant request for the total amount that Holliston is eligible to receive – $1,317,137.00.  This amount is large enough to cover all the known COVID-19 expenses – including the costs from the School Department – and the unknown costs that will be incurred through year end.

The Board approved that amount with the understanding that the Town Administrator will manage the grant monies.  The grant applications are due this Friday, June 12, 2020.

Capital Request Policy:

Several members of the School Committee and school administration were on hand (see below) to request a language change in the current policy which was approved by the Board in May 2019.  The discussion led the Board to authorize Mr. Cronin to rework the language to allow some flexibility about timing and how the policy might be followed by all Boards, Committees, and departments.  The revised text will be presented at next Monday’s meeting.

Board Business:

  • The record of last Monday’s Board vote to approve the 1/12th budget was not available for the Town Accountant to complete her work.  To be sure that all the proper procedures are followed, the Board re-voted to approve the total of $8,244,067.25 be submitted as Holliston’s 1/12.  The motion passed.  The Budget will be sent on to the Dept. of Revenue.
  • The Board provided several edits and suggestions to Mr. Ritter regarding the Town Meeting Warrant.  He will do his best to have those changes in the next draft for the Board’s review next Monday.
  • Two donations to the Senior Center Nutrition program were accepted by the Board.  The donations are:
    • Charles Rappaport donated $125
    • Donna Muzzy donated $100
  • The Board approved an event permit for the annual Hazardous Waste Collection on Saturday, July 11, 2020 at Adams Middle School.  The event will take place following all COVID-19 safety requirements.
  • The Board approved meeting minutes for: May 26, 27, and 28, 2020.

Other Business:

  • School Committee Vice-chair, Anne Louise Hanstad, thanked the Board for approving the full amount for the CARES Act reimbursement.  She shared with the Board many of the known expenses related to learning going forward and some of the State’s preliminary guidelines for in-person learning that will add to the educational costs for our Town.
  • Mrs. Hein read a recently passed State law that may have an impact on Holliston.  The Board will discuss this at a future meeting.
  • Mrs. Hein asked that the Board approve the flying of the Pride rainbow flag this weekend in support of Pride month.  The Board approved the request.

The meeting adjourned at 10:07 pm.  Don’t forget the Board will be meeting this Friday afternoon at 4:00 to interview the finalists for our Town Administrator position.

Chris Cain

1 Comment

  1. Daniel Alfred on June 9, 2020 at 10:06 am

    I would like to make a few comments, thoughts and ideas following this meeting:

    1) I appreciate Town Administrator Ritter attending the meeting last night during his vacation days. As anyone watching the meeting could plainly see, there is a lot going on, a lot of confusion by the board, and a lot of decisions that need to be made. Having him participating live aided in the processes of ensuring greater accuracy of the warrant.

    2) I commend the Select Board for requesting the entire amount of CARES money that Holliston was allotted after doing the diligence and finding out what other towns were doing and then having Chief Cassidy communicate with DoR to ensure its availability. However, I would strongly urge the board to include the Fincom in decision making regarding future spending, especially if the Board is going to look at less conventional uses for the money. For instance, at last night’s meeting, Ms. Hein mentioned potentially using the money for rent/mortgage assistance. While noble, and while $1.3 million seems like a lot of money on the surface, we have already essentially spent half of it and this is before we even know the full cost of opening up the schools (in what ever form) in the fall. Increases in transportation costs alone could require more than all of the remaining funds after what has already been distributed. I would urge extreme caution before making any decisions about use of these funds. The finance committee is here to help.

    3) I applaud the Select Board’s decision to postpone seeking money for the sidewalk, water infrastructure, and DPW facility studies. These are expensive studies with even costly projects that would likely come from them. Given the current financial environment, it was prudent to put these off. However, I would also note that Town Meeting already voted for indefinite postponement on each of these requests and I believe it wanted to get more information from its town leaders on an overarching plan for the town’s infrastructure. Based upon very high level cost estimates, the projects associated with these studies would come very close to the cost of a new High School. Where does the Town want its tax dollars spent? Are residents okay going forward with new sidewalks, a new DPW facility, and accelerate pipe replacement (before we even see if the new Water Treatment plant solves many of our issues with the water) if it means that a new High School likely then becomes an unaffordable tax burden and therefore must be put off even longer if not indefinitely? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but these are questions that should be asked and a Future of Holliston task force created, with broad community involvement, so we can find out before paying for these studies.

    4) The Select Board has no purview or vote over capital requests from the schools. While the Warrant is, of course the Select Board document, the Capital article is actually a Finance Committee sponsored article. The Select Board reviews, debates, and finally votes on capital requests from departments it oversees (DPW, Fire, Police, etc) and then sends those requests to the Finance Committee for its recommendation and inclusion in the warrant for Town Meeting to vote on. It does not have purview over boards and committees that it does not have oversight over, most notably the Schools. While of course the Select Board should be kept in the loop about requests and spending as the Executive authority in town, it simply does not have responsibility for voting on School requests.

    Please note, while I am a member of the Finance Committee, the above comments are my personal views and not those of the Finance Committee as a whole.

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