December 1, 2008 Select Board Meeting

This is a brief summary, done from memory with few notes.  I may do this on an irregular basis going forward - or I may never manage to do it again - but for what it's worth, here's some semblance of Monday's meeting:

December 1, 2008 Select Board Meeting
Town Hall

Called to order at 6:30 p.m.


Select Board members Gerry Weiss, Alisa Brewer (6:35,) Aaron Hayden, Diana Stein, Stephanie O'Keeffe; Town Manager Larry Shaffer; Assistant Town Manager/Finance Director John Musante

Announcements  (6:30)

Gerry praised the DPW for the downtown sidewalk work and noted that the money for the project was committed several years ago.

Liaison Report  (6:35)

I spoke about the Amherst Housing Authority's celebration of the recent opening of the apartments on Main Street, and how inability to secure building permits for other AHA property renovations was resulting in contractor change orders and extended delays that would impact the Authority's annual vacancy audit.

Select Board Reorganization/Election of New Officers  (6:40)

Alisa nominated me for Chair.  I praised Gerry and spoke a little about my interpretation of the position.  Gerry spoke about how much he's enjoyed the various responsibilities of being Chair.  Larry said he enjoyed working with Gerry.  Alisa gave him an "Amherst MA - where only the H is silent" mug and chocolate bars.  The SB unanimously voted me as Chair.

Alisa nominated Aaron for Clerk, and said he had done the minutes for the Comprehensive Planning Committee.  People said nice things about my having done the minutes.  The SB unanimously voted Aaron as Clerk.

New Taxi License

We approved a new taxi driver's license for Mary L. Ferro.

Human Rights Day Proclamation  (6:53)

Gerry read aloud the proclamation making December 10, 2008 Human Rights Day, and the SB voted unanimously to support that.

Holiday Parking

We approved requests by the Chamber of Commerce for Street Closures and bagged parking meters for the 12/5 Merry Maple event; free parking in the pay-and-display lots (not meters) for 12/ 6 - Greeting Card Day; and free parking in the pay-and-display lots (not meters) from 12/13 to 12/24.  More detail here.

Town Manager Evaluation Process  (7:05)

We talked briefly about the packet of Town Manager Evaluations Gerry had distributed by e-mail earlier in the day, and in hardcopy at the meeting.  There was some discussion of whether we might put something less than each member's full eval on the Town web site, perhaps instead just making them available in the Select Board office, but we ultimately voted to reaffirm our decision to release the full documents on the Select Board page of the web site.  The full document, combining all the evals is here. 

We also discussed the need to create goals and expectations, and how that would focus the points of agreement among our individual evals.  We plan to have that discussion at the 12/15 meeting.  Larry also intends to provide a written response to our evals. 

Town Manager's Report  (7:25)

Larry praised Senior Center Director Nancy Pagano for the big success of her annual Thanksgiving meal for seniors, served at the Bangs Center and delivered to the homes of those who don't get out.  He also spoke about the Town's schedule for the holidays (described here) and a significant and much appreciated donation of trees to the Town by Hadley Garden Center (described here.)

I asked him about the pool drain situation, noted in the paper last week, and expected to close the Middle School pool until new equipment can be installed.  He said that it is a national law affecting all the Town's pools, and that unless a legislative change occurs to change or delay implementation, expensive fixes will be required if the pools are to reopen.  The law is described here.

I also asked him to talk about Town Counsel's opinion on the recent court ruling regarding Community Preservation Act funds as relate to the Plum Brook athletic fields.  He had sent the opinion to the Select Board already and had discussed it at a CPAC meeting, but it had not yet been talked about with a wide audience and the press.  The nutshell is that Town Counsel thinks the Town can continue to use CPA funds to pay on the obligation incurred, but that a similar use would not likely be considered CPA-eligible in the future.  Alisa asked for the opinion to be posted on the CPA section of the Town Web site (and to look into posting it on the State CPA site) and it is now on the Town site, here.  Larry said that future CPA proposals will be vetted by Town Counsel.

Report from the Facilitation of Community Choices Committee  (7:40)

Bob Saul and Martha Hanner, FCCC Co-Chairs, presented the report summary and recommendations contained in the first chapter of the 150+ page report.  That chapter is available here.  The full report will be delivered to the Select Board by Friday of this week, and will be on the web site as well.  (Update:  Here's the PDF of the full report. It will be on the Town site early in the week.) 

Select Board Discussion of Budget Priorities  (8:40)

We discussed a bit about our budget priority lists, which Diana had compiled into a single document summarizing the points on which we had most agreement.  There were a bunch of questions to Larry and John Musante about capital issues and overtime.  There was discussion about the need to keep our points broad because the scope of our structural budget deficit is so large.  We're still struggling with what kind of guidance we can agree upon and provide to Larry that is meaningful.  I have wanted our primary input to be in the budget creation period rather than in reaction to the budget Larry will propose on January 16th, but it is so late now and we are still trying to figure out how to create and express our priorities, so I think post-budget feedback may be unavoidable.  We'll see.  This discussion will continue on 12/8.

Committee Appointment

We voted unanimously to appoint Jim Wald to the Design Review Board, as the representative from the Historical Commission. 

Scheduling Future Meeting Dates

We agreed that 12/15 would be our last 2008 meeting date, unless we decide that we need another.  We also voted unanimously to schedule the following meeting dates:

January 5, 12, 21, 26; February 2, 9, 23; March  2, 9, 16, 23; April 6, 13, 20, 27.

The 1/21 date (a Wednesday) will be a single-agenda meeting to discuss the Town Manager's budget, which we'll receive January 16.  That meeting will be in the First Floor meeting room.

We will not meet the night before the March 31 Annual Town Election.  And Town Meeting begins Wednesday, April 29.

Adjournment/Next Meeting

The meeting adjourned at 9:45 p.m.  The next regular Select Board meeting is Monday, 12/8 at 6:30 in the Town Room.  There is also a Four Towns Meeting posted as a Select Board meeting on Saturday, 12/6 at 9:30 a.m. at the Middle School's Professional Development Center.  It involves Select Boards, School Committees and Finance Committees from Amherst, Pelham, Leverett and Shutesbury.


Concerned Parent said:

WILL the middle school pool be closed or fixed by December 19th? When will that decision be made? This seems like a serious safety issue...why would the town even be looking for an extension to the required date of compliance?! How much would it cost to fix it and could this fix be completed by the December 19th deadline? Are all our pools affected?

Yes, the pool will close unless an extension can be secured. This issue will impact the other Town pools as well. Some believe that the legislation was applied too broadly, rendering safe pools non-compliant. Because this is a federal law affecting pools all over the country, and because the 12/19 deadline is looming, there is much pressure to change the law's implementation. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

Larry Kelley said:

But the cost to retrofit/comply is WAY less than the reported $100,000 per pool (more like $1,000 to $15,000.)

And the Federal Law was passed ONE YEAR AGO.

So...we can squander $22,000 on a lawn mower for the Cherry Hill Golf Course this coming year (hidden in Capital expenditures, so most folks don't know it is a cost of doing business) but will allow all three pools (with a combined net value of more than the golf course)close because of this?

Neil said:

Seems to me the town manager and SB might be interested in understanding how we came to a position of requiring an extension or pool closure given 12 months notice. Does each pool have a manager? I don't think someone must be blamed but we no doubt would want job responsibilities clearly defined going forward.

Th problem the town will have getting an extension is the legal liability involved if there was related accident in the interim period.

Concerned Parent Again said:

Yes, I had thought of liability issues as well as safety issues if the town sought an extension. I read in the Bulletin article that the pools WILL be closed now? I am with Neil. Why is this happening when the town had one year's notice? Seems like poor management to me.



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