July 21, 2008 Select Board Meeting

Monday, July 21st, 2008, Town Room, Town Hall

Present:  Select Board members Gerry Weiss, Diana Stein, Anne Awad, Stephanie O’Keeffe; Town Manager Larry Shaffer. 

Absent:  Select Board member Alisa Brewer

Opening Comments

Mr. Weiss thanked people for watering the downtown flowerpots in Bill Elsasser’s absence.  Mr. Shaffer said the DPW has been doing a lot of the watering, as well as cleaning up from the big storms.  Mr. Weiss also said that the downtown is less clean without Mr. Elsasser’s assistance, and urged people to pick up litter. 

Public Comment

Vince O’Connor requested that the special election scheduled for September 16th to fill the seat that will be vacated by Ms. Awad be postponed, citing concerns about college students being unable to participate, because the deadline for filing nomination papers is currently the end of July, and the deadline for registering to vote in the election is before the students’ Labor Day weekend return.  He referenced a lawsuit from the early 1970s on the issue of holding elections when much of the local population is not here, and said that the community had adhered to the tradition of not doing so ever since.  He urged the Select Board to “err on the side of inclusion.”

Mr. Weiss said that Ms. Stein had brought the issue to his attention, and that he had asked the Town Manager to consult with Town Counsel about the legality.  Mr. Weiss said the Town Clerk has indicated that holding the special election concurrently with the November general election would be extremely complicated.

Mr. Shaffer said that Town Counsel’s first impression is that the election was not problematic as currently scheduled, but said he would be further studying the court case. 

I said that it is an important point, but considering the low voter turnout among the student population – so low that the on-campus precincts were recently dissolved, at the request of the Student Government Association – and considering that the seat in question will be up for election again come spring, it was important to keep perspective on the issue.

Mr. Weiss said the topic would be put on the agenda for a full discussion at next week’s meeting.

Denise Barberet said that potholes on her street, North Whitney Street, are bad. She also said that an issue of Henry Street land had been brought to the Planning Board for its recommendation on the Town exercising its right of first refusal on the land, and that she had voted in the minority (presumably opposing a motion that the Town not exercise its option, though this was not stated) because she had concerns about the process, the documentation and the likelihood of creating affordable housing on the site. 

Mr. Weiss said that the issue would come to the Select Board, and that while we are aware of it, it was not yet ready for action by us.  Mr. Shaffer confirmed that the formal notification from the property owner’s attorney was not certified as required by statute, and lacked a stated purchase price, and said that it would not come to the Select Board until those details were corrected.  Mr. Weiss questioned why the Planning Board would have dealt with it if the documentation was not in final form, and Ms. Barberet suggested that might require that the Planning Board reconsider its vote. 

Special Liquor Licenses  (6:52)

The Select Board voted 4 in favor, 1 absent, to approve special liquor licenses for two car events at Atkins, one on the evening of August 4th, and the other on the evening of August 18th

Committee Appointments  (6:54)

Ms. Stein announced that she was recusing herself from the first vote. It was agreed that she need not leave the room.

The Select Board approved the reappointment of Otto Stein to the Conservation Commission in a vote of 3 in favor, 1 absent (Brewer,) and 1 recusal (Stein.)

The Select Board approved the reappointment of Sarah Swartz to the Agricultural Commission in a vote of 4 in favor, 1 absent.

Cambridge City Council Letter (6:56)

Mr. Weiss talked about a letter from a Cambridge City Councilor, which had been distributed in our packets.  He said he gets much such mail, and wants to share more of it with the Select Board.  The letter sought participation to advocate for action regarding climate change, and referenced the ICLEI group, with which Amherst participates.  Ms. Stein volunteered to e-mail the Cambridge City Councilor for more info on the group she is seeking to form, and what membership would entail.  Ms. Awad said that the City Councilor has been active in climate change issues, and was likely seeking to recreate an earlier group of New England officials working on the subject.

Road and Sidewalk Reconstruction Policy and Process  (7:00)

DPW Superintendent Guilford Mooring explained the process for evaluating and prioritizing road paving work.  He said that the Town uses a pavement management inventory that involves walking every street in town every five years to assess the distresses of each one, with 20% of the roads re-evaluated each year.  That information is entered into a database that rates the overall condition index (OCI) of each road, on a 0 to 100 spectrum, with 0 being the roads in worst condition, and taking into account factors such as major roads having more traffic and wear and tear than minor roads.  He said the database can generate reports such as five year prioritized road plans, twenty year plans, plans to bring all roads to a specific OCI rating, and the costs involved in each.  He said that the Town has been spending $500,000 per year on paving, with $450,000 going to the road work and $50,000 going to incidentals such as catch basins, related Police details, and so forth.  He said that major roads are prioritized, along with the minor roads near the major ones receiving work. 

There was discussion about the list of each year’s road priorities being presented to the Town manager and then to the Select Board, through the related warrant article for capital spending for each Annual Town Meeting.  It was requested that the Select Board receive the list earlier than that, and Mr. Mooring said that that could be done. 

There was discussion about the Public Works Committee’s input into determining the priorities, and that input was reported to be significant by both Mr. Mooring and Mr. O’Connor, a member of the committee.

Mr. Shaffer said that he Town is not keeping up with the road paving needs at current rates, and has asked Mr. Mooring to put together a larger plan to present to the Select Board for consideration.  Mr. Mooring said the target for creating the proposal is the fall.  Mr. O’Connor said that the Public Works Committee has a subcommittee helping to formulate the proposal.

Mr. Shaffer said that the proposal would go to John Musante and the Joint Capital Planning Committee for consideration of funding options.

Ms. Stein asked about the trees that had been removed in front of Zanna, and said that the reason cited for doing so had been that they would not survive the change in surface level that was necessary for making the sidewalk more accessible for handicapped people, and said that no access or level changes seem to have occurred.  Mr. Mooring said that the work is still being done, and that a ramp would be installed near The Toy Box.  Mr. Weiss said his recollection was that the trees had to be removed because they were unlikely to survive the construction work and it would be more expensive to replace them later.

Mr. Mooring said potholes are being filled on Friday, and that there is a long list of known potholes, and people can call the DPW to make sure ones of concern are on the list, but that repeated calling does not move any pothole up on the list.

North Pleasant Street Sidewalk Work

Mr. Mooring projected design plans on the wall for sidewalk work on the west side of North Pleasant Street, and those plans had been distributed as hard copies in the Select Board packets. 

Mr. Mooring said that for the area spanning from the Banknorth building at the corner of Amity, to the D’Angelos building (most recently Via Via, next to the fire station) the sidewalk would be replaced, with no major changes from the current design except for the addition of three street lights, replacing what is currently one light.  He said that in front of the D’Angelos building, the sidewalk will be “pull(ed) out into the road” and three tree planters will be added, for which the Public Shade Tree Committee is determining the recommended trees.  Mr. Weiss asked what size the tree wells would be, and Mr. Mooring said they would be six feet by six feet or larger, and said that the Tree Warden had said that five feet square should be a minimum.  Mr. Mooring said all would have “structural soil.” 

Mr. Mooring said there would be no changes to the new sidewalk in front of the fire station, and that a proper grade for ADA compliance would be created, and a new crosswalk will be installed from CVS to Starbucks.  He said that the owners of the CVS building don’t want any changes, and that the brick wall there will remain, and that the owners would clean up that wall a bit.  He said that the Town would be removing the crabapple trees from the raised brick planters, and moving the trees to Groff Park, where he said they had a better chance to survive, and said that four new flush planter wells will replace the three raised brick ones. 

Mr. Mooring said that the Town, the Public Works Committee, Design Review Board, Disability Access Advisory Committee and others were all in agreement in recommending the plan he described, and that agreement broke down at the section in front of the Souper Bowl building.  A proposal for using some of the sidewalk space to allow for several diagonal head-in parking spaces was being considered because it would provide two on-street handicapped parking spaces, one of which would accommodate van paring with the necessary space for a wheelchair lift.  He explained that safety issues for bicyclists and other motorists as parkers backed out of the spaces was causing concern, and the different committees are continuing to consider the pros and cons, and a recommendation on that section would be brought to the Select Board at a future meeting.

There was considerable discussion about the benefits of the handicapped parking and the potential dangers of the layout, particularly as related to bicycles.

I asked if the Town Commercial Relations Committee or Parking Task Force had considered the proposal.  Mr. Shaffer said he didn’t think so, and that the assumption has been that any increase in total parking space quantity would be viewed as positive by both entities.

There was discussion about the alleyway to enter the parking lot behind CVS, how it is unattractive and poorly signed, how that lot is underutilized, and that Mr. Shaffer would talk to the property owners to see what improvements might be made. 

Ms. Awad moved that the Select Board approve the sidewalk construction as presented, for the west side of North Pleasant Street from Amity Street to the north side of the CVS store.  The vote to approve was 4 in favor, 1 absent.

Town Manager’s Report – Hitchcock Center Plans (7:43)

Mr. Shaffer said that the Hitchcock Center has plans to renovate or build new on their site, which is Town-owned property adjacent to The Common School.  He said that he has met with the Center’s Board and its Director, and he will continue to meet with them about plans for the new “state of the art” facility which will employ environmentally-friendly construction techniques.  He said that the plans are exciting and that there are many issues to resolve, but none should be an impediment to the project, and he is looking forward to working with the Hitchcock Center on this, and would be keeping the Select Board apprised. 

Town Manager’s Report – Business Improvement District  (7:45)

Mr. Shaffer said that a seminar on Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) had been held at Town Hall three weeks ago, and included participants from Westfield, Springfield, Hyannis, Northampton and Amherst.  He said that they discussed how BIDs are established and what they mean to downtowns.  He talked about BIDs providing services supplemental to those of, or not other wise provided by, municipalities, including security, landscaping and programming for special events.  He said that Hyannis’ success with the BID model was particularly inspiring. 

Mr. Shaffer talked about the State grant that had been awarded to the Town to study the BID concept, and said that the money needs to be spent with the consultant by the end of the fall, sizing the district, putting together voting information, holding public information sessions, and so forth.  Mr. Weiss emphasized for folks watching that this was State grant money, and not Town money.

Mr. Shaffer said that BIDs are proven tools for downtown property owners to collaborate on services that would not otherwise be available for enhancing downtowns.

Town Manager’s Report – North Amherst PRP Update  (7:50)

Mr. Shaffer said that the property owners in North Amherst had responded with a formal offer to the Town, and that some of its details require a counter-proposal from the Town.  He said that Town Counsel is working on that, and that efforts are moving forward. 

Mr. Weiss said he has heard a lot of concern from people about infrastructure costs to the Town that development at the site might require.  Mr. Shaffer said that significant infrastructure improvements would be required, and that there are different kinds of grants and State initiatives available to help pay for such.  He said that costs couldn’t be known until the needs of the specific development proposal were known.  He said that such development would not be pursued if it would not result in significant benefit to the Town’s tax base. 

Ms. Awad said that such tax base benefit often occurs in the short-term, but the longer-term needs to be considered, when the company might be gone and the Town is stuck with the infrastructure investment.  She said that some kind of commitment is needed, and suggested a penalty if the company were to leave too soon.

Mr. Shaffer said that the scale of the investment required for such development investment would make such a company unlikely to leave soon.  He said that the Town would be unlikely to ever own the land, but instead is seeking an assignable option to purchase.  He said that in recruiting a firm to assign that option to, there would be a development agreement spelling out the expectations and requirements of both parties, and articulating who does what, when and how.  He said that such contracts are very sophisticated and take time for all the details to be negotiated, but that they protect both entities.  He said neither party could simply change its mind or decide not to do something that had been negotiated, and said that the only way to conduct such business is with “no surprises.”

Select Board Liaison Role Discussion  (7:59)

Mr. Weiss said that at the recent discussion where Select Board liaison positions were assigned, he had advocated for continuing the liaisonship to the Planning Board’s Zoning Subcommittee (ZSC.)  He said he felt that liaisonship there had been helpful and collaborative, because the Select Board often previously had had little information about zoning articles prior to Town Meeting, and that having a liaison helped the Select Board to have “a better working knowledge” of the zoning articles, and better collaboration with the Planning Board.

I said that I had raised the concern about this at the last meeting, and that my question was why the liaisonship was to the ZSC rather than to the Planning Board.  I said that my concern was that liaisons not act as members of a committee and influence what the body does, but rather that they serve as true liaisons, relaying information back and forth between the committee and the Select Board.  I said that recommendations formulated by the ZSC are brought to the Planning Board, and that my understanding is that real input was being provided by liaisons at the ZSC, and I questioned whether that is how the Select Board wants liaisons to function. 

Mr. Weiss said that liaisons listen and ask questions, and said it was OK for liaisons to offer opinions as long as they were identified as being personal opinions, not those of the Select Board.  He said the liaisonship could be to the Planning Board, and that that person could decide if they wanted to attend the ZSC meetings as well.

Ms. Awad said that past Select Board member Carl Seppala had been the first Planning Board liaison, and that he gave it up and she had taken it over when he became Select Board Chair.  She said she had now been a liaison to the ZSC for about a year and found it more valuable than Planning Board, because the full Planning Board has long meetings and deals with many issues that don’t concern the Select Board.  She said that she found interfacing with the ZSC to be more valuable, that it had helped to work out difficult issues and led to compromises acceptable to both boards, and that it had helped the Select Board to recommend zoning proposals at Town Meeting.  Mr. Weiss agreed, and emphasized the point about the long Planning Board meetings dealing with issues that were not of concern to the Select Board. 

I said that I was concerned about the points Ms. Awad raised about compromises between the Select Board and the Planning Board occurring through the ZSC. I said that I had been attending Select Board meetings for a long time and had never heard any discussion about Select Board positions on issues being considered by the ZSC.  I said that the ZSC makes recommendations to the Planning Board on issues that ultimately will come to the Select Board for its own recommendation, and that I was concerned about Select Board liaisons shaping recommendations that would ultimately come before us.  I said that for example, different Select Board members might feel very differently about zoning issues, and if liaisons are exerting influence over the zoning proposals, the proposals would look very different depending on which Select Board member were the liaison.  I said that I didn’t think the liaison function should be so dependent on the individual. 

Ms. Awad said she had not advocated positions on behalf of the Select Board, but had raised questions that would be typical of Town Meeting members.  She said that helped her present the information when the recommendation came to the Select Board.  She said that the open and public nature of the process helped to temper any inappropriate behavior by a Select Board liaison who might bring a personal perspective to policy development.

I said that I wanted the discussion to take a step back, and not focus on the specifics of the ZSC, but rather on the Select Board’s expectations of the liaison’s role in general.  I asked if the expectation is that a liaison attends silently, only providing requested information such as Town Meeting dates or other such information a Select Board member might know or access; or that the liaison sits at meetings or reads minutes in order to stay apprised of a committee’s work so that when a question comes up at a Select Board meeting, the liaison could say that a committee is working on such and such and provide some information about the work.  Or does the liaison participate in the meetings, offering either personal opinions or Select Board positions?  I said that participation is very different than acting as an information channel, and that the Select Board needs to come to agreement on one or the other first. 

Ms. Awad said that the issue has been discussed as long as she has been on the Board, with members feeling guilty about not being able to attend every meeting of every committee to which they were liaison, or whether they should ever speak at meetings when they are supposed to be bringing information back and forth. She said that a document was created as a guideline, and to help absolve the feelings of guilt.  She said that she wouldn’t expect liaisons to be mute at meetings, and that they should be active participants.  She said they should bring information back to the Select Board, and should assist committees by giving advice or helping to put together a proposal for the Select Board or the community, or otherwise assist in making the committee successful.

Mr. Weiss said that questions asked at ZSC meetings were ones he would have asked if the presentation were being made to the Select Board, and said that while that might be considered to influence the process, he felt it helped the process to work better and make for a larger discussion.  He said that the liaison does not direct the committee. 

I said that I always go back to the idea of the Select Board having its discussions together in public, and that with Mr. Weiss’ example, my concern would be that the rest of the Select Board wouldn’t know what he had asked about, and that a subsequent Select Board conversation about the matter might have been different if his issues had been raised in the company of the full body.

Mr. Weiss said that his way of looking at it is that by asking his question early in the process, it may have averted the sort of last-minute problem of the Select Board being unable to take a position on a zoning issue right before Town Meeting. 

I said that his example might be a best-case scenario for looking at participation, but that formulating policy requires trouble-shooting by considering the worst-case scenario as well.  I asked: what if a Select Board member were looking to influence a committee’s proposal?  I said that if I were a liaison to a committee dealing with issues of particular concern, the Select Board wouldn’t want me to be defining what my appropriate participation is.

Ms. Awad said that when Select Board members step over the boundaries of what is appropriate, the Town Manager or Select Board chair quickly hear about it, and then discuss it with the Select Board member.  She said that to not communicate with the Planning Board would be a step backwards, and that there used to be tension, and that the two bodies were on opposite sides of issues at Town Meeting, but now there is agreement and more personal respect for each other as individual board members, and respect for the functioning of the boards. 

Ms. Stein said that she sees it as a policy issue, and a favorable way to work collaboratively.  She said it is about information-gathering, and the ability to bring more information to the Select Board.  She said she was unclear on what I was suggesting – did I prefer that liaisons not speak?  She said she didn’t think I was suggesting that the liaison practice be discontinued, because she said that she knows I believe in collaboration.

I said that if I were designing a policy from scratch, I would suggest that liaisons not speak or not contribute in a way that is influencing a discussion.  I said that I raised the Planning Board/ZSC issue not because I didn’t want there to be a liaison, but because it was not standard practice to have a liaison only to a subcommittee, and that that may create an undesirable result.  I said I wanted the discussion to focus on liaisons in general, not specifically about zoning.  I said that for example, I had been a member of the Council on Aging and had considered seeking the liaison position to that committee, but decided that it would not be appropriate because I had been an active member and had participated in directing and influencing its action and discussion.  I said that I consider such participation inappropriate for a Select Board liaison, and that it would have been awkward for the committee and for me to have me be there but no longer participating.  I said I think Select Board liaisons need to be very careful to not be representing information as though it comes from the Select Board if it doesn’t, and to not be influencing the committee’s work as though the liaison were a committee member, and should instead be about relaying information.  I said that we aren’t required and can’t reasonably be expected to attend all the meetings of all the committees to which we are liaisons, and that as such, there shouldn’t be a big difference in our liaisonship whether we are attending the meetings or just keeping up with the committee’s work by reading its meeting minutes.  I said that a more “hands off’ approach to participation is cleaner and more consistent.

Mr. Weiss said he didn’t agree.  He talked about his liaisonship to the Disability Access Advisory Committee, and said that the group has many issues that involve areas of Select Board authority, and said that the group might need Select Board or Town Manager assistance.  He said that if he can’t ask them questions that seem leading or help them determine a course of action, then he would have to watch them “shooting in the dark” and trying to figure out issues for which he has information, influence and authority.  He said it would feel like he was keeping secrets from the committee to not volunteer the information.  He said he wouldn’t rule the meeting, but would help the committee determine what he would then bring to the Town Manger or the Select Board.  He said that there does need to be better ways of bringing the committee information back to the Select Board. 

Mr. O’Connor said that Select Board participation with the ZSC had been useful.  He said that two problems had “exacerbated” Town Meeting’s ability “to effectively act on behalf of the Town” – the conflict between the Finance Committee and the Select Board as to who makes Town policy and who makes financial recommendations; and the fact that committees and staff are appointed, while the Select Board is elected.  Per the first concern, he said that there were now committees established to bring Select Board and other representatives to the table together, and he said that it is understood that the Select Board members are expressing their own points of view in such meetings.  He said that zoning is a big part of Town Meeting, and that there isn’t a joint committee on zoning, and that the only way to have such interaction is through Select Board members being liaisons to the ZSC, which he said enabled informal discussions that have decreased the level of conflict between the two boards.  He said that this process has led to better outcomes on zoning articles and reduced the Select Board’s opposition to them.  He said that it isn’t helpful to the Planning Board for that body to bring an article that’s already on the warrant and can’t be changed to the Select Board a few weeks before Town Meeting, and to find out then that the Select Board is going to oppose it.

Per the issue of elected versus appointed, Mr. O’Connor said that only Select Board members are elected by the public to have influence, while committee members are appointed and staff are hired by the appointed Town Manager. He said it is useful to have those elected by the people being in position to express opinions and information, and he said that the committees are advisory to the Select Board, so if a member has a strong opinion to share with the committee, that is valuable.  He said that the key was to do that in a collegial and helpful way, and not imposing direction or authority.  He said that the conflict between the Finance Committee and Select Board was improving, and that liaisons to the ZSC would help continue the improvement of the relationship between the Planning Board and the Select Board.  

Mr. Weiss reiterated Ms. Awad’s point about the Select Board hearing complaints about when a liaison steps over the line, and said that that it is check-and-balance that helps the system.

I reiterated my desire to get away from the ZSC discussion, and said that instead I would use the example of the Personnel Board recommendation that had come to the last Select Board meeting.  I said that if I had been the liaison to that group, and if I had been expressing my opinions at its meetings, the group might have brought forth a different recommendation due to my influence, because I didn’t agree with the one they presented to us.  I said that I had voted for the recommendation despite my disagreement with it because the process appeared to have worked well.  I said that Mr. O’Connor’s example of the Select Board opposing a zoning recommendation was disturbing, because we shouldn’t be expecting recommendations to meet our individual preferences, but rather, our concern should be whether the recommendation was arrived at by a careful and deliberative process.  I said that if Select Board support for recommendations was going to boil down to the personal preferences of individual Select Board members, then why bother to have committees at all?

Mr. Weiss said that the ZSC is singled out because zoning is the Select Board’s business and much of the other Planning Board work is not, and as a liaison, he would prefer to be at the meeting that dealt with business relevant to the Select Board, because we make recommendation on zoning articles to Town Meeting.  He said that attending the ZSC meetings had made him appreciate how thoroughly they work, and had given him more confidence in the process.

I said that I assume confidence in the process, and don’t need to have the thoroughness proven to me, because to me, that is the point of the committee structure.

Ms. Stein said she doesn’t understand my objection, because she can feel the process is fine and still disagree with the outcome.  She said that she could bring those concerns to the Select Board, offering a “minority voice,” as to the committee’s recommendation.  She said that the process should be a two-way street with liaisons providing information and concerns.  She said that as she becomes more comfortable and familiar with the issues of her liaison committees, she will feel freer to be offering her opinions there as an individual Select Board member, and hopes that her opinions would be taken as such, and not as representing the whole Select Board. 

I said I wanted to address a different aspect of the subject.  I said that the policy document in our packets that had been created several years ago related to some of these issues, and said that notwithstanding the policy concepts we were not agreeing on, the document lacked specifics as to what are concrete Select Board responsibilities to committees.  As examples, I cited ensuring that meetings are posted appropriately, that minutes are kept and filed, providing information necessary for making  recommendations to the Select Board and keeping the committee informed about Town Meeting dates.  I said that I would like to draft a document that incorporates such details and summarizes the rest of the existing document’s content, and to then see what the Select Board thinks of that.  I said that once we approved a simpler and more specific version of the current document, I would like to have it distributed to committee chairs so that they also know what to expect from their Select Board liaisons, and so that we and they are looking at the same piece of paper.  I asked the Select Board’s permission to revise the document for that purpose.

Ms. Awad said that she had written the document with Eva Schiffer several years ago.  She said that she likes the document and its flexibility, and said she would not like to see the liaison role become that of a cop or nag.  She said it would be a good idea to create a document for the committees recapping Open Meeting Law and other committee rules.  She said she would like to keep this document as-is and to create a separate document that reminds committees about rules.

Ms. Stein said that she supported Ms. Awad’s suggestion, and said there is a need for a “housekeeping document,” reminding committees about issues such as minutes, which she said the League of Women Voters had noted that many committees were far behind in posting.

I said that such rules are all spelled out in the Appointed Committee Handbook which all committee members receive, and that the missing piece is a document outlining the Select Board liaison’s role and responsibility in keeping committees compliant with the rules, and serving as a resource for such information, rather than as a nag. 

Mr. Weiss said that made sense for the committees the Select Board appoints, and that Mr. Shaffer could do the same kind of reminding with those under his appointment responsibility.  Mr. Weiss suggested that I create a draft of the document I envision.  He said he agrees with Anne about liking the current document, and that there was consensus among three members that liaisons should have leeway in expressing themselves.  He also said that it would be good to have a ZSC liaison before things move too far toward fall Town Meeting.

Ms. Stein said that she would like to be that liaison but had been unable to access information about various committee meeting times because that part of the Town web site isn’t currently functioning.  Mr. Weiss suggested that she talk to Jonathan Tucker, who is staff liaison to the Planning Board, or the Planning Board’s chair for such information.

I said that in our initial liaison discussion, it had been suggested that there not be two representatives to some committees, such as the Budget Coordinating Group (BCG) but that it had been traditional to have two reps for that, and with the work being done by its Facilitations Subcommittee, more representation might be preferable, and that I would like to join Mr. Weiss on BCG if he were willing to have a second rep there.  He agreed and said he would get me on the e-mail distributions for that group.

Scheduling Open Meeting Law Training  (8:48)

Mr. Weiss said that the desire was to identify a date in September to schedule Open Meeting Law training.  I said that when I’ve mentioned this, I actually mean two things:  an Open Meeting Law training session for the Select Board, similar to a model used by the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, as well as a Conflict of Interest seminar for all boards and committees, as had been done a couple of years ago, and had then been intended to repeat annually.  Ms. Stein suggested waiting to schedule the dates until after next week’s discussion about possibly moving the election date.

Town Clerk Letter – Appointing Election Workers  (8:52)

Mr. Weiss explained a letter to the Select Board from the Town Clerk regarding the Select Board’s option to appoint election workers, or to let her do it, as has been the tradition.  The Select Board voted 4 to 0, 1 absent, to not exercise its right to appoint election workers.

Report on the Governor’s Visit 

I said that Ms. Awad, Ms, Brewer and I had attended the meeting with the Governor last week.  I thanked the Senior Center for providing refreshments and a reception area prior to the event, and said that it was sure to have made a good impression on the Governor.  I said that John Musante had done an excellent job representing the Town at the event, talking about the Governor’s themes of building partnerships and connecting those to various partnership efforts Amherst has pursued, and about State initiatives that would benefit Amherst, such as the local option meals tax.  I said that officials from other municipalities followed by talking about elements specific to their towns where State assistance or intervention was sought, as well as general concerns such as the upcoming ballot question seeking repeal of the State income tax, which was referenced by many speakers.  I said that the Governor was well-received, and people appreciated his visit to this part of the state, and that he and his cabinet members were knowledgeable about the issues and questions being raised, and that the Governor stayed afterwards until all who wanted to talk with him had the opportunity.  I said it was an honor for Amherst to have been selected as the host community for the meeting.

Ms. Awad said that she agreed with what I had said, and said that Mr. Musante had done a “superb job of presenting for the Town.”  She said that she had raised a concern prior to the event that an elected official ought to have been the one to speak, and said that Amherst was the only community to have been represented by a staff person.  She said that her parting advice to the Select Board is to have a “very thorough discussion” with the Town Manager and the Assistant Town Manager about roles and about who speaks for Amherst and who represents the Town at which occasions.  She said that when Select Board members speak at such events, it provides a bit of public education about the role of the Select Board in New England towns. 

Mr. Weiss said that could be added to the list of future discussion topics, and said he was sorry that he had missed the event, but was on a previously-scheduled vacation. 

Ms. Stein said she attended the final half hour of the Governor’s event and had been impressed with it.

Mr. Shaffer said that he too had been on vacation at the time, and said he wanted to acknowledge the excellent job done by Mr. Musante, and said that Ms. Awad’s point about elected versus appointed officials representing the Town is an important one and “beyond symbolic.” 

Liaison Reports  (9:02)

Ms. Awad said she is seeking three people interested in serving on the Nyeri (Kenya) Sister City Committee.

Mr. Weiss said that being liaison to the Disability Access Advisory Committee has been an educational experience for him, and said that people with disabilities deal with many accessibility issues that are invisible to the rest of the community, and that the committee tries to solve some of those problems.

The meeting adjourned at 9:05.  The next Select Board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 28th in the Town Room at Town Hall. 


Larry Kelley said:

Well, Ms. Awad should not give a damn who speaks for the town of Amherst
since she lives in South Hadley.

But I have to agree, she raises a good point. All the more reason for a Mayor.

Neil said:

The town has an interest in holding the election
(1) sooner rather than later,
(2) at a time or in a way that maximizes voter turnout, and
(3) at a time that reduces marginal cost.

The obvious choice is to hold the election on November 2 unless the Select Board cannot function properly between Aug 31 and Nov 2 with four members.

The Town Clerk will have to make a strong case for why "holding the special [Select Board member] election concurrently with the November general election would be extremely complicated."



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