| Sarah Heinonen
HAMPDEN – Mary Ellen Glover is the newest member of the Hampden Select Board. With 542 votes, more than twice that of any other candidate, Glover will serve out the remaining 20 months of former Selectman Norman Charest’s term. Charest resigned in May.
A total of 944 residents voted in the special election that took place on Sept. 30. Four candidates, Glover, Fred Frangie, Nancy Zebert and Austin McKeon vied for the open seat.
The select board met on Sept. 30 to review a draft of the warrant for the special town meeting on Oct. 28. Among the articles discussed was a new solar bylaw. The board considered obtaining the consulting services of Beth Greenblatt of Beacon Integrated Solutions for review of the bylaw. Greenblatt has previously done consulting work for the town. No final decision was made to contract with her.
Also on the warrant is the acquisition of West Brook Phase II, a 25-acre parcel of land abutting Memorial Park, which would be secured for the Minnechaug Land Trust.
Sherry Himmelstein and Judy McKinley Brewer explained the details of the project to the board. A total of $207,000 would have to be approved at the meeting to acquire the land and the town would be reimbursed with a grant for 64 percent of that cost.
Town Accountant Cliff Bombard said, “the $207,000 will not affect the tax rate.” The first $72,000 would come from the Community Preservation “open space” account. There was some disagreement from which account the rest would be funded.
Applications for upgrades of the lighting at the Town Hall and the Senior Center will be sent to National Grid, which will relay to the town the various incentive programs. With the incentive programs, the town can get accurate quotes on the work to be done. Select Board Chair John Flynn said the approval of this first step in the process does not commit the town to anything.
The board voted to pursue upgrades to LED streetlights. Flynn, who had asked Police Chief Jeff Farnsworth for a list of intersections that need lighting replacement, said between 160 and 200 lights would need to be changed.
In Bob Markel’s town manager report, he suggested that the town switch to paying its employees bi-weekly, rather than weekly, to save administration costs. To cushion against the expected pushback from employees, he proposed that the employees share in the money saved in the first year via a bonus. Flynn told Markel to get a quote on how much money would be saved.
An ambulance advisory committee is being formed to aid Markel in the search for a long-term ambulance service solution for the town.
Markel also informed the board that there would be a presentation at the next department head meeting on how to avoid ransomware, a method of locking an institution out of its computer system for extortion purposes. Ransomware attacks on municipalities are becoming increasingly common.
A speed limit sign was ordered for Mountain Road. There have been two complaints of speeding on the recently repaved road. Flynn noted, “once you improve a road, speed problems go up.”
Finally, Markel said that he was seeking clarity on whether children could be filmed in the children’s room of the library. He explained that a group known as “First Amendment Audits” has been arriving unannounced at government offices in the area and filming themselves asking provocative questions of those working there. The videos are then uploaded to YouTube.
“Children have additional rights,” Markel said. He wants to know to what extent the librarian can keep them from filming the children if the group came to Hampden.