Town officials have been concerned about the condition of the roads at Pine Valley for some time.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen meeting was called to order Tuesday with five members for the first time in town history.
After a quick and warm welcome to both new board members, it was down to business.
The most pressing issue of the evening proved to be the rapidly deteriorating roads within Pine Valley Trailer Park. The trailer park is owned and operated as a private business and the town is not responsible for maintaining the roads but board members feel it's reached a point where emergency vehicles and residents well being are in jeopardy. The issue at hand is whether or not to spend public money on private roads.
"It seems like they just don't care," said Selectman Mark Biagini, regarding the management company's level of action to repair the private roads. Biagini, along with the rest of the board, all cited safety as being their No. 1 concern and the only reason they would consider using town funds to repair them.
"If we have an emergency medical call down there, working on the patient in the ambulance would be impossible. They would have to wait until they got onto the main road," Biagini said.
New Selectwoman Michelle Francesconi noted that the condition of the road is not a recent development. "I came across minutes from a meeting in 2018 where town counsel sent them a letter
stating the road needed to be repaired," she said.
Chairman Robert Ciskowski said the management company that runs the park had a short lived plan several years ago to fund the repairs.
"There was a rent increase and a small amount of that was to be put into an escrow account towards repaving the roads. They came back not so long ago and decided to discontinue taking the money and refunded the money back to the residents and washed their hands of repaving the road," Ciskowski said, "That's the history that's led us here now."
New board member Ron DeAngelis cited the revenue the town receives as softening the blow should they choose to repair the roads.
"This year they will be assessed at one point seven million. "I know it's not our responsibility but the town probably could go down there and at least make it passable," DeAngelis said. He also brought up the possibility of doing the work then billing the park. "We can invoice them and if they don't pay it we can lien them."
Town Administrator Edmund St. John III agreed on the safety issue but wants to proceed with caution.
"I certainly want to make it passable for emergency vehicles no doubt, but given their track record is this going to disincentivize them from doing any further work?" he said. "What if they decided to stop plowing?"
Francesconi agreed. "If they simply don't plow for even one snowstorm they know that if Cheshire emergency services can't access it then we're gonna be forced to take [plowing] on," she said. "I'd like to hear what town counsel has to say first."
Biagini was concerned with the rest of the private road residents in town expecting the same services: "I don't want to open up a can of worms."
Ciskowski brought up using the board, which also serve as the rent control board, as a possible avenue to a solution. Informing the park's insurance company of the condition of the road was another idea brought up by a resident.
After lengthy discussion the board agreed the first step would be for town counsel, along with the fire and police chiefs, to engage with the management of Pine Valley.
Ciskowski sees a long haul ahead. "This is not going to go away. Next week we'll have to continue this. It's going to be a tough one."
St. John said the town has received at least nine applications for the vacant Highway Department superintendent position and the board was eager to start vetting the applicants. Ciskowski in particular said he wants it on the "fast track."
Improvements at the former Cheshire School also continue as it is readied for new tenants.
"We've had discussions with EDM [Architects] regarding putting out the package so we can get started on the heating pipe replacement in the school," said St. John, "Time is of the essence and I want to see this done as quickly as possible."
The town has allocated $60,000 for the work.
Work is also being done at the school building for the arrival of the Youth Center from its current home in Adams.
"The fire door and wall systems are nearly complete at the school for the Youth Center and they look to be open and ready to go as scheduled," St. John said.
The town administrator also met with School Committee member Erika Snyder regarding the lease agreement between the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District and the town.
"It's a year-to-year agreement but one of the things I talked to her about was expanding it so we don't have to go through this every year," St. John said.
In other business:
• Sandra Sloane resigned her alternate position on the Planning Board. The spot didn't stay open for long as board Chairwoman Donna DeFino was there to recommend a replacement. Joshua Marauszwski, with strong support from DeFino, was appointed in her place. DeFino cited pressing business, particularly on the marijuana front, at Monday's Planning Board meeting as the reason for urgency.
• Francesconi would like the town to take a little more care when it comes to American flags displayed around Cheshire.
"It does reflect negatively on our town when we have tattered flags and when the flags aren't flying at half mast when they should be," she said. Francesconi said local veteran Steve LaFogg is willing to help. "He'll be making sure the flags are maintained and flying at half mast when necessary." LaFogg was unanimously approved as "Keeper of the Flags."
• A salary study for employees at Cheshire Town Hall, in regards to surrounding communities, was broached by the town administrator.
"We're trying to get the most comprehensive information that we can. We're never going to find a town exactly like ours but I'm looking at towns with similar populations," St. John said.
Ciskowski pointed out the challenges of such a study.
"You have to take into account the socio-economic differences between counties," he said, adding "salary study is a nice thing to say but, boy, there are a lot of qualifiers." St. John said he will have the study ready for budget season.
• The first part of Tuesday's meeting was dedicated to creating a few new liaison positions within the board. This was initiated by Francesconi.
She will serve as the marketing and development liaison and will work closely with several boards while also trying to implement elements of the recently constructed town master plan. DeAngelis will be the infrastructure, culverts, bridges, and equipment liaison and will serve as the first point of contact for the Highway Department. And Jason Levesque will serve as the emergency services liaison for police and fire.
Francesconi felt this will streamline and improve the communication process that she felt was a common complaint heard during her recent campaign.
• The next meeting of the Board of Selectmen is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 6:30.