Officer Josh Baker reads from a portion of the new three-year union contract that was ratified by the Selectmen on Wednesday night.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen on Wednesday officially introduced new interim Police Chief Troy Bacon in all too common COVID-19 style.
The appointment of a municipality's top law enforcement officer is usually heavily attended by town officials and accompanied by dozens of handshakes. Because of restrictions in place from the worldwide pandemic, this one was carried out with nary an elbow bump.
Bacon will assume the post on Tuesday, July 14, after current Chief Richard Tarsa's retirement becomes official at 11:59 p.m. Monday night. Bacon, 44, recently retired from the Frankfort, Ind., police department after 20 years. He had one of his daughters with him this week for a whirlwind tour of the area before she headed back on a plane to the Midwest.
"One thing she said was, 'There's a lot of trees here dad," he answered smiling when asked by Selectman Joseph Nowak about his daughter's first impression of the area. "I told her yes, that's right, that's one of the reasons I applied here.
"We really had a good time, we went up to Mount Greylock. I'd been up there but she had not. We just really spent the day in nature and she loved it. We were very appreciative of all the hospitality."
Bacon will hold the interim post until at least Dec. 31 and it is expected he will apply for the permanent position when it is posted. The search to fill the chief position permanently was suspended in the spring after the pandemic hit and a decision was made by the board to fill it on an interim basis until the end of 2020.
One thing Bacon won't have to worry about is labor strife as his officers and the town agreed on a new contract. After a slight pause in the negotiations because of COVID-19, Town Administrator Jay Green, Selectman Richard Blanchard, and Town Accountant Mary Beverly sat with Officer Josh Baker, president of the local chapter of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, along with Detective Michael Wandrei and Officer Greg Onorato to hammer out the new three-year pact.
There were no great financial changes of note and both Green and Baker were satisfied with the outcome and appreciative of both sides' cooperation throughout the negotiation process.
"My stress level just went down for the next few years," Baker said after the unanimous vote to ratify the contract.
Thomas Satko, chairman of the Adams Prudential Committee, was attending via Zoom and gave a rundown of the dos and don'ts of water usage under the current drought conditions. The state Department of Environmental Protection had instituted a Level 2 (Significant Drought) restriction on non-essential water usage as of June 30.
"Basically Mondays are the only day you're going to be able to water and only before 9 in the morning and after 5 at night and not with a sprinkler or irrigation system," he said. "No watering of lawns or plants and trees (except for Mondays and only with a hand held hose.). No (at home) washing of vehicles and there are no fundraiser car washes allowed. No refilling of swimming pools and no washing down your driveway, patio, sidewalks or stuff like that."
There are some exceptions to the drought restrictions that mostly focus on commercial water usage or newly installed pools or lawns. Satko said anyone with questions about water usage under the current restrictions should visit adamsfiredistrict.com.
This week marks the return of restaurants abilities to have entertainment for the first time since the commonwealth shut down all inside dining on March 17. Over the past three weeks, eateries have seen the phased roll-out of outside dining, followed a week later by limited indoor capacity, allowable only if social distancing guidelines can continue to be met. Like most facets of the reopening plan, it comes with several caveats and gray areas and continues to add to the challenges faced by local regulatory entities.
"In many ways the state of Massachusetts' reopening plan is working well, we see that in the [health] data. On the flip side from the business perspective or the regulatory perspective, it's challenging," said Green. "One of the things we talked about this morning ... is for any business that wants to offer entertainment, the best advice we can give them, is please call Mark [Blaisdell, code enforcement officer], set up an appointment, speak to Mark about what it is that they want to do, and go from there. It might be very simply saying, 'You're good to go like this,' or they may have to be a [further] conversation."
Green said the minutiae is sometimes overwhelming.
"As a municipality we are now looking at things we normally don't look at. With entertainment, these things are now so drilled down into the weeds that if you have live entertainment that involves the use of woodwind instruments the regulation is different than if you're using string instruments. It can be very challenging."
The state has also adopted the practice of triggering new rules or phases over a weekend for implementation on the following Monday, which does not sit well with Chairwoman Christine Hoyt.
"Having an announcement before a weekend or holiday weekend stating that everything would be open Monday morning isn't necessarily the kind of thing to do to municipalities. I appreciate the quick turnaround on all of that because I'm sure everyone wanted to be open at 8:01 a.m. on Monday morning," she told Blaisdell.
Green addressed the town's budget process moving forward and said although he's comfortable for now going month to month under a 1/12th budget process there is only so long he is willing to wait for the state to make their local aid numbers known.
The board decided in June to postpone town meeting absent any indication from the legislature as to what cuts in local aid to municipalities might look like. The town will operate off fiscal 2020 numbers and set a budget for each month no more than 1/12th of last year's expenditures.
Green said that even if they decide to go the month-to-month route for longer than a few months, the town still has business to conduct that requires an annual town meeting.
"At some point we're not going to be able to do certain things without a formal budget but we still have 40R (zoning overlay district) to contend with, we still have zoning changes on Commercial Street … and we still have some annual authorizations that town meeting approves like revolving funds, etc.," he told the board.
"You'll see tonight in the police union contract that it requires authorization from town meeting to create an account. They are just accounting, housekeeping matters but by law we can't do them until town meeting meets so at some point we're going to have to have that conversation."
Town Administrator Jay Green expresses his frustration with the lack of fiscal clarity coming from the State House.
Green said that while some smaller communities with less of a reliance on state aid have felt comfortable moving forward with town meeting and approving a hard budget, Adams is not in that position.
"We just still don't know how much to take out of that [FY 2021] budget. Our receipts are good, they have been budgeted conservatively but we still don't know what that state aid number is going to look like and we depend on that as a municipality," he said. "I have noticed that some of the smaller municipalities that did move ahead ... they don't rely on state aid as heavily as say North Adams, Pittsfield or Adams. They just adjust themselves accordingly by their receipts. For our community we do rely on [state aid] so it does have a significant impact."
Green did not specify a drop-dead date for town meeting to be held but indicated he will be increasing his phone calls to the state regarding FY21 information.
The next meeting will be Wednesday, July 15, at 7 p.m. and will be televised on NBCTC. Check the town website for login information to attend virtually.
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