May 21, 2020ASHLAND — At their May 18 meeting, the Ashland selectmen decided to cancel the Fourth of July fireworks and the summer camp because of the pandemic. They discussed opening the Town Beach for the summer and reopening the Town and Utility Offices, as well as Selectmen's meetings. They also dealt with appointments, including their own
committee assignments and the Deputy Town Clerk/Tax Collector.
At their May 4 meeting, the selectmen had discussed this year's Fourth of July celebration with the Fourth of July Committee, with most of the selectmen skeptical about the traditional event with fireworks which attracts a large crowd, the largest of the year, to Ashland. But, they did agree to wait until their June 1 meeting before making a decision on the event. However, the selectmen's skepticism seems to have grown in the meantime. Selectman Fran Newton suggested that the Board make a decision at this meeting, instead of waiting any longer. It was pointed out that other communities were already canceling such large events. The selectmen voted unanimously to cancel the Fourth of July fireworks for this year. The Fourth of July Committee has been considering alternative ways of celebrating the national holiday if the traditional event was cancelled.
Parks & Recreation Director Ann Barney expressed her concerns about running the summer camp this year while still maintaining social distancing for the children and the staff, given the limited space in the Booster Clubhouse. After a brief discussion, the selectmen voted to cancel the summer camp for 2020.
Earlier, the question of opening the town beach for this summer prompted a longer discussion. Barney wanted to limit the beach to townspeople and the campers in the municipal campground. She proposed closing the snack shop and limiting use of the restrooms by requiring the public to get the key from the gatekeeper. Social distancing would
be required on the beach. The gatekeeper would be supplied with facemask and gloves. This proposal did get some resistance. Selectmen Kathleen DeWolfe questioned if the three "young adults" working at the beach would be able to enforce the rules and suggested that the beach simply be left open for people to use at their own risk, with no
lifeguards or staff on duty. Barney countered that anyone from wherever, including states with worse COVID-19 infection rates, could then use the beach and that there would be no enforcement of any social distancing or other rules. She also said that, if the summer camp was not in session, she could be at the beach and would have no
problem telling people what to do. It was suggested that the number of people using the beach could be limited or that face masks could be recommended for beachgoers. Chairman Eli Badger wanted a more complete plan for the beach opening. The selectmen decided to leave the decision to their next meeting on June 1.
Selectman Alan Cilley asked about reopening the Town Office and the Utility Office, which have been closed to the public during the pandemic. One component of that reopening would be installing Plexiglass shields at the office counters, which Cilley estimated would cost a few hundred dollars. The selectmen discussed the need to start planning for the reopening of the offices, but made no decisions. Cilley also asked about returning to in-person meetings, rather than meeting online with Zoom. Selectmen Jamie Lyford suggested using a larger space, such as the school gym, where social distancing would be possible. Other selectmen resisted these suggestions, and
defended the current on-line meetings as better for these COCVID-19 times. Town Manager Charlie Smith noted that almost all towns are holding virtual meetings now and none are switching back to in-person meetings at this time. State rules still limit gatherings, including public meetings, to no more than ten people. Again, the need for a
plan for the return to regular meetings was stressed.
Following the recent town election at which one Trustee of Trust Funds was replaced and the selection of two new Scribner Memorial Trustees, which replaced two former Scribner Trustees, the remaining two Trustees of Trust Funds, Mark Ober and Tom Peters, resigned. Amanda Loud, the new Trustee of Trust Funds, explained that her three member board could not meet as it was down to one member. She alone could not pay bills, or make transfers of capital reserve funds. Even paying the phone bill for the fire alarm in the Scribner Memorial Building has become problematic. So, the selectmen are now seeking volunteers for the two vacant Trustee of Trust Funds positions. They
would appoint new Trustees to serve until the next March town election. Interested citizens should submit applications soon, as the hope is to fill the positions at the June 1 meeting.
The selectmen discussed assignments to various committees. Badger volunteered to continue to represent the Board on the Budget Committee, while Lyford volunteered to be the alternate. DeWolfe will continue to be the Selectmen member of the Planning Board and Newton will continue to be the Selectmen alternate. Newton and Badger will serve on the Heritage Commission. Both Badger and Cilley have been serving on the ZBA, but their terms are expiring. Badger was reluctant to continue, so it was agreed that Badger would leave the ZBA, while it was voted to appoint Cilley to a three year term. Both the Planning Board and the ZBA need more members, so volunteers would be welcome.
Town Clerk/Tax Collector nominated Jeanette Stewart to serve as her Deputy at the last selectmen's meeting, but the selectmen wanted the opportunity to interview her before making the decision. The interview was quite short, and the selectmen voted 4 to 1 (with Newton dissenting) to approve Stewart for the position. Her training will probably be through new on-line training now being developed. Tucker also asked the selectmen, or at least three of them, to sign the tax warrant, so that tax bills could be printed and mailed this week.
A neighbor complained about a high fence on a Winona Road-Washington Street property that was erected without a building permit. The town ordinance requires a building permit for fences that are over six feet high. The response of town officials to the fence was reviewed and the selectmen promised to pursue the issue. it was
also pointed out that the town website states that recycling has been discontinued, but recycling for most items has actually resumed at the transfer station.