September 29, 2020 Select Board Meeting

Tuesday’s Select Board meeting was convened jointly with the Finance Committee to hear a financial update on State Local Aid for FY 21.  Each Board / Committee Chair called their meetings to order at 7:00pm.  Select Board Chair, John Cronin welcomed Senator Spilka and Representative Dykema to the meeting.  He went on to thank them for their ongoing support and their time at this meeting.

State budget update: Rep. Carolyn Dykema and Sen. Karen Spilka

Senator Karen Spilka (left) Representative Carolyn Dykema (right)

Senator Spilka led off with what should be reassuring words for Hollistonians.  The State’s Local Aid to Holliston for FY 21 will be the same as it was for FY 20.  The numbers are: Chapter 70 Funds = $7,936,216 and Unrestricted General Funds = $1,644,407.  These monies have been approved by the State Senate, State Legislature, and the Governor and will not change.  She went on to say that while much about the pandemic’s financial impact is still unknown – these funds are guaranteed.  Spilka also referenced other funds that Holliston is availing itself of such as $1.3 Million from the CARES Act and two grants from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The Senator and Representative referenced the healthy State ‘Rainy Day Fund’ which has a balance of $3.4 Billion.  Both stressed that using all those funds for FY 21 needs is short-sighted and that the financial impact is likely to continue into FY22.

Senator Spilka unveiled a new media campaign that begins shortly called, “More To The Story,” focusing on mental health through these difficult times. 

FinCom Chair Ken Szajda (left) and Vice-Chair Dan Alfred (right)

Finance Committee Chair Ken Szajda and Vice-chair Dan Alfred asked for guidance in preparing future budgets.  Both Spilka and Dykema recommended that unspent budget dollars be stockpiled for FY22.

School Committee Chair Stacey Raffi extended her thanks to our local legislators for all their hard work on our behalf.  Mr. Cronin wrapped up the session by thanking the legislators for their time and their help setting up communications and meeting with MassDOT to explore Holliston’s burgeoning traffic flow.

Fire Chief Cassidy updates the Board

Next up was Fire Chief Michael Cassidy to provide input on three topics:

  1. Coronavirus Community Update:
    • Current Case Count = 94 with 15 Active cases
    • Holliston is now in the Red (High) category on the State’s index
    • Holliston is now in touch with State agencies for any needed assistance
    • Since most of the active cases are in a congregant care facility, that facility’s staff and state resources are managing the outbreak
    • Contact tracing indicates that no cases have spread from the congregant care facility to other citizens
    • The quarterly CARES Act expenditure report was sent to the State on time
    • School re-opening is going well – all are on a learning curve
    • Our teachers are heroes
    • Students have outdoor ‘mask breaks’
School Committee Chair Stacey Raffi

School Committee Chair Raffi is ‘quite pleased’ with the opening progression.

Town Administrator Ahern reported that other towns have contacted him about how to learn how Holliston has gotten off to a successful start.

When asked about Halloween, Cassidy is awaiting guidance from the Board of Health which was meeting at the same time as the Select Board.

2. Cares Act programmatic update – No reimbursement requests this week

3. Town Meeting schedule:

  • Chief Cassidy reported that no houses of worship are available to hold a Town Meeting
  • The High School Auditorium is the best facility (242 socially-distanced seats)
  • Meeting in a school facility would have to be on a day when school is not in session the next day
  • After exploring several days / dates the Board approved moving the Special Town Meeting to Saturday, December 5th starting at 1:00 pm (with the following Saturday as a back-up) in the High School Auditorium – barring any unforeseen disruptions.

Warrants: A total of $3,334,356.92 was approved by the Board.

Public Comment:

  • Mr. Sparrell:
    • Toured, with Town Administrator Ahern and Bryan Perkins, the new Sr. Ctr. Asst. Dir., the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA) facility last week – thanks to a connection made by Rep. Dykema
    • In response to vandalism of citizens’ signs and banners – a reminder that the 1st amendment offers the right to free speech – please respect everyone’s right to express themselves
  • Mrs. Hein:
    • None
  • Mr. Cronin:
    • Recognized retired Fire Captain Costello’s 29 years of service
    • Remembered John Greendale on his recent passing
    • 3.5-hour meeting and drive around Holliston with MassDOT personnel to understand the Town’s road / traffic issues
  • Carol Khouri of Bullard Road inquired about the progress since the Lowland Public Forum (see Town Administrator comments below)

Comments from Town Administrator

  • The notes from the Lowland Public Forum will be reviewed at next week’s Board meeting.
  • In response to Ms. Khouri’s question at last week’s Board meeting regarding private wells – it is the Board of Health that governs private wells.
  • Halloween is on tonight’s (Tuesday) Board of Health agenda
  • There is a page on the Town website related to the Shared Streets and Spaces pilot.  There is a link near the top left that allows citizens to provide feedback during the pilot that extends through April 1, 2021
  • There has been an uptick in fraudulent unemployment claims affecting the town.  There has been no data breach leading to this increase.
  • Ahern is meeting with the Governance Committee this Thursday at 4:00 to provide his input related to the Town’s budget process
  • The Stipend Sub-committee met last Thursday and elected Joan Shaughnessy Chair
  • Due to a recent parking lot incident (see below) the Town Hall back stairs are being repaired this week.

Warrant update (Town Administrator)

  • Town Administrator Ahern reviewed the draft text of the Special Town Meeting Warrant.
Special Town Meeting Draft Warrant Articles

The Board provided input on some items and Mr. Ahern will update the Warrant accordingly.  Two citizens weighed in on Article 15.  Dorie Kilduff of Medway and Scott Milligan of 98 South Street raised concerns about the 555 Hopping Brook project.  Heavy truck traffic on South Street and tree clearing near the abutting properties in Medway.  Chair Cronin advised that Holliston Town Planner, Karen Sherman is issuing a Cease and Desist order to the developer for apparent violations. 

The Warrant is due to close Thursday, October 1st at 4:00 pm.  Given the delay of the Meeting, the Warrant will likely reopen at a later date.

Holliston Economic Development Fund Creation

The Board approved revised language that meets State criteria to create an Economic Development Fund for Holliston – as approved at a previous Town Meeting

Board Business

The Board approved the following:

  • Minutes of August 24, 2020
  • Traffic Advisory Committee – Morgan’s Way “Do Not Enter” and other signage
  • Traffic Advisory Committee – Winter and Mellen Streets Sign Placement and yellow Diamond
  • Traffic Advisory Committee – Proposed adoption of C.90 S.17C on Town Wide basis – setting the speed limit on residential streets (unless otherwise already posted) to 25 mph – effective January 1, 2021

Other Business:

  • Mr. Sparrell
    • Asked his colleagues if they have any special election-related items for Town Clerk, Liz Greendale to address at next week’s Board meeting
    • Working on a quarterly report on Board activities – will circulate a draft to other members later this week – looking to publish in a couple of weeks.
  • Mr. Cronin
    • There is no evidence that HPD has found that suggests that Balancing Rock fell for any other reason than natural causes.

The Board adjourned into Executive Session at 9:42 pm.

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Chris Cain