2018 was another very eventful year for Wendell and the town’s Selectboard—for one thing the composition of the Board changed, when Jeoff Pooser had to resign when he moved out of town, and his position was filled by Laurie DiDonato in a September special election. The Board gave her a warm welcome, and she’s already become an enthusiastic and helpful member.
Much attention this year was paid to the Town Hall. Facilities in the kitchen have been been upgraded to restaurant quality, and the Board worked with the Kitchen Committee to develop guidelines for use and a fee schedule. Town meeting approved a revolving fund for the Kitchen, which will allow collections of fees to be used for Kitchen upkeep. Both the Good Neighbors and the Full Moon Coffeehouse agreed to contribute to the fund. Underneath the building, in what was a very narrow crawl space, 1100 buckets of sand were removed to make the crawling much easier, the floor support system was upgraded with 6 new piers, and a rubber vapor barrier was installed over the entire area, covered by a layer of sand for stability.
A February special town meeting gave the Board control over the property at 97 Wendell Depot Road, to use part of the land to host a community solar project, and to sell or transfer the existing house on the remainder of the land. Both projects are ongoing.
The Board issued a Request for Proposals for the use of the Meetinghouse, but as yet the Friends of the Meetinghouse have not been able to respond because of the continuing dilemma of water and septic systems for the building.
Working with the Highway Department, new policies were developed for the WRATS, including an option for people to bring trash in containers other than the yellow bags, and changing the hours of operation so that they are the same in summer and winter—Tuesday 12-6 and Saturday 7:30-3:30. We also worked with the Highway to replace the bridge on Wendell Depot Road, and signed notes to borrow $135,001 for the purchase of a new loader. The Highway Department has also installed new blades on town snow plows which plow closer to the road surface which has enabled a reduction in salt use.
The Board reviewed updates in the Personnel Policy suggested by the town Treasurer, and made some changes, including the creation of a new position, Assistant Superintendent, for the Highway Department, and the provision that some hours of WRATS workers can occur when closed, for site clean-up and administration.
The town has been designated as the co-owner of the McAvoy dam, as Lockes Village Road itself is part of the dam structure. We worked with the owner to remove trees from the dam, which brought an upgraded assessment of the dam from Dam Safety, from poor to fair. We also heard concerns about the proposed draining of Bowen’s Pond, but this pond is entirely on private property and not subject to town control.
We heard of concerns about dogs on the loose at Fiske Pond, and decided on a regulation to require leashes on all dogs on the beach, and that dogs in other areas be under control.
As the state began a project to do selective logging on state forest land on Brook Road, the Board heard many concerns from citizens opposed to the project, who cited climate change as a reason the trees should not be cut. We also heard from citizens concerned about the disruption of Native American cultural resources, including ceremonial stones. The Board responded with a letter to DCR insisting that the cultural resources be protected. We also asked that DCR respond to the climate change argument, and were happy to welcome the Commissioner to town on two occasions to discuss the matter.
We were informed by our much appreciated police chief that he won’t be able to remain chief forever, and in fact would like to retire in the next few years, soa Police Chief Succession Committee was formed, and we were fortunate to be able to appoint a good group of people, including quite a few from the younger generations. The Committee applied for and received a grant to hire a consultant to study the situation, and in particular possible regionalization of departments with New Salem.
In June an auction was held for 7 parcels of town owned land, all of which sold successfully, producing a net income of $30,500.
In 2017 the Board was informed that regulations require that the flag near the gazebo should either be taken down at night or lit. We also heard from nearby residents that did not want any light all night on the common. To solve the impasse, a group of citizens volunteered to raise the flag and take it down on a daily basis, which they faithfully did for a full year, which earned them the gratitude of the Selectboard and many town citizens. But that was the limit of the time they could afford to spend on the project, so the Board decided to install a small solar light, pointed downward, on a one year trial basis. As yet there have been no complaints about that light. The Board then agreed to install a flag and pole at the site of the Town Offices with a similar light.
The Town hired a new Technical Consultant to help departments with IT issues, and assistance was given for computer maintenance, and a higher speed connection was provided to the fire department.
Audubon graciously provided 2 free summer camperships to Wendell youth, and the Board was pleased to announce the recipients and winners of the year’s essay contest, Sophia Slade and Kiera Baleno.
The Facilities Manager upgraded the heating systems in the Library and Town Offices with new, simpler control systems, and changed the glycol in systems.
The town finally began receiving income from the solar hosting agreement reached some years ago, and met in a solar forum with other town departments to discuss siting and financial arrangements for new solar projects. One new project on 5 acres began operation, and at least one more is planned. For any project a site plan review with the Planning Board is required, and no herbicides or pesticides can be used for maintenance.
Town financial officials met with our town auditor to review their current report, which concluded that they found “no deficiencies in internal control that we consider to be material weakness.” But they did recommend improving the town’s tax collection rate, which for 2017 was 89.43%.
The September special town meeting approved the transfer of $30,000 from Stabilization to pay the town’s share of window and door replacement at Swift River School.
We were very pleased to award the Citizen of the Year award to the heart and soul of the Good Neighbors program, Nancy Graton and Ed Hebert, who have led the organization through a period of steady growth, bringing free food of all varieties to an expanding group of local households. Good Neighbors not only brings large quantities of food to people, but brings the Town Hall to life on food days and has continued to support the building with regular financial contributions.
The Selectboard does wish to express its heartfelt thanks to town workers in all departments, boards and committees for all their devoted work, so much of it on a volunteer basis, which helps keep the town such a strong and vibrant community, and a wonderful place to live.