The Selectboard was unchanged in 2014, as Dan Keller was reelected to his fifth term to work alongside Jeoffrey Pooser and Christine Heard. The Board is very fortunate to continue to work with Nancy Aldrich as Town Coordinator, Laurel Brenneman as Selectboard Clerk, Joy Gorzocoski who handles clerical duties and Larry and Laurie Ramsdell, town custodians. These town employees have each worked for a good number of years at their jobs, and the Selectboard is extremely grateful for their competence and dependability.
Joy Gorzocoski completed the task of reviewing old Town Meeting warrants to create a comprehensive list of all current town bylaws organized in a binder. This will facilitate research by town officials into our bylaws. Thank you, Joy! Nancy Aldrich accepted the added task of conducting CORI checks for the Recreation Committee, Wendell Free Library and Council on Aging to determine if volunteers who work directly with children or elders have a criminal record.
This year town officials decided to hold the Annual Town Meeting on a Saturday at the request of some citizens. Volunteers provided a lunch at noon and others provided child care in the Library during the meeting. Attendance at the Saturday meeting was consistent with recent ATMs. The Selectboard decided to alternate ATMs between Saturdays and weekday evenings for a few years in an effort to accommodate as many people as possible. A Special Town Meeting was held in September to pay bills of prior years and to fund the purchase of a safe for the Treasurer's office which was recommended during the annual audit.
The Department of Revenue's 2012 review of Wendell's financial operations strongly recommended that the town limit spending to the annual town meeting (except for emergencies) and reserve special town meetings for non-financial issues such as bylaw changes, policies, etc. Town departments stayed within the FY14 budget, avoiding any additional spending during the fiscal year. This marks the second year we have successfully followed the DOR's recommendations! The annual town audit praised our town's financial team for for their exceptional performance of their duties.
The Succession Planning Committee, which was formed in 2011 to consider the next steps for our Fire and Police Departments, suggested that the Fire Department's budget include monies to plan for a change in leadership. With help from a consultant hired through a grant from the Franklin Regional Council of Government, the Fire Department and the Selectboard were well prepared when Chief Everett Ricketts retired in February after 37 years as Chief. Joe Cuneo, who is also the Fire Chief for the Town of New Salem, was hired for a part time position; together the two Chiefs facilitated a very smooth transition. Many, many thanks to Chief Ricketts for his dedication to the Fire Department for almost six decades! Chief Cuneo is a strong advocate for his department and has already updated equipment and initiated joint trainings with the New Salem Department.
The Selectboard is responsible for the upkeep of town buildings. This year the floor of the Town Hall was refinished and minor plumbing and electric repairs took place. After major deficiencies in the heating ducts under the Town Hall were discovered, Jim Slavas, Facilities Engineer, did an extensive analysis of the heating system and recommended replacing the entire duct system and installing new thermostats. The Board recommended that the Energy Committee consider funding these projects with part of its Green Energy grant.
The oil tanks at the Town Offices were replaced due to damage to the intake valves. Jim Slavas repaired the circulator fans in the heating system, eliminating an annoying noise. He upgraded the four emergency electric generators at town facilities with a winterization package to ensure their operation in cold weather and also mouse-proofed the generator at the town well.
At the Community (Senior) Center building a new slate roof was installed during the late fall. Earlier the deck and ramp were repaired and repainted.
The gazebo on the north Common was power washed and sealed during the summer. The wood shingle roof was replaced with new fiberglass shingles in late fall.
In late fall Dan Keller and Asa DeRoode installed more house numbers at various homes throughout Wendell. Clear house numbering facilitates a quick response in an emergency. Please let the Selectboard know if you wish an official street number sign.
In the fall the Selectboard facilitated a complex and drawn out dog hearing that was eventually peacefully resolved.
The long-awaited fiber optic network connected to town buildings was finally turned on in 2014. We now have lightning fast internet service at the Town Offices, the Library, the Community (Senior) Center, the Fire Station/Highway Garage and the Police Station. Delivering high speed Internet connectivity to households (aka the "last mile") is a much more long-term project; the Selectboard cooperated with WiredWest to further the process.
The Selectboard continued to request flag designs for a town flag. At Old Home Day all eleven designs were displayed, and people could vote for their favorite and/or comment on the choices. Two designs received the most favorable responses. Town Coordinator Nancy Aldrich worked with the two flag designers, Donna Horn and Pam Richardson, to create one final design. She also offered to sew a flag once a final design was chosen; on behalf of the Selectboard she applied for and was awarded a Wendell Cultural Council grant for materials. In the fall and early winter a combined design was approved, and the Selectboard received comments from citizens about the words to be included on the flag. By the end of the year the Board was close to the final design of what will surely be a unique and colorful flag for our town!
An auction of surplus town property was held on May 3rd, raising over $7,000.
In response to a very disruptive incident when a government helicopter circled overhead during a memorial service for a local firefighter on the Town Common in late September, Jeoff Pooser drafted a letter seeking an apology from whoever was responsible. With Nancy Aldrich's help the Selectboard sent the letter to various state and federal agencies. Eventually the Massachusetts Army National Guard admitted they had flown a surveillance mission on that date at the bequest of the Drug Enforcement Agency; they apologized for the disruption.
The Highway Commission received an estimate for surveying and engineering costs associated with the work of extending the path along the Common southwards to the Wendell Country Store. Selectboard members and Highway Commissioner, Harry Williston met with an engineer from Stantec Engineering in the fall to discuss and view the potential path. A survey will be completed next year.
The Selectboard accepted bids for a new Fire Department brush truck and a new grader for the Highway Department; these purchases were approved at the 2014 Annual Town Meeting.
As had been promised Seaboard Solar Holdings finally paid back the town for legal expenses that were incurred during the process of drawing up an agreement for Wendell to sponsor new solar arrays in other towns. No solar credits have been received from them as none of those arrays are functioning yet.
In December Wendell held a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) public hearing to solicit input for the town's development strategy. Currently the town participates in a rehabilitation loan program which has a waiting list of 14 homes in Wendell. We will apply for a new CDBG program to infuse the rehab program with new grant money. As part of the process the Board developed and prioritized a list of development activities. The top four activities are: expand internet access throughout town; increase access to the housing rehabilitation program; replace the bridge on Wendell Depot Road over the Whetstone Brook; remodel the Town Hall kitchen.
In December the Selectboard was honored to visit with the town's oldest citizen, Adam Drozdowski who entertained the Board with stories of life in the past in Wendell. A lapel pin replicating the Boston Post cane and a certificate were given to Mr. Drozdowski.
Many new appointments to Town boards and committees were made in 2014 including (but not limited to) the following: Beth Ervitti to the Zoning Board of Appeals; Diane Kurinsky to the Council on Aging; Jim Woodward, Danika Tyminski and Kimberly Sobieski to the Recreation Committee; Megan Sylvia to the Open Space Committee; Janice Doubleday to the Energy Committee, Susan von Ranson and Janice Doubleday to the Cultural Council; Jenny Gross as the Selectboard's representative to FRCOG. Wanita Sears was appointed to the newly created Shared Clerk position, to provide clerical help to any board or commission that needs it. Eric Newman was appointed to the newly created position of Kitchen Coordinator to support the use of the renovated kitchen in the Town Hall.
The Board happily awarded Citizen of the Year to Milton Bergmann at Old Home Day. Milton has faithfully mowed the Town Common and other town lawns for 20 years using an ingenious arrangement of old lawn mowers operating in tandem. His creative and efficient recycling demonstrates the true spirit of Wendell! Thank you for tending our open spaces, Milton.
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