Vassalboro Select Board
Minutes of the Virtual Video Conference Call Meeting
April 2, 2020

Members Present: Rob Browne, Lauchlin Titus, and John Melrose

Others logged on to Participate: Mary Sabins, Chris French, David Trask, Don Breton, and Garvan Donegan. Other members of the public are anticipated to have observed the meeting being broadcast live online via YouTube; the actual number of which are unknown.

1. Call to order – The meeting was called to order by Chairman Titus at 6:00 pm. Due to the Covid-19 (Corona virus) national pandemic, a state-wide Stay-At-Home Order has been issued by the Governor for the month of April. In addition, a temporary change in State Law has been passed by the Legislature that allows the provision for these remote video-conference meetings to get town business accomplished. Chairman Titus reminded the Board members that each vote taken is required to be taken by roll call vote. Chairman Titus stated he will make the motions, look for a second, then take the roll call vote in alphabetical order by last name.

2. Minutes – On a motion made by Chairman Titus, seconded by R. Browne, the Board took the following votes to unanimously accept the minutes of the 3/5/20 meeting as written: Browne: yes; Melrose: yes, Titus: yes.

3. Garvan Donegan of Central Maine Growth Council – Garvan began his presentation by giving an overview of our current Summit Natural Growth TIF, its size in acreage, and asked if the Board needed more of an overview of the benefits of a TIF agreement. All Board members agreed they did not need the overview and had a good understanding of the benefits of the TIF. Garvan reiterated that his agreement with the Town was to have a final recommendation and report to the town by June 1st. He indicated he may finish his work sooner than that. In the research Garvan has performed so far, he has learned that the current TIF district is 9.5 acres and that there is more room to add more districts according to State guidelines. He further suggested the town may want to think about adding a new district, and implementing a TIF application process. Selectman Melrose asked about the use of TIF funds for other projects once the approved alewife project is done without the need to have a development plan amendment being approved by voters at town meeting. Melrose specifically inquired if the TIF funds could be used for other projects such as large culvert replacement projects, since we have such a project coming up that will require town cash contribution. Garvan indicated he will pursue the question with the DECD and include the information in his final report.

4. Distribution of TIF funds – Sabins explained that there is currently $166,930 in the TIF fund. Sabins read the following email correspondence that she had had in mid-March with Maine Rivers Executive Director Landis Hudson about her application for $143K in TIF funding for the Alewife Restoration Initiative project. “If the Selectmen were to divide the available TIF funds now and give half to your fish project and half to the sewer project, with a promise to commit the balance of your $143K request by the end of August or first of September 2020 after the next tax commitment, could that arrangement work for your cash flow? The sewer people say they need a minimum of $72,265 by July to make a loan payment.” Sabins stated that Landis responded that she could definitely make that plan work. After discussion, a motion was then made by Chairman Titus to provide $83K even to the ARI project now and for the $60K balance of their request to be committed to the ARI project when TIF funds become available in August or September 2020. This motion was seconded by R. Browne and the Board took the following votes to unanimously approve the motion: Browne: yes; Melrose: OK, Titus: yes. The TIF fund distribution for the Sanitary District’s sewer project will be discussed and potentially approved once a public hearing can be held as required by our TIF Development Plan. A public hearing cannot be held using the current remote video conferencing meeting arrangements, as live public comments cannot be received.

5. Al Hodsdon to discuss Transfer Station engineering study – This topic was passed over as Mr. Hodsdon did not participate in the video conference meeting.

6. Solar Project update – Solar Committee Chair and Selectman John Melrose stated that the Town received two bids by the stated deadline. Twenty solar companies were solicited. Neither of the two bids we received were responsive to the specifications of the bid. One bidder (Revision Energy) said our proposed project couldn’t be fit on town property because the CMP substations in town are already committed to other projects. They proposed that we look to an off-site project and enter into a power purchase agreement with that sight. We gave an option to the other bidder (Sundog Solar) to provide a similar proposal. They submitted one line summarizing their previous proposal. Melrose wrote back asking they specify terms and conditions that we already had as a proposed solar array at the school and they did not respond. The Solar Committee asked the School Committee if they wanted the solar array as proposed by Sundog Solar on school property. The School Board agreed by consensus at a recent meeting that they would prefer to go with an off-site project. The Solar Committee had also earlier agreed to go with the off-site project. Melrose then stated that it is now down to whether the warrant article approved at town meeting in 2019 that said the array would be on town property restricts us. He further stated that the reality is, what we would now be doing is buying power and choosing our supplier, which as was pointed out to Melrose recently, is usually a decision a town manager can make. We’ve had instances of a standard offer and the other alternatives. Melrose stated he is not aware we have taken those options to town meeting in the past. When looking at the wording of the article, it encompasses a power point agreement and the decision now is whether the Board is fine to go ahead with that and authorize the Town Manager to enter into that agreement to get the negotiation process going, or we can do that but also at the same time prepare a warrant article for town meeting. Melrose stated that it seems to him that we are in a posture now that we have more than sufficient authority and direction from the town, but simultaneously its actually boils down to a decision now that’s pretty administrative. A motion was then made by J. Melrose that we enter into negotiations with Revision Energy for a power purchase agreement to be brought back to the Selectmen for approval, subject to review by the Solar Committee. The motion was seconded by L. Titus. R. Browne stated he has no comment now, but will look at it again when it comes back around. Melrose reminded the Board that the agreement can only be done if it’s a reduction in costs to the town as specified in the town meeting warrant article. Of the two bidders, Revision offered the best price the first year, the best price at six years, and the best price after 20 years if we didn’t buy the array. If the town bought the system from Sundog Solar, then the town would do better over the 20-year period in the long run, but not in the first six years. Roll call vote: R. Browne: agree; J. Melrose: yes, L. Titus: yes. The motion passed unanimously.

7. Culvert projects update – Selectman Melrose began his update by explaining that the Board has potentially four decisions that need to be made tonight. Pending on the Town Manager’s desk is two contracts sent to the town from the DEP that relate to the grant awards. Melrose stated it is his understanding that we cannot incur costs until we sign those contracts, which would be standard procedure from what Melrose is familiar with. So, that topic was considered first. An $80K grant is associated with the Cross Hill Road project and an estimated cost of $116K total cost of the project, so Melrose considered that a no-brainer. The second one is a grant for $95K for the Gray Road and the problem we have is if the project turns out to be a $400K project, we might want to take a pass. When asked for her opinion, Sabins stated she thought we need to make some progress moving forward. She thinks Melrose has a solid plan for us for now and that we need to indicate to the State that we are moving in that direction. We definitely want to do the Cross Hill project because it is lower in cost and we really would like to have those grant funds to help us complete that particular project on the Cross Hill Road. As for the Gray Road project, its really undetermined at this point. We haven’t really settled down the number on the cost of the project just yet. Sabins thinks if we indicate to the State that we would like to participate in that grant, and indicate that to them now, they could earmark the money for us, but going down the road if we discover that the project is way more than the town can afford our share, then she believes it would not be too late for the town to indicate that to the State and they would just pass the money to somebody else who can use it in another grant round. Rob asked if the money for these projects could dry up, given the current state of the economy. Melrose stated he believes the money is in a bond issue, so it can only be used for the purpose that the voters specified at the State election. Therefore, it is not money they can grab to shore up some deficit somewhere else. Melrose stated the other thing to consider is that we’re probably right on the cusp of a much better construction bid quote cost coming through. In a way, it’s counter-cyclical. The best time to make infrastructure investments is when the economy is down in the doldrums. Chairman Titus agreed saying its like buying low and selling high. L. Titus then made a motion to have the Town Manager sign the two contracts for the Board. This motion was seconded by R. Browne and the Board took the following votes to unanimously approve the motion: Browne: in favor; Melrose: yes, Titus: yes.

Next, J. Melrose stated we have three bids for these culvert projects, but two are for the Gray Road engineering and one is for Cross Hill Road engineering. All prices are within a couple thousand bucks of each other, up in the $18K to $20K range. While addressing the other Board members, Melrose stated that it all gets down to whether you want to waive your bid procedures or if you think you need to even. His argument is that we do have three bids in front of us: We have Main-Land, the VHB bid, and Calderwood Engineering. They are all in the same ballpark so we have some knowledge of the marketplace. Secondly, in regards to Cross Hill at least, they [VHB] are trying to get that job into the construction window this year. So that’s in front of the cue. There is some urgency here. They have presented a proposal that Sabins acknowledged was provided to the Board in the past for review. Chairman Titus confirmed he had seen and read the proposal. VHB is the one bid on the Cross Hill project. This company gave us for free the [grant application] work that we paid $5K for over on the Gray Road [from another firm]. They are presenting the Board now with a price that is in the same ballpark as the other two. Melrose recalled the price is approximately $17K total and he thinks it is in the best interest of the town. He further stated that if you take into account the fact that we picked up $80K [in grant money] without having to put any money in at all to get that money, all of those things are factors in his mind. John stated he would be comfortable waiving the procurement provision, given the knowledge base we have and what’s in the best interest of the Town. L. Titus moved that we waive that, as J. Melrose suggests. This motion was seconded by R. Browne and the Board took the following votes to unanimously approve the motion: Browne: agreed; Melrose: yes, Titus: yes.

J. Melrose further stated that the next motion would be to give Town Manager Sabins authorization to enter into an agreement with VHB for the Cross Hill Road project. This motion was seconded by L. Titus and the Board took the following votes to unanimously approve the motion: Browne: agree; Melrose: yes; Titus: yes. Melrose next indicated the last decision needed [for the Gray Road culvert project] is between Main-Land, which is the company that helped us put the grant application together, and Calderwood Engineering who is a bridge engineering firm, so this is their specialty. They also do work with municipalities quite extensively. MDOT is very comfortable working with this firm. One of the objectives here is to have somebody who can navigate the DEP, MDOT, Army Corp of Engineers, with discussion about what the minimum width of this project has to be so that we can get the grant money, keep the fish happy, but hopefully keep the taxpayers happy. Melrose reiterated that we want to make sure that this fellow from Calderwood understands we want him to answer two questions: What’s the bare minimum we can get by with if we do it on our own, versus if we do what DEP wants us to do in order to qualify for the grant money, and what will that cost the town? Melrose felt certain that it was fair to say that PW Director Gene Field is not terribly enthused about spending a whole lot of money on this, given that it’s a six-foot pipe right now. He also added, “At the end of the day, you’re going to have to get a permit for it regardless, and that may put you in a position where you’ll be happy to have that $95K.” R. Browne asked, “If we do it ourselves, does that mean we are responsible for it from then on?” Melrose responded that Calderwood Engineering is proposing a structure that they believe would be in the 16’-18’ range; Main-Land initially proposed something that was 30’ long, which they have since reduced to something in the 20-22’ range now. But there has also been some debate about the structure that they proposed as well and whether that will be satisfactory to DOT. If the length is over 20 feet, it becomes a DOT bridge. Span matters in terms of the cost. J. Melrose moved to award the Gray Road engineering contract to Calderwood Engineering for the amount of $19,310. This motion was seconded by L. Titus and the Board took the following votes to unanimously approve the motion: Browne: agree; Melrose: yes; Titus: yes.

8. Budget discussion – In light of the recent global Corona Virus pandemic, the Board members expressed concern about several topics as follows: Rob expressed concern about the alewife revenue and if the harvest will take place as scheduled, given that restaurants are not now open and consumers are not eating lobster. Alewife are used as lobster bait. Sabins stated that the alewife revenue fund is not proposed as a budgeted revenue to offset the current proposed budget. Melrose questioned if the food pantry will need more money next year, and if the contingency article of $15K will be enough in case of other unforeseen emergencies. Melrose also suggested that more paving might be accomplished due to low petroleum prices. Chairman Titus expressed concern about residents without jobs right now being able to pay taxes on time. He would like to move the interest start date to June 30th on the fourth tax installment due on the fourth Monday in April. No decision was made on any of these suggestions and concerns now, as the Governor may issue a new rule that will dictate action to take. The Board suggested we add the topic of interest rate collection delay to a future agenda.

9. Reports – Chairman Titus moved to approve the Road and Police Reports jointly as written. This motion was seconded by R. Browne and the Board took the following votes to unanimously approve the motion: Browne: yes; Melrose: yes; Titus: yes.

10. Treasurer’s Warrants – Chairman Titus explained the new temporary process that has been established to approve the payroll and accounts payable warrants. The bookkeeper will scan and email copies of the warrant to the Select Board. Each Board member will provide their approval (or not) to the bookkeeper via email. She will save the responses and the warrants for the Board members to sign at a later date when “social distancing” to avoid the virus is no longer required.

11. Other1. Sabins stated that the Town Clerk had emailed to the Board a list of ballot clerks that need reappointment. A motion was then made by Chairman Titus to approve the list of election clerks as prepared by the Clerk. This motion was seconded by R. Browne and the Board took the following votes to unanimously approve the motion: Browne: approve; Melrose: yes; Titus: yes. 2. J. Melrose requested an overview of where things stand as far as the decisions that were made yesterday [by the Town Manager] on closing everything. Melrose stated he has talked with a few other towns who have gone in an opposite direction and are staying open still. Albeit, doing more along the lines of what he had suggested of having one person in the town office for the week or for a couple of days and then one other person comes in a bit later and does the same. Public works are still working in other departments. DOT crews are still working. John stated it would have been nicer if we could have had some discussion. John assumed his colleagues on the board were in full agreement with what was happening so if that’s the case then he said he can count. R. Browne stated that a couple people have asked about taxes. Rob asked to be reminded what the plan is if we operate as we are. Will taxpayers mail the payments in, or put them through the slot in the door, or just what? Sabins stated taxpayers can still mail tax payments in and the plan is that our town clerk will retrieve the town’s mail every few days. The Clerk has a personal post office box in the North, so when she goes to ger her mail, she will also pick up the town’s mail and bring it back to the office, date stamp it received, then put it in the vault. When there are enough tax payments, she’ll fire up the computer system and actually process them, do a deposit, and get it to the bank. The machine can be set back to the date the payment is received and that’s why it’s important to date stamp the payment so they would not be overcharged for interest. Rob asked if we were to make a change on the due date of interest, we’d have to make the decision fairly quickly. Sabins confirmed another payment is due on the fourth Monday in April, which is the final payment for the year. The interest on that payment begins seven days later. The machine will continue to accrue interest on the first, second, and third payments as of those due dates. It calculates interest on each of the four different installments. It isn’t something staff does manually; the machine is programmed to calculate that for us. Rob also wonders if Gene’s crew is doing more limited work, maybe we should have somebody helping George if he’s going to be there [at the transfer station] one day a week. That’s going to be a lot of work. Maybe we could have someone from Gene’s crews there to help him every week. Sabins offered to reach out to Gene to ask him if he could round up some help for George. Chairman Titus stated that we will know Saturday; he has trash to haul Saturday and will see how jammed busy George is. L. Titus stated he has not had anyone contact him from private haulers but asked Melrose to confirm that he has heard from someone. Melrose stated that he did and that he told them to call Chairman Titus. Lauchlin asked Sabins if haulers have a key to the gate. Sabins said she spoke with George because one of the haulers had called her. Sabins was incorrect in her initial statement that the haulers have a gate key. That statement was from a way-back memory. The lock had been changed, once we had break-ins and George didn’t issue new ones to everyone because he was trying to control the vandalism issue. When one of the commercial haulers called and said this is a problem, Sabins called George and talked with him to refine the plan. George will get a duplicate key to the two haulers and issue it to them for the month of April, and then ask them to return it at the end of the month. So, both haulers will be hauling on Tuesday and Thursday. They will dump into the open top and George will make a plan with our hauler to get the open top out of the station Thursday afternoon, and to return a new one for him Thursday afternoon or Friday morning so it will be empty when he opens up on Saturday. Sabins stated that she called the commercial hauler back and spoke with him, explained the plan, and he was satisfied with that. Melrose asked Sabins if there was a reason why she chose not to put into the website message who the commercial haulers are in the event that somebody doesn’t want to go to the dump because of the crowd that may be there on Saturday. Sabins said it wasn’t intentional at all on her part; the message was created prior to Melrose’s suggestion to do that. Sabins stated that she could amend the message and suggest to residents that they could do that if the Board would like her to do that. Melrose said his other question to Sabins is, of all that was decided, was that entirely within her prerogative? Sabins responded yes. Melrose questioned again, “So you can shut down the whole town without talking to the Board?” Melrose stated he thought it would be better for everybody if there was at least a vote concurring with the actions of the Town Manager, but if that was inappropriate, he would let it go. Chairman Titus stated he viewed it as administration of staff, and that sort of thing, so he supported the decision of how things were done. L. Titus moved that the Board support the Town Manager’s approach to the Governor’s [Stay at Home] declaration of March 31st. Rob asked if we can amend that at a later time if people are having a hardship with it. Chairman Titus affirmed certainly it could. The Board’s next meeting is in two weeks; a special meeting could be called with notice to the media within 24 hours. Melrose stated that Sabins could change it tomorrow anyway. L. Titus agreed. R. Browne seconded the motion and the Board took the following votes to approve the motion: Browne: agree; Melrose: no, Titus: yes. Chairman Titus thanked Melrose for bringing it up and stated he realizes it’s not the way Melrose feels, but its important to have the discussion.

12. Adjourn – There being no further business to discuss, the meeting was adjourned at 7:12 p.m. A video conference budget committee meeting followed this meeting at 7:30 p.m.


These minutes were read and accepted by the Select Board on 4/16/20 with the following amendments: J. Melrose pointed out an error on page two in section six, the phrase “power point agreement” should have said “power purchase agreement”. The error is noted below.

“When looking at the wording of the article, it encompasses a power point agreement and the decision now is whether the Board is fine to go ahead with that and authorize the Town Manager to enter into that agreement to get the negotiation process going, or we can do that but also at the same time prepare a warrant article for town meeting.”