SEPTEMBER 8, 2020
The regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen was held via Zoom and called to order by First Selectman B. Scott Kuhnly at 7 p.m.
PRESENT: B. Scott Kuhnly, Glenn Ballard, Sally King, Mark Neumann, Edward Ohannessian, John D. Ward, Town Manager
Bill Regan indicated he was encouraged by the Aug. 19 meeting in regards to Glenn Ballard’s presentation of his analysis of Agbotic. He thanked Ballard for his resourcefulness. Regan also reported he was not happy with Kuhnly’s response to Ballard’s presentation and he felt it was unprofessional.
Anna Sogliuzzo thanked Ballard for his input at the last meeting and she is hopeful the board moves forward with this tonight. In light of the recent bear incident, Sogliuzzo reminded the Selectmen that many surrounding towns have an ordinance against feeding bears, but Granby does not. She would like an official response to this.
Ballard recommended suspending the rules to allow public conversation to take place after the presentation of Town-Owned Land at 107 East Street.
Kuhnly replied the opportunity for individuals to speak is during Public Session.
No more public addressed the Board.
Ballard indicated meeting minutes need to be accurate and written without bias. He would like to make some corrections to the minutes from the Aug. 19 meeting. He also noted specific figures on his project spreadsheet were not properly reflected and should be corrected. Ballard requested the minutes be changed to properly reflect his request to add agenda items.
On A Motion By Ballard, seconded by Neumann, the board voted (5-0-0) to amend the minutes of Aug. 19 to reflect the information as stated by Selectman Ballard.
Ballard also responded to Kuhnly’s response to his analysis on Agbotic at the last meeting during Selectman Reports. He felt he was treated unfairly. Kuhnly clarified that Ballard’s presentation was not a Selectman’s report, but a presentation of a spreadsheet he had done on Agbotic. This information should have been submitted to the board at least 24 hours prior the meeting and added as an agenda item.
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to reorder the agenda, placing this item to be discussed during closed session following Selectman Reports.
Unfinished or Tabled Business
Consideration of Town-Owned Land at 107 East Street
Ward presented the estimated taxes for Agbotic based on information from the Assessor as of Aug. 12 as $165,000 to $180,000.
It was noted Agbotic believes the buildings and robots are exempt from taxes.
Agbotic proposes to enter into Virtual Net Metering with the Town of Granby which would provide a revenue increase that is greater than the current outstanding financial obligation for 107 East Street. Upon further investigation with Eversource, they currently do not have cap space available for Virtual Net Metering projects. It is expected that space will not become available until July 2021 at the earliest and it may be dependent on new legislation being passed, which would both authorize the program and determine the cap. Currently, there are nine agricultural applications in the queue. Some questions were:
Ballard inquired to see if Agbotic would be interested in allowing a trash to energy facility on the property. They were open to the idea. Based on one estimate provided by Ballard, it was estimated it would take $8 million to get it started and it would pay for itself in eight years. The town would be required to bond the $8 million.
Kuhnly stated the proposed purchase price of $330,000 for 50 acres is a steal. The property was originally purchased for future use by the town and/or agricultural purposes. There are many potential uses for this land. Two residents provided letters regarding their views on the project.
Kuhnly read letters from concerned residents Peggy Lareau and Bob Lindeyer.
Ballard requested a timeframe to move forward.
King stated this is prime farmland. She believes the board needs to be careful and think long and hard regarding this proposal.
Neumann stated the land purchase was approved by voters for future use by the town. The high school and middle school are located on a small parcel of land adjacent to the Department of Public Works. The town may need the land to expand these campuses. The solicitation came to the town and the town was not looking to sell the property.
Ballard indicated the board needs to look at the total value of the offer and maybe it should be sent to the town people for a vote.
Ward responded on the timeframe and process to make a decision. Virtual Net Metering (VNM) currently has nine VNM projects scheduled. We are still working with the state to get an answer regarding development rights and with Eversource regarding an agricultural proposal. If a trash to energy facility is part of the proposal, the town would need to hire an engineer. There are too many “ifs” in the overall proposal: In order to move forward, an affirmative vote is needed from the Board of Selectmen and then Board of Finance before it can go to a Town Meeting for a vote. Typically a trash to energy plant would take eight to ten years to be permitted.
Kuhnly reminded everyone the town would be gaining some money, but losing an asset. This was the purpose of purchasing the land for the town.
Ohannessian summarized his analysis of the proposal. He repeated that the board has been unfairly accused of not being transparent and that is not the case. He noted he voted in favor of the purchase of the property. The use of this property needs to be looked at long-term. Granby is known for its open space and what future generations will need is unknown. The town is not in a distress situation and he believes the property should not be parceled out. Although he supports the business of automated smart farms, he does not believe the sale price and a trash to energy plant is in the best interest of the town.
Ballard would like final dollar figures on property taxes and the solar project from the Assessor. He felt Agbotic may possibly be willing to add the value of the solar credits into their mortgage so the town is not at risk for a delay or reduction in the output. He felt an informed decision needs to be made.
Neumann noted it is not an appropriate use of a town asset, even at a positive cash flow.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Kuhnly, the board voted (4-1-0) to stop the consideration of the offer for this use of East Street as being not what we intended for East Street, that we not pursue it further. Ballard voted against the motion.
Long-Term Recovery Committee
At the May 18 Board of Selectmen meeting, the board approved the creation of a Long-Term Recovery Committee and at the June 1 meeting, the board made multiple appointments to the board. The appointment to education sector has since been vacated. It is recommended that Taylor Wrye be appointed as the representative for education in lieu of Charles Hershon who resigned.
Ohannessian questioned if Wrye is a Granby citizen. Ward was not sure, although appointments to this committee are not restricted to Granby residents. Wrye is the principal of Granby Memorial Middle School.
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to appoint Taylor Wrye in lieu of Charles Hershon to the Long-Term Recovery Committee.
Resignations and Appointments to be Considered
No resignations or appointments were received . There is one vacancy on the Conservation Commission. Anyone interested in serving on a board or commission, should contact Monica Logan of the Democratic Town Committee, Mark Fiorentino of the Republican Town Committee, or the Town Manager’s Office.
Consideration of Neglected Cemetery Account Grant Program
Connecticut General Statute Section 19a-308b established the Neglected Cemetery Account and authorizes the Office of Policy and Management to make grants to eligible municipalities for the purpose of municipal maintenance of burial grounds and cemeteries. The maximum grant award is $2,000 and no match is required.
The Town of Granby would like to apply for a $2,000 grant to maintain cemetery property. Per guidelines, the work would be completed by the Department of Public Works outside of the regular work day and the grant money will be used to cover overtime pay. Grants are paid on a reimbursement basis.
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to authorize Ward to apply for and accept on behalf of the town, a grant from the Neglected Cemetery Account. In addition, the board authorizes Ward to enter into and execute any and all agreements, contracts and documents necessary to obtain said grant should the town be awarded the grant.
Consideration of Amending Ordinance, Exemption for Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Personnel
The town currently has an ordinance that allows for the reduction of property taxes in the amount of $1,000 for the town’s volunteer fire and ambulance personnel. The proposal is to increase the amount to $1,500 per year and eventually to $2,000 per year. At the rate of $2,000 per year it would work out to be $68,000 in reduced town taxes. Ward indicated we are very fortunate to have these volunteers and this is the least the town can do for them. They have never stopped working during COVID. This would be treated as any other ordinance. The legal notice must run for ten days and there is not time to do this before the next BOS meeting. Ward proposed the Public Hearing be scheduled for Oct. 5.
On A Motion by Kuhnly, seconded by King, the board voted (5-0-0) to call for a Public Hearing on Oct. 5 for the purpose of consideration of an Ordinance amendment.
Kuhnly thanked Chief John Horr and Lori D’Battisto and noted this is the least the board can do for them.
The Town Attorney will be contacted to determine whether Horr and D’Battisto can make a presentation before the Public Hearing
Executive Session: Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Statute 1-200 (6)(b), the board moves to go into Executive Session to discuss settlement of a claim. John D. Ward, Administration Finance Officer Kimi Cheng and Director of Public Works Kirk Severance are invited to attend.
Reordered to follow Selectman Reports.
Town Manager Report
Ward reported how well the Fire Department, Police Department, and the Emergency Management Department worked together during the COVID pandemic.
Ward discussed private duty pay where a third party pays for police officers performing traffic duty. The rate was revised from $70 to $100 per hour, which is a more appropriate figure.
Ward reported he received the department review proposal from Ballard, but has not reviewed it in detail as of yet. Kuhnly asked Ward to forward Ballard’s proposal to the Board of Selectmen. There was no objection.
Ward commended the Administration Finance Officer for her work on the annual audit. The process has gone very smoothly and is scheduled to be completed soon.
There has been an increase in public interest for an ordinance against feeding bears after a bear cub was struck and killed by a motor vehicle on Mountain Road.
Kuhnly asked that this be considered as agenda item for the next Board of Selectmen meeting, with possibly Senator Witkos and a DEEP representative to provide some insight regarding the bear situation.
Ballard reported he is trying to fulfill a campaign promise and he has made a tracking spreadsheet he wishes to introduce as a tool for the board. The spreadsheet can be used to track comments/items from meetings and to discuss priorities. Ballard researched prior meetings and public comments to identify open issues and unfinished business.
This item was not on the agenda and First Selectman Kuhnly reminded the members that items must be added to the agenda at least 24 hours in advance. This allows the board, as well as the public, to review the documents.
Kuhnly reiterated that the board must work together for the betterment of Granby.
Kuhnly recessed the meeting to closed session at 8:45 p.m., and called the Executive Session of the Board of Selectmen to order at 8:46 p.m.
The Executive Session adjourned at 8:59 p.m., and the regular meeting of the BOS was reconvened at 9 p.m.
There being no further business to come before the board, the meeting was adjourned at 9 p.m.
SEPTEMBER 21, 2020
The regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen was held via Zoom and called to order by First Selectman B. Scott Kuhnly at 7 p.m.
PRESENT: B. Scott Kuhnly, Sally King, Mark Neumann, Edward Ohannessian, Glenn Ballard, John D. Ward, Town Manager
Bill Regan, 62 Hungary Road, expressed his disappointment with the Board of Selectmen regarding their rejection of the Agbotic proposal for 107 East Street.
Hope Schaffrick, Maple Hill Drive, also expressed her disappointment with the board’s rejection of the Agbotic proposal. She feels the meetings are confusing and would like to see the board track issues that are brought forward so they are not forgotten. In addition, she is concerned about trash, particularly regarding MIRA.
Bill Glueck, 18 Barkhamsted Road, stated he would like to see the no-rate increase budget be repeated in the upcoming fiscal year. He would like to drop off documents to the Town Manager’s Office that would help in managing goals, as well as best practices. He also mentioned financial risk considerations the town might have with the police not having immunity to lawsuits any longer. The town should explore the risk level we have and consider risk policies. In regard to Agbotic, he feels a task force should be created to set up a new process for evaluating opportunities that arise. He also feels the RFP process is broken as only one bid has been received for the property.
Anna Sogliuzzo, 15 Old Orchard Road, also expressed disappointment with the board and their rejection of the Agbotic proposal. She believes it should have been evaluated more thoroughly and gone to a Public Hearing. She felt it was a forgone conclusion and didn’t like the way it was handled. Also, the past purchase of the East Street property was brought up again indicating it was pushed on the town’s people. In the future, she would like to see a task force that would evaluate proposals.
Bob Lindeyer, 367 North Granby Road, responded that the town’s purchase of the East Street property was voted on by residents for use by the town. The property was not listed as being for sale. He commended the town for holding onto it because that is what the property was purchased for.
On A Motion by Mark Neumann, seconded by Sally King, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of Sept. 8.
Glenn Ballard referred to the most recent board minutes where there seemed to be some confusion about the Governor’s Executive Order and a 24-hour rule regarding information being available on the website prior to the meeting. He believes there is some confusion around the Governor’s Executive Order and it is referring to specific agenda items that would be discussed and acted upon by the board. The Selectmen Reports is not an agenda item or a discussion. It is the sharing of information. He suggested the Town Attorney may have an opinion to clarify the appropriate use of the Selectmen Reports as it relates to the agenda. In the past, there have been no updates under Selectmen Reports and if there is, it is regarding activities or event updates. He would like to see more appropriate use of this in the future.
Consideration of Ordinance Banning the Feeding of Bears
Kuhnly welcomed Senator Kevin Witkos to the meeting. He was invited to the meeting by the BOS to discuss and provide some insight on what the state and possibly DEEP are doing. John Ward provided a brief introduction and explained that a draft of a proposed ordinance was included in the packet. DEEP has been keeping track of the statistics and the bear population and sightings have increased over the years.
There are numerous Granby and Hartland citizens who are concerned about the growing risk of the bears endangering people and increased motor vehicle contact with the bears. So far this year, the Granby police have received over 30 calls regarding bears. Rick Orluk, president of the Granby Land Trust, forwarded a letter stating the Land Trust is in agreement with an ordinance. Ward stated if an ordinance is put in place, it would be enforced by the police, the Animal Control Officer, and any other designee by the town and it would prohibit the feeding of wildlife and the feeding of birds from April 1 to Nov. 30, as well as the improper storage of food.
Senator Witkos stated he has been dealing with this issue for a little bit of time. This past Legislative Session, he was on a working group to deal with wildlife management. He noted that as of Sept. 10, there have been 42 reports of bears that have entered people’s homes. The bear population doubles every seven years. They can travel from 50 to 100 miles a day and they maintain a close proximity to where they can obtain food.
He noted the draft being reviewed tonight closely mirrors Simsbury’s ordinance and it was very contentious with the inclusion of birdfeeders. The draft ordinance before the legislature included bears only and excluded refuse and birdseed. The concern with drawing up an ordinance is in the wording. If the town is trying to go after bears, limiting the ordinance to just bears may be preferable. If you exclude garbage and bird seed, it can help narrow it down and prevent a lot of issues that would put neighbor against neighbor. If the town decides to move forward, Witkos would be willing to provide some guidance.
The town’s draft includes an immediate fine. In Hartland, a monetary fine did not come into play until an official warning is given. He suggested the use of what is called a “non-projecting hazing pistol” which costs $250 and essentially scares the bears away. It is non-lethal and has been proven to work.
The board had some comments and inquired about a policy at the state level that would be uniform state-wide. Witkos doesn’t think that is likely as the state would prefer to let each town deal with the problem themselves. There was a question inquiring if any studies have shown a difference when individuals follow policies against feeding bears. There is no science-based answer. It was noted that some bears are already getting into the “bear proof” trash cans.
There was a suggestion to meet with Witkos to get some assistance with wording and invite a representative from DEEP as well. Witkos is familiar with the new DEEP Commissioner and has offered to work with Ward to get a representative from DEEP to talk to the board.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Neumann, the board voted (5-0-0) to table the Ordinance Banning the Feeding Bears.
Resignations and Appointments to be Considered
There were no resignations or appointments before the board. There are two vacancies on the Conservation Commission. Anyone interested in serving on a board or commission should contact Monica Logan of the Democratic Town Committee, Mark Fiorentino of the Republican Town Committee, or the Town Manager’s Office.
Public Works Department Head Report
In light of the length of the agenda, this item is moved to the next meeting.
Consideration of Selectman Retreat/Workshop to Set Goals
There was some discussion regarding holding a selectmen’s retreat to review and set new goals. Neumann indicated it would be an excellent opportunity to get together to discuss issues. Edward Ohannessian would like to discuss budget goals with the hope of repeating the 0-percent budget increase from this year, as well as agenda goals. He is unsure if an outside moderator is necessary. Ballard would like to discuss Granby’s Plan of Conservation and Development. King was undecided about an outside party. Kuhnly indicated the board could do it on their own. As always, it would be open to the public.
Consideration of Freshie’s Café Request to Serve Beer and Liquor
Freshie’s Café is requesting to serve beer and liquor on the premises. Looking ahead, they feel their outdoor business will be curtailed by the weather. When outdoor dining is no longer an option, and in order to maintain social distancing indoors, the capacity of the restaurant will be reduced by half. In an effort to compensate for the lost revenue, the establishment would like to serve beer and wine. As the owner of the property, Fabiola Bowles is asking for the Town’s approval.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Ohannessian, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the request of Fabiola Bowles to serve liquor at Freshies Café.
Ward indicated the Town will also verify the insurance policy is modified to best protect the town. CIRMA will be contacted to ensure the proper coverage is in place.
It was noted that other towns do this on town property, Simsbury Farms for example, as does Holcomb Farm.
Town Manager Status Report
Town Manager Ward reviewed the reports he provides, including a biweekly Town Manager’s report submitted for the BOS meeting, a monthly update to the board on the status of the current capital projects, which is also submitted to the Board of Education, the department heads, and posted on the town website. The BOS also receives Management Notes from the department heads, as well as the monthly Town Budget Operations. These are also posted on the website and are part of the BOS packet. In the past, he has included specific updates on non-capital and recurring agenda items such as Kearns School in the Town Manager’s report. He would be happy to do that again if the board wishes.
Ballard suggested this be discussed at the retreat as a way to measure and monitor what is happening.
Neumann appreciates what the Town Manager puts in the packet and his timely response to emails.
King agreed there is a good transfer of information from the Town Manager to the Board of Selectmen.
Ohannessian also would like to discuss this at the retreat.
Approval of Settlement of Johnson v. Town of Granby
A resident of Granby has made a claim that road salt infiltrated her well, causing damage to her appliances and causing a negative impact on the quality of her water. It was investigated by the town and a claim was made with the town’s insurance carrier, Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency (CIRMA). CIRMA sent the claim to CHUBB, their pollution underwriter. The adjuster investigated the claim and proposed a settlement of $30,000. The recommendation for the claim is based on the expected engineering and legal fees of contesting the claim without the ability to bring the State of Connecticut in as a party defendant. The settlement is not an admission of wrong doing or fault.
Ward reported the town has insurance coverage but the deductible is $75,000. The state is not agreeable to be a party with the town in a settlement. The proposed settlement provides a resolution with the $30,000, with no admission of fault and is in lieu of going further with the claim. It is recommended the town resolve this.
King inquired if the money would come from the General Fund if approved. Ohannessian does not like going directly to the General Fund and would like to look at the budget to see where the money could be found. Ward indicated he doesn’t know where in the budget he could find $30,000 and Administration Finance Officer Kimi Cheng agreed. The Town Attorney has reviewed this and concurs to settle.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Neumann, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the full and final settlement of the claim Johnson v. Town of Granby in the amount of $30,000.
Additional General Fund Appropriation for the Settlement of Johnson v. Town of Granby
Ward is requesting an appropriation from the General Fund Balance in the amount of $30,000 to fund the settlement of Johnson v. Town of Granby. The town’s Liability-Auto-Property Insurance with CIRMA has a $75,000 deductible on pollution claims. Therefore, the town is responsible for paying the full settlement. This was an unforeseeable incident and not budgeted in the Fiscal Year 2020-21 adopted budget. There are sufficient funds in the General Fund to cover this.
On A Motion by King, seconded by Neumann, the board voted (5-0-0) to authorize an additional appropriation of $30,000 from the General Fund balance to fund the settlement of Johnson v. Town of Granby and forward this request to the Board of Finance to approve.
Consideration of Proposal to Evaluate Town Departments
Ballard proposed evaluating various town departments for the purpose of improving efficiency and possibly reducing costs. Ward thanked Ballard for his initiative and his desire to improve town operations. He has no reason to disagree with an attempt to improve the effectiveness in serving the public. However, he did suggest a slightly different approach. He proposed a review to start with approximately two departments to ensure that the work is likely to produce a benefit that exceeds the cost in time and money. He also recommended an outside vendor be used to avoid any confusion or conflict between roles and responsibilities. A more detailed proposal was attached for Ward to review.
Ohannessian stated this is not the first time this has come up and suggested a more holistic view of the whole town, including the Board of Education. There is 30 percent of the budget for the town, 25 percent for capital and debt, in addition to the Board of Education. Combining services has been discussed in the past. He felt the budget should be looked at holistically first, then work down to the departments, and a consultant should be hired for evaluation purposes. Ballard responded it would be a sub-step, along with looking at the departments.
Neumann thanked Ballard for bringing this proposal to the board and agreed a third party is needed.
Kuhnly stated several of the members have lived in, and been involved with the town, for a number of years. The Intra-board Advisory Committee (IBAC) consisting of the Boards of Selectmen, Finance and Education, was in favor of some reforming and finding efficiencies. It has been advised that they start back up again.
He stated he disagrees with Ballard and feels the BOS should improve the budget process and that can be discussed at the retreat. He does not agree with hiring someone and felt this matter can be discussed further at the retreat. There is always room for improvement, but he does not see any excess in town departments. All the Selectmen agreed this will be discussed at the retreat.
Consideration of Donation to Police Department
Ward reported a Granby citizen donated $1,000 to the Granby Police Department in gratitude for their service.
On A Motion by Neumann, seconded by Ohannessian, the board voted (5-0-0) to approve the donation of $1,000.
Town Manager Reports
Capital Project Activity Update
The state roundabout project on Route 10/202 at East Street and Notch Road is proceeding rapidly.
The state project for major improvements on U.S. 202/Route 10 at Route 20 and Route 189 is continuing with the design and intersection improvements.
Updates regarding the bridge projects were briefly reviewed. The state has finished the Moosehorn Bridge design and a public hearing was held on Sept. 10. Construction to widen the bridge is targeted to begin in 2022 and it will require a shutdown for 56 hours. The design work for the Donahue and Simsbury Road bridges is proceeding and construction is likely in 2020.
The school projects at the middle school are moving along. The roof over the gym is almost done. The School Building Committee will meet this week to start brainstorming project designs.
Upcoming flu clinics are scheduled in Avon on Sept. 30 from 1 to 5 p.m. and in Simsbury on Oct. 7 from 1 to 5 p.m. Information and locations will be posted on the town website and Facebook page.
One proposal from the broker for Kearns School was received and is being reviewed. If it is positive, it may go before the board at the next meeting.
The Long-Term Recovery Committee has prepared a survey for town residents to determine the needs and concerns of the people related to COVID-19.
The Granby COVID-19 update reports that there have been 35 cases out of 10,000 residents, resulting in a 2.3 percent positivity rate. No deaths have been reported.
Neumann inquired about the Registrar of Voters purchasing supplies and equipment for the upcoming election and the possibility of using grant money to cover the cost. There was discussion regarding some available grants. It is not a lot of money but it may cover some of the equipment. It was also mentioned the Registrars may need to hire help with the expected increase in the volume of Absentee Ballots. Ward was not sure of reimbursement from grant money but an application will be made.
Revenue collection is good. Town Clerk revenue has a strong start at only two months in and it is at 35 percent. Expenditures are in good shape. Revenue is above target. Expenses are at the expected range.
First Selectman Reports
Kuhnly reported there will be a free drive-in movie at South Church on Oct. 2, at 6:30 p.m. It is being sponsored by Granby Racial Reconciliation and they are showing Hidden Figures. It is requested that individuals who are at high risk of COVID should stay at home.
Ballard reported he was approached by some Granby residents to consider a town Ethics Committee. He would like to work with them to get it started. He also proposed making some structural changes to the town website. He is open for discussion and anyone can reach out to him through the website.
On A Motion by King seconded by Neumann, the board voted (5-0-0) to adjourn the meeting at 8:39 p.m.
John D. Ward Town Manager