Select Board Meets: September 21, 2020

The Select Board September 21, 2020 meeting was called to order by Chair John Cronin at precisely 7:00.

The Board approved a one year Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Holliston Police Association.  The previous agreement expired in June 2020 and a new agreement was delayed by COVID-19.  Many thanks to the Association, Chief Stone, and Town Administrator Ahern who worked to reach this agreement.  Due to the economic realities the contract has 0% increases through June 30, 2021. Work will begin in a few months to develop a traditional 3-year agreement to begin in July 2021.

Governance Committee joins Select Board

Sam Tyler, Chair of the Governance Committee provided the Board an update of the GC’s recent work.  Since last meeting with the Board, the GC continued its focus on the Town’s budget process, getting input from the Finance Committee and the Town’s Finance Department heads.  The GC will be meeting with the School Committee at this coming Thursday’s scheduled meeting to get their input.  The GC members are contacting Town Managers and Administrators to learn more about how towns similar to Holliston prepare annual budgets.  Also, Mr. Tyler shared that after making recommendations on the budget preparation, the GC will use the remainder of their 3-year term to explore other government organizational areas.  One product from the GC would be an outline future plans / timeline.  Mr. Cronin provided the GC with the goal of making our government better for Holliston.  Members of the Board praised the quantity and quality of the work done by the GC completed to date. The GC adjourned their meeting at 7:41.

COVID Update and CARES Act Funding Requests

Holliston’s Emergency Management Director, Fire Chief Michael Cassidy provided his weekly pandemic update:

  • Holliston experienced a 14% increase in COVID cases in the past week – likely moving our status on the town-by-town map from grey last week to probably yellow in the next report
  • Cassidy reported 11 active cases – 9 in a congregant living situation and 2 in a single family home; not a sign of widespread infection
  • He reminded us all to Wash hands; Wear face coverings; Watch our distance and Stay away from crowded areas.
  • He reiterated the current State limits on gatherings (public or private): Outdoor – 50; Indoor – 25
  • Chief Cassidy presented two expenses for approval for CARES Act reimbursement:
    • $34,630.22 to cover increased costs related to waste and recycling – apparently more meals at home and long-delayed household clean up projects added to the Town’s disposal costs.  This was submitted by Matt Zettek the Town’s Sustainability Coordinator.
    • $4,412 to reimburse the Town for the costs incurred due to the State’s delayed inspection of the site remediation at 260 Woodland Street.  This was submitted by Facilities Manager, James Keast.
  • The Board approved both requests
  • Chief Cassidy provided the Board with research regarding the Special Town Meeting planned for Monday, October 26, 2020.  IF a school facility would be used – the necessary sanitizing after the meeting to have the school ready for classes the next day – would necessitate the meeting being held on a Friday evening, or on Saturday.  A few dates in November were briefly discussed – no decision was made pending an update from Sen. Spilka and Rep. Dykema at the next Select Board meeting.  The Board authorized Cassidy to approach local private entities who might have capacity to hold a quorum.  FYI – the Upper Town Hall can hold 41 people during the pandemic.

Warrants:  The Board approved the weekly warrant of $1,734,351.46.

Public Comment:

  • Mr. Sparrell – Nothing
  • Mrs. Hein – Met at the Covanta transfer station to learn more about truck traffic in Town.
  • Mr. Cronin – Met with MassDOT last week. It was a great conversation convened with the help of Sen. Spilka and Rep. Dykema.  MassDOT committed to a site visit in the near future.
  • Rich Rosenberry – A member of the Town’s Solid Waste Management Committee is in favor of an idea floated at a recent Select Board meeting to expand the role of the Committee.  Mr. Rosenberry will ask his Committee to propose a change in the Committee’s charge to reflect additional responsibilities.
Rich Rosenberry

Comments from Town Administrator: Mr. Ahern provided the following:

  • The next Select Board meeting will be on Tuesday, September 29th in deference to the Yom Kippur observance.
  • He is working on compiling all the comments collected at the Lowland Public Forum and input received since for presentation to the Board in the near future.
  • 1-year Department Head Contracts with specific goals are being implemented.
  • The Stipend Sub-committee holds its first meeting this Thursday at 7:00.
  • Mr. Ahern clarified last week’s announcement regarding the Town’s Building Official, Chris Canney’s departure. Mr. Canney continues to work for the Town for the time being.  He and his family have moved to southern MA making is continued work here too challenging.  The work of the Building Department is moving ahead without interruption.

DPW Article update: Mr. Sparrell updated his colleagues on the work he has been doing to fine tune Town Meeting warrant articles related to DPW work.

Two separate areas of focus: a sidewalk study / inventory and a water modernization study (proposed articles 8 and 9 below).  Both studies would provide the Town with current information on the Town’s assets and what possible funding sources could be used to do any work that derives from these studies.  Mr. Sparrell is working very closely with the Finance Committee to get the scope and language of the articles clear and concise.

Resident Carol Khouri dialed into the meeting and asked the Board three questions:

  1. Is there a limit to the number of private wells that can be dug – that tap into the same aquifer as the Town wells?  Mr. Ahern will follow up to answer that.
  2. Do we need to have Special Town Meeting given the pandemic?  Mr. Cronin pointed to a Town By-law that specifies the Fall Town Meeting – although the special acts passed by Massachusetts allow some leeway this year.  Mr. Cronin assured Ms. Khouri that when the meeting is held all necessary safety precautions will be in place.
  3. What is the status of the follow-up from the Lowland Public Forum?  Mr. Cronin referred to his earlier update and Mr. Ahern pointed to his follow up work.

Special Town Meeting Warrant Discussion:  Mr. Ahern shared the current DRAFT list of articles for the Special Town Meeting.  He provided the Board with a brief overview of each item.  Articles 1 – 6 are routine at most Town Meetings.  Articles 7 – 14 (with the potential for a couple more) are things that are currently under discussion by the Board.

Finance Committee member Vin Murphy (above) Zoomed in from the only tropical location not currently experiencing a tropical storm to ask about Free Cash Certification.  The State Division of Local Services is responsible for certifying a Town’s Free Cash and he wanted to ensure that we would have that certification in time for the upcoming Town Meeting.  The Board hopes to hear more about that from Sen. Spilka and Rep. Dykema next week.

Board Business:

  • Town Hall Doors Contract – Three bids were received (finally!). The low qualified bid was from New England School Services at $52,100.  The Board approved awarding the contract to New England School Services.
  • Food Waste Initiative – Sustainability Coordinator Matt Zettek made a proposal to the Board to use some grant money to subsidize a pilot of the Black Earth food recycling program.  Citizens individually contract with Black Earth a food waste composting firm.  Holliston will join with Ashland to get to the goal of 500 residences enrolled in the weekly program – thus triggering a discount for ALL subscribers.  Much more specific information will be forthcoming in a press release.  The Board voted to support the pilot.
Matt Zettek

Joan Levinsohn (above) thanked Matt and the Board for their support, and she volunteered to help publicize this great way to recycle food waste and reduce the Town’s solid waste disposal.

  • Alison Quinan was appointed to a 3-year term on the Youth Advisory Committee
  • Tina Hein was appointed to Housing Trust Fund Board of Trustees
  • The Board accepted the following donations:
    • $400 Donation Superette patrons to the Senior Center Food Program
  • $500 Donation from Wayne Griffin for Blair Square lighting
  • Meeting Minutes from the August 10, 2020 and August 25, 2020 were approved

Other Business:

  • Mrs. Hein brought a concern from the Trails Committee to the Board’s attention.  The Committee is looking for the Board’s enforcement of the Town’s right of way boundaries along the Upper Charles Rail Trail.  The Committee will provide a current list of abutters.

The meeting adjourned at 9:40 pm.

Chris Cain

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