The Selectboard was unchanged in 2017, as Dan Keller was reelected to work alongside Christine Heard and Jeoffrey Pooser. The Board is very fortunate to continue to work with Nancy Aldrich as Town Coordinator, Joy Gorzocoski who handles clerical duties and Larry and Laurie Ramsdell, town custodians. Laurel Brenneman who had been our Selectboard Clerk for many years chose not to be reappointed in July. We thank Laurel for all the years she provided clear, concise and correct minutes for our meetings. Many different, complex issues are covered; Laurel was excellent at reporting them with precision and clarity. Amy Palmer took on the task of attending meetings and providing minutes for us in September; she is a fast learner and a careful recorder. The combined years of experience for these elected and appointed officials allows the Selectboard's work to move forward smoothly. Again in 2017 the Wendell Selectboard focused its attention on the broadband initiative, but also took up such issues as flags at the Veterans' Memorial and a proposed community solar project on town owned land.
The Selectboard is responsible for the upkeep of town buildings. Because of continued problems with the grinder pump for the septic system at the Wendell Free Library, the pump was replaced in March by Facilities Engineer Jim Slavas who monitors and corrects problems with various systems in town buildings. Jim also acquired and installed three high efficiency, intelligent circulator pumps for the Town Offices and the Library heating systems, using funds from the Green Communities grant.
In the Town Hall the on-demand hot water heater for the bathrooms was replaced. Work to close up the crawl space under the building and strengthen supports was put out to bid. The first two parts of the job were awarded to TriCounty Construction in late fall; work will be completed in the spring.
The Selectboard hired TriCounty to demolish two structures: the old carriage shed behind the Wendell Meetinghouse and a small addition in the rear of the house at 97 Wendell Depot Road.
All three Selectboard members participated in the joint Broadband Committees meetings during the year, facilitating close cooperation between both departments. As the year ended, the town has engaged Westfield Gas & Electric to design a broadband system. State funding has been clarified, and a grant from the Commonwealth was signed in June providing $730,000 towards design and construction. Pole attachment agreements and surety bond applications for Verizon and National Grid were signed by the Selectboard. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed with Wired West for future cooperation with that organization to possibly provide services once the system is built. See the Broadband Committees annual report for more information.
The Building Inspector and the Conservation Committee both issued orders to a Locks Village Road homeowner to bring his property into compliance with, respectively, the new zoning bylaw about junk materials and state and town wetland laws. The homeowner appealed the orders to the court; he then failed to provide required information to the court in time for a December hearing. Town Counsel has asked the court to dismiss the case.
The Board received complaints about the number of unregistered vehicles at a home on Locks Village Road and one on New Salem Road. The owners of both homes brought their property into compliance with the town bylaw, which limits the number of unregistered vehicles to two unless a permit is granted. The owner of another property on Wickett Pond Road also completed compliance after several years. Finally a complaint for a home on Locks Village Road remains open, as the homeowner refuses to cooperate.
A new zoning bylaw was passed at a Special Town Meeting in the fall that allows a historic building on a non-compliant lot to be improved. This was the final piece to prepare for transferring ownership of the Wendell Meetinghouse to the Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse. The Selectboard is working on a Request for Proposals to facilitate this transfer.
In response to a request from a citizen to install a solar light at the top of the flagpole at the veterans monument on the Town Common, several meetings were held with interested parties. Because of citizens' concerns about light pollution, Melissa Grader generously offered to form a team of people willing to put up and take down the flag at sunrise and sunset daily for the 2017 season. Thanks to many volunteers, this effort was very successful. In the fall, Ms. Grader recommended a solar light be installed for the next season. This topic will be discussed in 2018.
During 2017 the Massachusetts Department of Dam Safety instructed the owners of the McAvoy Dam to do remedial work to the dam, which is on the east side of Locks Village Road near West Street. Because the road is part of the dam and because a number of trees growing on the dam within the road right-of-way must be removed, the town accepted partial ownership of the dam in an informal agreement and worked with an engineer and the owners to form a plan to remediate dam safety.
In May the Energy Committee brought a proposal to the Selectboard to create a community solar project at 97 Wendell Depot Road, a property now owned by the town due to a tax taking process. This project continued to be discussed throughout the remainder of the year including such issues as a Payment in Lieu of Taxes or lease payments to the town which would maintain ownership of the property, disposal of the house on the property, size and positioning of the solar field, etc. Citizens will vote on allowing this project to proceed at a special town meeting in spring.
The Selectboard has been involved for a number of years with another solar project, one for which the town serves as a host. Originally proposed by Seaboard Solar, the project is now owned by C2Energy and went on line recently. The Board came to an agreement with C2Energy in September about the payments due to the town through the Net Metering Credit program; the amount is 65% less than originally proposed, but does represent income for the town based on the amount of electricity generated by the project annually.
An auction was held in the fall which earned $2342 for the town. An old police cruiser, a highway pickup truck, cordwood, shop equipment,and abandoned property from 97 Wendell Depot Road were among the items sold. A surplus sander/plow truck was sold to the Town of Orange soon afterwards for $5000.
Massachusetts Audubon continued to fund one campership to their Camp Wildwood, which was awarded to the sole applicant, August Maeiwski. This campership will continue to be offered every year by Mass Audubon.
The new Technology Supervisor, Peter Golrick, met with the Board several times to provide updates on his work which included creating a comprehensive plan for replacing aging technology and assisting town departments with technology issues. The Board accepted a new Public Records Compliance Policy to comply with recent, open meeting, state regulations.
The Board was delighted to award Citizen of the Year at Old Home Day to Asa de Roode for his many years of service on the Fire Department. Asa is an EMT and also Captain, a leadership role he has held for a long time. He was instrumental in a smooth transition to our new Fire Chief and has provided CPR education to many in town. Thank you, Asa, for your dedicated service and your kind, thoughtful care to citizens during emergencies!
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito came to Wendell in December to meet with various members of town government. She presented a Green Communities award to Nan Riebschlaeger and the Energy Committee for their efforts to help homeowners tighten up their homes for energy conservation. Congratulations, Nan and the Energy Committee!
The Selectboard again thanks the many citizens of Wendell whose generous commitment contributes to town government. The intelligence and dedication of our elected and appointed town officials and our numerous volunteers are truly remarkable!
Check out the Wendell town website at www.wendellmass.us. Information about town government including meeting times, agendas and minutes are all available along with much other useful information.
Christine Heard, Chair