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Selectmen Meeting Minutes 03/25/2014
Selectmen’s Meeting
Nathan Media Center
Fuller Meadow School
March 25, 2014
7:30 PM

Call to Order – Chairman Prentakis called the meeting to order at 7:43.  Also present were Mr. Cresta, Mr. Houten, Ms. Jones, Ms. Lindberg, Town Administrator Mr. Singer, and Assistant Town Administrator Mr. Ferrara.
Minutes – Mr. Cresta made a motion to approve the minutes of the March 11, 2014 regular meeting and the Executive Session.  Ms. Lindberg seconded the motion.  Mr. Houten abstained and all others were in favor.
Approval of Warrants – Payroll Warrant 1438 totaled $109,373 and contained a small amount of overtime in the Police Department and Electric Light Department.  The Payables Warrant totaled $693,418.  90 % of that ($610,140) was for Purchase of Power.  $10,924 was for salt for the Department of Public Works.
        Mr. Houten made a motion to approve the warrants.  Ms. Lindberg seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Town Administrator’s Report
Mr. Singer asked for a moment of silence in memory of Lois LeMay who passed away yesterday.  She was a longtime member and past chair of the Council of Aging and also of the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary.
  • The Joint Budget Hearing of the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen will be held on Thursday March 27th at the Flint Public Library at 7:00 PM.  It will not be broadcast live but will be re-broadcast.  Mr. Prentakis asked that the draft of the warrant be published on the website as well as the video.
  • North Shore VoTech – Mr. Singer said that the Town is still awaiting final consolidated budget numbers.  There have been delays in getting the State’s Ch. 70 numbers and also issues with incorporating the vocational students from Peabody.  With 700 students plus Peabody, there are still some budget delays.  The preliminary budget was voted on by the Consolidated School Committee.  Middleton expects its population to be going down from 17 to 15.  The financial model for the debt service is still being structured.  A not to exceed number will be identified on Thursday.  It can be amended down at Town Meeting.  Mr. Cresta asked what the final enrollment will be.  Mr. Singer said that although he wasn’t sure of Peabody’s numbers, he believes the enrollment including Peabody will be just over 1000.  The capacity is 1500 or 1600.
Mr. Prentakis asked about the sale of the Log Bridge Rd. property.  Mr. Singer said that there is a Purchase and Sale Agreement in place to be finalized in October.  A $4.5 million sale price is being used in the debt service model.  The total cost is around $130 million.  The total local debt service will be between $30 million and $32 million.  Middleton’s share will be between 2% and 3 % which will be well under the projected $75,000.  The Committee hopes to capture a fairly low bond rate but they would have to move quickly.  However all the bills are not ready, making it harder to manage the final phases of construction management.
  • Audit – The annual audit is wrapping up.  Mr. Singer expects the final document to be ready in two to four weeks.
  • Route 114 paving – Mass Highway expects to begin the final phase of this project including re paving Middleton Square.
Application for a Change of Manager of Middleton Motel Corp d/b/a Candlelite Motel 319 N Main St, from Joseph Verrengia to Mark Pelletier, by Secretary and Treasurer, Middleton Motel Corporation, Lori-Ann Deacon-Bunker – Ms. Bunker introduced Mr. Pelletier.  Mr. Pelletier has worked for Middleton Motel for four years.  He also operated a bar in Hampton Beach for the summer but closed it because the rent was too high.  He has been in the catering business for fifteen years.  He is both TIPS and Serve Safe certified.  Ms. Jones noted some discrepancies in the application that might need to be cleared up.  Ms. Lindberg pointed out that the description of the licensed premises describes the entire Hotel, but the certificate indicates just the Bar and Lounge.  Ms. Bunker said that Mr. Pelletier will manage the Lounge, while she will remain as the manager of the motel.  The liquor license is for the entire site but they do not deliver to rooms.  If they did, Mr. Pelletier would be in charge of that.  Mr. Singer said that the license always permitted delivery to the rooms.  Mr. Singer expressed concern that the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) might have a problem with the discrepancy.  Ms. Lindberg added that the ABCC could do a surprise inspection to check access and egress and those are not indicated on the description.  Mr. Cresta asked if the current manager is still there.  Ms. Bunker said that he was.  Ms. Bunker indicated that she does want to keep the Innkeepers License.
        Mr. Houten made a motion to approve the application for a change of Manager of Middleton Motel Corp d/b/a Candlelite Motel 319 N Main St, from Joseph Verrengia to Mark Pelletier, by Secretary and Treasurer, Middleton Motel Corporation, Lori-Ann Deacon-Bunker.  Mr. Cresta seconded the motion.  The vote was 4-1-0 with Ms. Lindberg opposed.
Request to Add Article to Annual Town Meeting Warrant to Support a Home Rule Amendment to the Town Charter to Allow for the Appointment of Two Alternate Members of the Planning Board, by Christine Lindberg – Ms. Lindberg explained that while doing research for a school project at Suffolk University she noticed a number of special acts from towns concerning Planning Boards.  Adding members to a Board can be done either through a Charter change or through a Special Act of the Legislature.  Though she has rarely been to a meeting that lacked a quorum, it would be a real problem if it happened because it would mean putting applicants off for an entire month.  There can also be a problem for certain decisions such as special permits that require a super majority, four out of five.  Another reason for doing this is to provides experience for individuals who might be interested in running for a seat.
Mr. Prentakis noted that this would mean some members were elected and some appointed.  Ms. Lindberg said that she has taken the language from existing Home Rule petitions.  If there were a vacancy, the alternate would have to run to for the regular seat.
Mr. Prentakis asked if a member would have to be present for all meetings on an issue.  Ms. Lindberg said that since the Town had adopted the “Mullen Rule”, the alternate would just have to affirm that they had reviewed the material.
Mr. Cresta asked what would happen if there were a mid-term vacancy.  Would the alternate act as a full member?  Mr. Singer pointed out that under Section 11, Ch. 41 of the Town Charter, there would have to be a joint meeting of the two Boards to appoint the new member.  The alternate could act as a full member until that meeting.  If there were only a short time until the next election, the two Boards could decide not to hold that meeting and allow the alternate to sit in until the election.  Ms. Lindberg noted that the alternates would only sit if there were not enough regular members present for a quorum or to achieve the super majority.
Mr. Singer noted that issues can be before the Planning Board for two to three years.  He asked how the alternate could participate in light of the Mullen Rule.  He said that it is uncertain how far back they might have to go to meet the requirements of the Mullen Rule.  Ms. Lindberg said that the hearings on the definitive plans are only continued for a few meetings.  The alternate would only need to review the meetings in that hearing.  She added that the member is there to review what is in front of them.  Mr. Cresta asked if the same wouldn’t hold for a newly elected member.  Mr. Singer said that there was an exception for that.  
        Mr. Singer said that there needs to be a clear path and suggested setting up a log for what was done at each meeting.  This would enable the alternate to know exactly what they have to review to meet the requirements of the Mullen Rule.  Mr. Prentakis said Town Council will have to advise the alternate what they have to review.  Mr. Cresta expressed his opinion that the alternate assumes the responsibilities of a full member, just as if they were newly elected.  Mr. Singer disagreed that the alternate would have the same exemption as the newly elected member.
        Mr. Cresta asked if the Town provides the verbatim language for the Home Rule petition or does House Council review it.  Ms. Lindberg said that it is phrased to allow for both.  The Town proposes and defers to the legislature to approve the language.  She has reviewed petitions such as this that have been approved and has tried to make it as simple as possible.
Mr. Singer asked if the Selectmen should start the process of amending the Charter in case this is not successful.  That process would take two or more years.  Ms. Lindberg feels confident that this will be successful.
Mr. Houten made a motion to place an article on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant for a Home Rule Petition to add two alternates to the Middleton Planning Board.  Mr. Cresta seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Request to Add Acceptance of Chapter 40, Section 22F to Annual Town Meeting Warrant by Town Clerk Sarah George – Accepting MGL Chapter 40, Section 22F enables the Board of Selectmen to set fees for all Boards and Departments.  This would clear up the question of whether certain fees must be decided by Town Meeting.
        Mr. Houten made a motion to add acceptance of Chapter 40, Section 22F to the Annual Town Meeting Warrant.  Ms. Jones seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Request to Add Article to Annual Town Meeting Warrant for Funds to Convert Street Lights to High Efficiency LED Fixtures in Partnership with MELD – Mr. Ferrara has been working with Middleton Electric Light Department (MELD) Director, Mark Kelly on this proposal which could result in a 70% savings in electric costs for street lights.  They have met with the vendor on the State contract who offers the best price and the best efficiency.  Mr. Kelly wants to run his own test to compare the LED lights with the High Sodium lights currently in use and verify the vendor’s claim.  
Mr. Ferrara explained the cost analysis which he handed out.  Mr. Kelly estimated the labor costs, truck costs cost of police details and other costs.  These costs add up to about $88,000.  The lights are warrantied for 10 years but they are expected to last 15.  They include the photo cell so they turn on when it gets dark.  The lights also fade, so they can be replaced before they go dead.  The total projected cost of replacing the Cobra Head lights is approximately $300,000 which will be split by MELD and the Town.  This should result in a 63% reduction in the Town’s cost for Street lights and has a Return on Investment (ROI) of 5.3 years with a ten year warranty.  This would be an annual savings of about $28,000.
        There is also a cost analysis for replacing the Colonial style lights in Town.  This would only involve replacing bulbs rather than the entire head, and would result in a 25% reduction in energy costs.  The existing colonial lights still have a lot of life in them.  Any new Colonial lights would be LED.
        The proposal is to appropriate $130,000 for the Town’s share of Phase I of the project, replacing the Cobra Head Lights first, particularly those with a higher wattage.  This is where the best return is.
        Mr. Cresta asked if there were any warranty on the existing lights.  Mr. Ferrara said there was not.  They are just bulbs.  The new lights are an entire unit.  Mr. Cresta asked if there were any value to the current lights.  Mr. Singer said that there might be for the Cobra Heads.
        Mr. Cresta asked if LED lights are a different color.  Mr. Singer said that there are three roads (Kassiotis, Edgewood, and Hill in Brigadoon) that have LED lights if the Selectmen want to inspect them.  There have been a number of transitions in color over the years.  Mr. Ferrara said that these are more like daylight and they can also be dimmed.  Mr. Cresta asked if they were brighter and if this could mean fewer lights.  Mr. Singer said they were just different not brighter.
        Ms. Jones would like to see fewer lights.  Mr. Singer said that is a policy issue.  Ms. Lindberg pointed out that Newburyport considered reducing the number of lights but found there were liability issues.  
        Mr. Prentakis asked if replacing 600 lights could be done in 60 days over the course of the year.  Mr. Singer said that Mr. Kelly felt it was doable, possibly in two years.  Mr. Houten added that it was doable was if the weather cooperated.
        Mr. Cresta asked when the appropriation for street lights could be reduced.  Mr. Singer said that it would go down a little in FY’ 15, more in FY ’16 and the full reduction would be realized in FY ’17.  It will be based on experience.  Ms. Lindberg pointed out that National Grid charges towns a tariff for their street light that includes a lot of overhead.  Mr. Singer said that Middleton’s situation was better because the Town only pays for actual usage.  She asked if it was metered.  Mr. Singer said the usage is actually calculated.  National Grid customers are paying a lot of overhead.  We are just paying energy costs.  MELD has no incentive to reduce the usage of its product but they are Town owned, have a mission to see that it is more efficient.
        Mr. Houten made a motion to add an article to the Annual Town Meeting Warrant for funds to convert street lights to high efficiency LED fixtures in partnership with MELD.  Ms. Lindberg seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Discussion of Annual Town Meeting Warrant Open Issues, if any – Mr. Prentakis asked if there were any issues.  Mr. Singer did not think so, though he did note the uncertainty of the North Shore VoTech budget.  Mr. Prentakis asked if the draft of the warrant would be available before Thursday’s meeting.   Mr. Singer said that it probably would not be ready until Thursday.  Ms. Jones asked if they would still be able to re-order the articles.  Mr. Singer said that they would.
Recommendation to Amend Ambulance Billing Rates – Fire Chief Frank Twiss and Acting Fire Chief Tom Martinuk joined the meeting.  The proposed rates and explanation are in a memo in the packet.  Chief Twiss explained that the Selectmen raised the ambulance rates in April of 2013.  Since then, with guidance from Comstar, the Town’s ambulance billing service the Town has been researching the concept of bundled rates.  Since 2002, Medicare has been transitioning to bundled rates as have 75% of insurers.  Comstar has been taking the Town’s a la carte structure and converting it to a bundle for Medicare. Bundling also puts the Town in a better position to collect appropriately from Accountable Care Organizations.  These organizations put a price tag on an injury or an illness and Middleton’s ambulance services are a part of that total sum.  A group from the Town has worked with Comstar to convert the a la carte rates into bundled rates.  Comstar says that Middleton is right in the middle of the 50 clients it serves.
Mr. Prentakis asked if this makes reimbursements easier for insurance companies.  The Chief responded that it will not increase revenue but will make billing easier.  Mr. Cresta asked about the emergency versus the non-emergency rates.  Chief Twiss said they do not do non-emergency.  That would be something like taking a patient home from the hospital.  Mr. Houten noted that a person who does not need much service pays the same as someone who needs everything.  The Chief explained that the patient is paying for the availability of a certain level of service.  Mr. Cresta asked what Specialty Care is.  The Chief said an example of this would be critical transport from one facility to another facility. This is not something they typically do but a hospital might request this in an emergency.  Mr. Singer observed that this change would slightly raise the amount of the Ambulance Fund that subsidizes the operating budget.  It should go back up to $375,000 from $350,000, because Middleton is losing money by not bundling for Medicare.  
Ms. Lindberg made a motion to amend the Ambulance Billing Rates as proposed.  Mr. Houten seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Adjournment – Ms. Lindberg made a motion to adjourn the meeting.  All were in favor.  The meeting was adjourned at 8:55.
Respectfully submitted,
Mary Jane Morrin                        
Mary Jane Morrin, Recording Secretary
Timothy Houten, Clerk