just a few issues at Webster BOS Meeting
By Thomas D’Agostino
WEBSTER - Demolition, dogs, department remote participation, swearing in of two new officers and a budget issue kept the Webster Board of Selectmen at their best during the Monday, March 4 meeting.
The meeting started with a twenty-five year proclamation from the board to the Party Planner at 183 Main Street. The business started in 1988 and has been a staple of Webster since then.
Bruce Hamm and Christopher Trainor were sworn in as Webster Police Officers. Officer Hamm is a graduate of Bay Path School, received an Associates Degree in Criminal justice and also served as a dispatcher for the town of Auburn and Webster.
Officer Trainor Received a degree in criminal justice from Westfield State and is a 1st Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve and served as class president in the training academy. Officer Trainor was officially pinned by his father Mike Trainor and his girlfriend Kathy Palmer. Officer Hamm received the same honors from his wife Julie and his mother Susan Beaudette.
Progress on the Park Ave School project continues with temporary classrooms being constructed in June. During the construction of the new school, a construction fence will separate the two sites for safety. There will also be 148 parking spaces as opposed to the present 50 spaces, but what the new building stresses is security. Cameras at school and parent drop-off zones and play area will be present. Video intercom system at entrances including the maintenance area, card reader entrance for classrooms and hallway doors and motion sensors in halls are among the new safety and security features the new school will boast. Anyone going to the rear doors will be directed to the front door where they can be monitored.
Vice Chair Deborah Keefe inquired about the possibility of the security cameras being monitored at the police department as well. The cameras are web based and can be accessed by the school and the police department.
Vanassee Hangen Brustlin, Inc. Engineering Firm addressed the board with an introduction to the Webster Master Plan. The firm is working with the town on all levels and encourages input from residents, business owners and other groups on what they would like to see happen with the renovation of the community.
The board also approved remote participation for board members. This is the ability to participate in meetings from another location. There must be a physical quorum present and certain permissible reasons for not being present such as illness, disability, military service and geographical distance. Possibilities include phone, computer or video remote access. The board also has the power to revoke the policy if abused.
A public hearing was held on the demolition of the three buildings at 38, 40 and 42 Prospect Street. Structural issues have caused the buildings to be uninhabitable and must be razed for public safety. The issue came to light when a police officer fell through one of the deck areas, prompting investigation of the houses. Town Administrator John McAuliffe cited the chronological events that transpired in determining the need for the buildings to be razed. “The Building Inspector and the Board of Health Agent inspected the properties out at 38, 40 and 42 Prospect, and what they found was a great concern in terms of the structural integrity of all three of the buildings that are on that site.”
The Fire Chief inspected the buildings and found them to be dangerous thus prompting the building inspector to condemn the properties.
Residents in the 13 units were served notice that they had ten days to vacate the premises. Building Inspector Theodore Tetreault contacted the bank and made a formal visit where he was informed that the bank had no intention of having any involvement in the property.
Four tenants filed premature action complaints in Housing Court. The rest of the tenants expressed their wish to file a complaint and an extension was granted pending mediation with the parties involved. An agreement was reached with all parties but three, who would not leave. On February 25, the judge issued an immediate order to vacate any of the remaining parties within 48 hours. “There still seemed to be a great sense of disbelief that this is actually going to happen on the part of the parties who were still residing there.” Mr. McAuliffe stated.
By Thursday, the building was vacated and professionally secured. “ It’s been a very challenging task, a lot of human emotion, a lot of people’s lives that we disrupted and we recognize that. A lot of fear and concern, genuine concern for public safety, people’s personal lives and their safety were at stake in that property…” Mr. McAuliffe stated.
Mr. Tetreault cited posts and beams were termite ridden, some crumbling in their hands, floor supports rotted and no longer connected to the walls, Nails that were rotted over time and boards that had rotted away from the concrete foundation. The homes were built in 1859 and according to Mr. Tetreault have been neglected for at least ten years. The town was allowed a provision from the state that allowed an expedited bidding process in order to speed up the demolition, which will take place by the end of the week.
Chairman Donald Bourque said, “ The first thing is that I need to thank you all for working so hard together to make this happen and potentially save people’s lives. We don’t know what could have happened in these buildings…”
The Police Station Building Committee also addressed the board with some new budget issues. The approved budget of $12,000,000 for the new police station and renovation of the fire station will stay the same but unexpected expenses that were not part of the original feasibility study have swayed the difference of $1,771,762 from the fire station to the police station. This leaves $1,228,238 left for the fire station project. Factors included demolition and inflation of construction price per square foot and the lowest bid being higher than anticipated. Vice Chair Deborah Keefe inquired if there may be any left over Capital Improvement money that was not appropriated during the last town meeting to cover the gap. The lowest bidder was Orlando Annulli and Sons based in Manchester, Connecticut.
In a dog compliance update, the Hazards were required to comply with requests by the board from a hearing on February 4. They chose not to appear before the board for the March 4 meeting and have not complied with the board’s decisions during the February 4 meeting. Vice Chair Deborah Keefe was upset over the fact that they did not comply with the necessary requirements set down by the board. It was suggested that another letter be sent out to the home in regard to the compliance issue. “Personally, directly, they had to be here this evening. This is not an option, this was a requirement at the original hearing, that they be here this evening or provide proof that they did what was required.”
Webster has subpoena powers to require the couple to appear at the next meeting. “We request that a subpoena be issued and that they appear before us in two weeks time…why send another letter, we already told them what they had to do, they totally did nothing. We told them they had to be here tonight to at least explain why you did nothing.” Vice Chair Keefe stated.
Selectman Mark Dowgiewicz cited that in violation of hearing authority order, a dog may be seized and impounded by animal control or law enforcement.
Vice Chair Keefe made a motion to subpoena the couple, review the potential to seize the dog, and if the board has the authority, seize the dog and charge the owners with expenses incurred until the matter is resolved. “I am not willing to play with this…I tried to work on the motion I made originally, so that they just had to provide us documentation and kennel the dog. If they are not willing to work with us, then we have to take it to the next level, and this is the next level.” Vice Chair Keefe stated. She also cited that they had to take the dog from another owner during the last hearing but worked with these owners because it was a break of leash incident.
Jeffery Dowgiewicz was appointed to the Conservation Commission. Mr. Dowgiewicz graduating from Bay Path School and brings with him knowledge in the field from various communities.
One-day liquor licenses for Saint Joseph School and St. Louis School were also approved.