With all board members present in person, the Board of Selectmen held its second regular October meeting on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. The board approved the meeting minutes of its Oct. 6 meeting, approved two tax refunds as recommended by the tax collector and approved the release of a road opening bond as recommended by the deputy director of public works.
The board heard a presentation from Justin Giorlando, the land use director, regarding a proposal to change fees imposed by the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals. These land use fees have not been changed since 2014, which is before new zoning regulations and the current Plan of Conservation and Development were adopted. The proposal would increase some fees, decrease or eliminate others and add some new fees. Both commissions looked at fee schedules from several other towns for comparison purposes.
The fee schedule is set forth in full by ordinance which means any changes must be approved by the Board of Selectmen and then referred to the town meeting for adoption. The Board of Selectmen will seek advice of counsel to see if the ordinance can be modified to allow fees to be set without town meeting approval so the process of modifying fees is not quite so cumbersome. Most other town government bodies that impose fees do not require town meeting approval. The Board of Selectmen will act on the proposed fee schedule at a future meeting once counsel has answered this process question.
The board approved the request from the director of the Department of Parks and Recreation to accept the bid for renovation of the little league field at Aspetuck Park received from Championship Turf Services in the amount of $13,950.00. The work is this year’s phase of the renovation of town ballfields at all of our parks. Money for the project comes from the activity fund. The activity fund is financed by fees paid to the department by participants in park and recreation programs. No tax dollars will be used.
The board approved a plan to repair and replace the roof on a barn located on the South Park Avenue property. The barn is on a portion of the property that will become part of the conservation easement if that easement is approved by the town meeting. There may be some structural repairs needed and there will definitely be a replacement of the roof. It is estimated that the cost of the project is between $10,000 and $15,000. While there is no present plan for the future use of the barn, the board felt that the building is sound enough to warrant completing this work now so the structure is preserved and available for some future use. That use could include storage, a site for a nature’s classroom program or some other activity. The matter will now be presented to the Board of Finance for consideration.
The board agreed to hold a town meeting on Monday, Dec. 5 and a machine vote referendum on Tuesday, Dec. 13. The items for the town meeting and referendum have not been set yet. However, the board has previously committed to bring the South Park Avenue conservation easement to the town meeting/referendum and we now have at least two additional items that require town meeting approval – technical changes to the Ethics Ordinance and fee schedule changes for Planning and Zoning and the Zoning Board of Appeals. Additional items could be added to the agenda. The board wanted to avoid holding the town meeting/referendum around the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holidays.
The board accepted the resignation of Henry “Andy” Anderson from the Area Nine Cable Council. Andy has moved out of town and is, therefore, no longer eligible to serve. Andy has served on the council for many years. In that capacity, he has played a leading role in recording and making available for public viewing numerous meetings of boards, commissions and other town events on our channel 79 cable service. The board thanked him for his tireless behind the scenes efforts to make town government accessible to the public.
The board appointed Paco Acosta and John Halleran to full member seats on the EDIT task force. There are two alternate seats also available on this body. Anyone who is interested in serving as an alternate should contact the Democratic or Republican Town Committees or the first selectman’s office. The board appointed Colin Cote to the Pension and Employee Benefits Commission. This is another town body that is not high profile but which provides a function essential to the smooth operation of the town. The board thanks Mr. Cote, and all residents, who step forward to serve the town in areas of both high and low profile.
The board is considering a plan of action to support our 5G moratorium. Recently, the town learned that there is a plan to install 5G on the Morehouse Road cellphone tower in violation of our moratorium. Proponents of the moratorium suggested the name of an attorney to assist the town. Attempts to contact that person have been unsuccessful. However, the first selectman has spoken with a different attorney specializing in this area. While the initial report from this attorney is not encouraging regarding the likelihood of success in defending the moratorium, the board authorized the first selectman to obtain a more comprehensive written opinion from the attorney for our consideration.
The board heard public comment from several residents:
Dwight Senior spoke about his grandfather’s work building and protecting reservoirs and the watershed and preservation in Easton. He connected that work from the past with what we should do today especially in connection with the spill at the former Easton Village Store. He said he is glad that Board of Selectmen meeting recordings from September are now publicly available. He thanked the board for agreeing to fix the roof of the barn on South Park Avenue. He asked the board to make sure the public is aware of the potential for contamination of Halloween candy and treats from fentanyl.
Jeff Becker said fixing the roof of the barn on the South Park Avenue property is a good investment and thanked the board for supporting it. He wonders if there is a solar roof possibility. He expressed concern about the amount of water Aquarion is removing from the Easton Reservoir for diversion downstate. He expressed concern that a fight with the wireless technology industry to enforce our 5G moratorium could get very expensive.
Grant Monsarrat asked if the lease from 2008 with the New England Prayer Center (NEPC), which put the responsibility for maintenance and repairs on South Park Avenue property on the NEPC, is still enforceable? The first selectman reported that this has been explored and the answer seems to be that it is vague.
John Meyer asked for financial backup to support the proposed fee changes for Planning and Zoning and ZBA. This would allow townspeople to assess the fiscal impact of the changes.
Selectman Sogofsky, in response to Mr. Senior, confirmed that school related officials are aware of concerns about tampering with Halloween candy. She reports that experts say the best advice is for parents to check all candy before letting children eat it and toss away anything suspicious. First Selectman Bindelglass reported that the police department is also on top of this concern.
First Selectman Bindelglass reported that the town will observe the new Juneteenth holiday beginning next year so town hall will be closed that day. He reported that the Department of Public Health has found that the wells at EMS and the Fire Department show no evidence of oil or gas contamination or other hazards. They do show other minor conditions not dissimilar to those found in many wells and which do not pose a health risk.