Sherman, Conn. (Citizen News) – Board of Selectmen (BoS) announced last week that Town Treasurer Eric Holub reconsidered and rescinded his resignation. He will complete his full term of office, which ends on December 31, 2015, about one year from now. The audience applauded when they heard this news.
On the agenda: new business topics, new appointments announced, and plenty of updates for recurring old business items.
This regular monthly meeting also began and ended with a heated public commentary regarding the absence of the illuminated cross from the silo at Happy Acres Farm. The cross has been a seasonal decoration at the iconic farm for decades. Public commentary also addressed the potential safety ramifications for the continuing lack of a cell phone tower in Southern Sherman.
The major announcement…
Treasurer, Eric Holub, Rescinds Resignation
With Dec. 31 fast approaching as Eric Holub’s last day as Town Treasurer, and with an impending vacancy, First Selectman Clay Cope announced that he and Selectman Bob Ostrosky had asked Mr. Holub to reconsider his resignation. First Selectman Cope added that Mr. Holub has agreed to remain in the position as he looks to rebalance some of the more administrative, repetitive tasks so he can better use his time on his areas of expertise.
The BoS continues to look for residents who would like to serve on a new Farm Advisory Committee. It is also exploring how such a committee might best interact with the new farm tenant, Full Circle Farming, and the BoS. First Selectman Cope said he is consulting with a similar farm advisory group in New Milford, and added that Ralph Gorman, the owner of White Silo Farm, expressed an interest in serving on the committee. He said two other residents had informally expressed interest.
First Selectman Cope also said the next step “is to create a draft ordinance to empower this newly created committee. There are a lot of moving parts, so it’s not likely going to happen until February [when this committee will be fully formed].”
Officials from Parks and Recreation (P&R) attended the meeting and responded to comments from the Town’s auditor concerning inconsistent record keeping practices. There are two different accounts in use: the General Fund and an Agency Fund. Plus, the department is not using accounting software, such as QuickBooks. First Selectman Cope and Selectman Ostrosky will examine both accounts. Then, with John Wrenn, P&R Director, and Fran Franttini, P&R Commission Chair, they will talk with the auditor to determine how to show more transparency and visibility in the accounts.
For the Historic District Commission, the BoS reappointed Alice Schneckenberger and Robert Boone. For the Candlewood Lake Authority (CLA), the BoS reappointed Phyllis Schaer for a three-year term, and also appointed George Linkletter to fulfill the unexpired term of Ed Hayes. Karen Kellett is a reappointed Commissioner for the Parks and Recreation Commission. The BoS also appointed Sheila McMahon to serve a two-year term on the Commission on Aging.
Old Business Updates
Happy Acres Lease: First Selectman Clay Cope said that “on Saturday [12/13] inventory was done for the herd, the farm, and the equipment. The lease was signed on Tuesday [12/16] with the attorney, along with all insurance documents, and the first month’s payment of rent is in.” The BoS unanimously agreed to let the new tenants move in some of their belongings early since they need to begin farming on Jan. 1.
Septic Tank Visual Inspection/Walk-over Program:
First Selectman Cope announced that two Public Forums on this proposed program will take place on Saturday, Jan. 10 and Friday, Feb. 6. The Public Forums will help to explain the rationale, and costs and benefits of the proposed program. These forums will also solicit comments from the public, and gauge public support or opposition. The Health Director, Tim Simpkins, and representatives of the Candlewood Lake Authority, and possibly a community advocate for the program, may lead the discussion at the Public Forums.
Following these forums, a Town Meeting (or Referendum) will take place to allow voters and property owners to approve or disapprove the proposed program.
Municipal Storm Water Management: First Selectman Clay Cope reported that CT-DEEP has proposed new rules that would impose costly requirements on the way municipalities manage storm water runoff. These new rules are an unfunded mandate, and the intent is to improve water quality in the state’s water bodies and Long Island Sound. He said that municipal leaders oppose the new standards.
Disbursement Controls Policy: Selectman Ostrosky recently met with Liz LaVia, Business Manager, to focus on a preliminary review of the Town’s current purchasing and disbursement control practices. There were some inconsistencies, but he felt that the overall process was in good shape.
Union Complaint: Selectman O’Connor asked about the status of a complaint lodged several months ago by the union representing employees in the Town’s Department of Public Works, and involving the position of the Town’s Facilities Manager. First Selectman Cope said there has been some recent correspondence on the issue and said he would forward the pertinent material to her.
Hapanowich Trust: The BoS, unanimously authorized any Selectman to review and accept the Trust accounting. This action will enable the Town to receive any money remaining from the Trust.
Resident State Trooper’s Office/Phone System: First Selectman Cope reported the telephone installation should happen early this week. This is the final, and long awaited, step needed so the RST can officially move into his new office.
Emergency Radio Communications Report: First Selectman Cope said he submitted an application for STEAP Grant funding for this project.
Recurring Town Projects Update
Playhouse Bathrooms: First Selectman Cope reported the plumbing is finished and the painting will begin next. When the previous windows project at the Playhouse came in under budget, Selectman Cope asked state officials if it was possible to reallocate those unused funds to this project, and he received a verbal OK. He now plans to apply the $15,000 in STEAP grant money that remains from the windows project to help with the current bathrooms renovation project.
Sherman School Roof: First Selectman Cope reported the school roof repair inspection happened on Dec. 13. The final inspection will be on Dec. 23 by the Town Building Inspector, Bill Jenks.
Spring Lake Road: First Selectman Cope reported this project is pending final engineer approval for an extra step, meaning the engineer that designed the road (i.e. culverts, swales, and guard rails) now has to “sign off” on the corrections.
Briarwood Road Bridge Replacement: First Selectman Clay Cope reported Ron Wolff, of Wolff Engineering, and Civil and Structural Engineers, is preparing a bid package for the engineering phase of this project.
SVFD New Tires: First Selectman Cope reported the new tires are ordered.
Emergency Services Facility: First Selectman Cope reported that planning is under way to improve or upgrade the garage bay exhaust system.
Public Works Wash Station: First Selectman Cope reported he met with Ron Wolff, of Wolff Engineering and Civil and Structural Engineers, and the firm is working on the engineering plans.
The Illuminated Cross at Happy Acres Farm: Several residents attended the BoS meeting to address the issue of the non-installation of the cross. First Selectman Cope said five residents did not want the cross installed because the Town now owns the farm. The Town attorney advised Selectman Cope to not allow this because the Town can end up in litigation.
A spokesperson for concerned citizens, Gary Albert, went on record with a plea to the BoS to “reverse the decision and allow the cross to go up as Tony would have wanted.” Roberta Judd thanked the Town for allowing the use of Tony’s cross on her family’s property. She strongly feels that “the Town is being punished for the minority of the five who did not want it up, and it’s breaking Tony and the Town’s tradition.” Mr. Albert said a town in Massachusetts has an ordinance that allows for the temporary displays of religious/holiday symbols, and he is not sure why the Town of Sherman can’t do this as well.
Southern Sherman Cell Tower Committee (SSCTC): The spokesperson for this committee, Gail Maletz, voiced continuing concerns for the many residents living in the longstanding and major “dead zone” in the Pepper Pond Road area in Southern Sherman. She spotlighted the hardships endured by residents and the looming safety threat due to the lack of cellular communication access. The committee’s plea to the BoS is to remove the roadblocks for allowing a cell phone tower. Maletz also said the Telecommunications Act of 1996, states that it’s prohibited by law to not allow a cell tower to go up if it would be a critical service for the safety of its residents.
Related to this topic, Selectmen Ostrosky brought-up the possibility of the Town rescinding its letter of municipal preference as a way to help spur progress towards a cell tower. First Selectman Cope will contact the State Siting Council to see if withdrawing the letter would affect an application (from AT&T).
This article by Alicia Sakal ran in the Citizen News, serving Sherman and New Fairfield, Connecticut.