Select Board moves forward with reopening town buildings

July 1, 2020 | Sarah Heinonen

HAMPDEN – The first order of business at the Hampden Board of Selectmen meeting on June 29 was to reconfigure the board after the recent town election.

Select Board Member John Flynn nominated Donald Davenport to continue as chair of the board. Select Board Member Mary Ellen Glover voted against the nomination, citing her dissatisfaction with the efficiency and manner in which the board was run. Davenport was renamed chair in a 3-2 vote.

It was agreed that Glover would remain on the Board of Health as so as not to change things up while the pandemic is ongoing.

The town hall will reopen for employees on July 7. Interim Town Administrator Bob Markel said that plexiglass dividers have been installed in the town offices and precautions are in place. He was scheduled to interview a receptionist candidate on the following day.

When the public is once again allowed in the town hall, tentatively scheduled for July 20, people will enter the building exclusively through the front door and proceeded into the auditorium where a receptionist will be stationed to connect them with employees from various town departments.

Markel said custodial staff from the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District had sanitized the town hall while Hampden awaits delivery of an electrostatic sanitizing machine.

He noted that town employees are taking safety seriously.

Glover suggested the receptionist keep a log of visitors for potential contact tracing, should the need arise.

The senior center is scheduled to open as part of Phase 4 of the governor’s reopening plan. A health waiver will need to be signed by senior center patrons once activities resume.

Davenport questioned whether they should reopen the senior center considering other states have seen surges, but Flynn said that opening by appointment only is a good first step.

The library is also moving forward with its reopening plans and has restarted the interlibrary loan system.

The trash hauling contract with McNamara Waste was signed. Markel said the contract had been “extensively” reviewed by the town's attorney. Glover noted that she found the contract delays “troubling” and suggested making sure the services were rendered on time.

Council on Aging Director Rebecca Moriarty requested Activities Coordinator Nancy Hurlburt be placed on a two-month furlough. The coordinator position is paid through a state grant and a level of state funding is currently unknown.

Moriarty said she would rather furlough Hulbert now than run out of funds in April and have to lay her off. Instead, the board decided it will attempt to supplement any shortfall through an article presented at the fall town meeting.

As part of the board of health, Glover presented a proposal to hire a public health nurse.

The town is currently served by a nurse that splits her time between several municipalities, and as such much of the contact tracing updating of the Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiologic Network (MAVEN) system falls to Board of Health Coordinator Jane Budynkiewicz. Glover noted that Budynkiewicz does not have the medical expertise and has many other responsibilities on her plate.

The town will advertise for the position which will require five to 10 hours per week for a trial period of three months. At that time the for the position will be re-examined.

Due to the pandemic, several town employees did not use is there al allotted vacation time. The town's employee manual allows for no more than five days of vacation time to be carried over next fiscal year. The board discussed whether to stand the amount of time carried over or pay out unused vacation time.

Glover disagreed with paying out the vacation time, noting that they were paid once for working the hours and would be being paid again for the same time.

Resident Rita Vail said that paying for unused vacation time sets a “ dangerous” precedent. She said the people in town who lost jobs due to the pandemic would be asked to pay for vacation for employed town workers.

It was decided that employees would need to request approval for the carryover and for any employee with more than five days of unused vacation, carryover would be considered on an individual basis.

The select board waived the right of first refusal for 2.5 acres of property at 563 Glendale Rd. It was explained that the property had received disadvantage under MGL 61A, which encourages landowners to leave property undeveloped. Being sold for a purpose other than open space, the owners will need to pay back taxes on the property.

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