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Haddam BOS Meeting Notes: December 6, 2017

Submitted by Ed Munster.

First Meeting of the Newly Elected Board of Selectmen

First Selectman Lizz Milardo welcomed the new members of the Board, [Selectman] Melissa Schlag and [Selectman] Larry Maggi, and expressed gratitude to former members Sean Donlan and Robert Duval for their years of service.  This meeting was attended by over 30 members of the public.

Milardo asked that the agenda be amended to consider sending to the Board of Finance a request from the Public Works Department to re-allocate funds from the capital plan for the purchase of a wheel excavator.  Milardo explained that this purchase will require a town meeting but the first step involves the BoF.

Because the two new members of the BOS were not on the board at the previous meeting, both Schlag and Maggi abstained from the motion to approve the minutes of 11/15/2017.

During public comments Ed Schwing, Editor of the Haddam Bulletin, questioned the attendance of the Secretary in the three items of executive session which were coming up later in the meeting and wanted to know what would be the role of the Secretary during the executive session.  FS Milardo responded that it was in case there was any follow-up that might be needed, to which Mr. Schwing responded “well, I don’t think that is allowed by FOI.”  Milardo then asked the Town Attorney, who was present, to comment on the question.  Atty. Rich Carrella explained the role as a legitimate one to which Mr. Schwing responded “That’s wrong.”

Mary Alice Hughes of Haddam Neck commented on the Higganum Cove tax auction sale in January 2018.  She stated that she understood that the Tax collector has a statutory obligation to collect taxes.  She went on to say that she is a member of Haddam Park and Recreation Commission and that the cove would be ideal as a kayak launch point and a picnic area and the money spent by the federal and state government was intended so that the land could be used for recreation.  Hughes made the plea that the town do everything it could to assure that the cove will be used for recreational purposes.

Sean Moriarty, who was previously a candidate for First Selectman, raised a concern about potential pollution on a property to be discussed in executive session and that the owner should be responsible for cleanup if this were a problem.

Meghan Peterson, an editor for Haddam News, made the point that unlike other boards and commissions, members of the BOS get a salary and suggested that the newly elected member of the BOS who is part of the staff of the Haddam Bulletin step down from her HB role so as to avoid a conflict of interest between her BOS duties and her HB role as a matter of maintaining journalistic integrity.

A motion to approve tax refunds of $3,781.81 was approved unanimously.

The November report from Jessica Condil, Social Services Director, indicated that the food bank provided assistance to 30 families and food baskets were distributed to 35 families.  She is also working with the HK Back Pack program assisting young families in need.  The Haddam fuel bank assisted 11 families.  The emergency Clothing bank assisted 7 adults and 9 children.  The women’s empowerment group had its second meeting; [for more information about this group, see THIS LINK].  At the suggestion of the Committee on Aging, kits were provided to residents of High Meadows to help during power outages.  Kits will be also be available to shut-ins in town.

Under old business, Milardo reported that the proposed Town Charter which was an item on the November ballot was approved by the town and is effective as of December 7, 2017 and a copy of the new charter is available on the town website.

Under new business, per town charter, after each election we need to appoint our Town Attorney.  Milardo moved to re-appoint Rich Carrela which was approved by a 2-1 vote with BOS member Schlag voting no.  A motion was made by Milardo that the BOS meetings for next year will be held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Hall.  Whenever there is a holiday on a Monday, the meeting will instead be on the following Tuesday.  Motion approved unanimously.

At the request of the Assessor Jenifer Gauthier the BOS approved a motion to exempt pleasure horses from personal property tax because the amount of taxes collected does not justify the cost of collecting those taxes.   The vote was 2-1 with Schlag voting no.

First Selectman Milardo provided an update on the water in Tylerville.    Previously the First Selectman was authorized to sign a consent order on behalf of the town being written by the DEEP, DPH, Connecticut Water Company and the Haddam Town Attorney.  This will be reviewed by the town to assure that the town is protected and is expected to be ready for signing next week.    Milardo stated that once that consent order is signed we are able to go to the bond commission to request approval in January of the rest of the funds needed to provide clean water to Tylerville.

Milardo reported that Haddam Elderly Housing, which is a private group, recently expanded its board of directors so that it is now compliant.    There are some improvements at High Meadows which are long overdue and there is an opportunity to apply for a federal Small City Grant to help.  This needs to be done in April.  Because of HEH’s status as a non-profit organization, the funds need to go to the town.  HEH has asked for support of the BOS to apply for this grant which would also need to go to the BOF for approval after which it would also need to be approved by a town meeting.  Motion approved unanimously.

The BOS voted unanimously to appoint members to the Committee on Aging which is done every two years.

Regarding the Higganum Cove tax sale, Milardo thanked Mary Alice Hughes for her earlier comments on the issue.  Milardo pointed out that the Town does not own the cove property and that the DEEP and EPA has spent several millions of dollars on the cleanup.  And that it is the intent of the town to take possession of property out of the hands of the abandoned situation so that it can move forward and be enjoyed by the residents.  The tax sale will take place on January 30, 2018 at 11:00 a.m.  There are terms and conditions associated with the tax sale that are being worked on to protect the town.

Regarding the purchase of the wheel excavator which had been added to the agenda, Milardo explained that the company the town had been renting the machine from has offered that the rent the town had paid would be applied so as to reduce the sale price.  The majority of hours on the machine were in use by the town of Haddam.  Pete Santoro and Chris Corsa of the Public Works Department provided support for the purchase of the equipment as way to save money and allow the town to work on drainage issues on our small roads without closing down roads.  Milardo added that there is money for this purchase left over in the capital plan and the town’s operating budget and the machine could be purchased and put into use this spring rather than wait until the new fiscal year on July 1, 2018 and the company selling it would give a 24 month warranty.  BOS member Schlag expressed that she would like to see other quotes to purchase a similar machine.  Corsa pointed out that while such a machine might be available the amount of previous use would not be comparable.   A motion was made that the BOS send this request to the BoF for their review and approval.  The vote was 2-1 with Schlag voting no.

The BOS next went into executive session.  Except for those needed in that part of the meeting everyone else vacated the Town Hall to stand outside, which took about 40 minutes.  Coming out of executive session, Milardo made a motion that there will be a public auction of lots 9, 25, 61, 141 and 195 of Silver Spring Road on May 5, 2018 by the town attorney.

Under correspondence, FS Milardo has received a letter of resignation of town employee Bette Dybick effective 1/1/2018. There will be a retirement party for her at the Gelston House on January 5, 2018 with details to be announced.

During the final public comments, Sean Moriarty commented on the concept of changing the rules of the tax sale of the cove property if there was a concern about the intentions of any private bidder.  Milardo did not respond.  Ed Schwing questioned whether a town meeting was needed to sell the lots on Silver Spring Road.  Milardo stated that the town did not need to go to a town meeting for that purpose and this position was supported by the town attorney.  Schwing also asked if the consent agreement regarding the Tylerville water would be available to the public before it was signed.  The answer was yes.  Schwing then commented on Haddam Elderly Housing and that Haddam residents do not have priority for those units.  The issue is that HEH took federal HUD money to help with the cost of that project and thus HEH must follow the HUD rules.  He suggested that HEH change its name to Middlesex County Elderly Housing.

The meeting adjourned shortly after 8:00 p.m.

[Editor’s Note: When the official minutes are released, they will be found on www.haddam.org.]

Updated 12/14/17 to correct an error about when BOS Meetings will be held in 2018.