At the 10/27 Sherman BOS meeting, discussion of the Planning and Zoning Commission’s proposed changes to the zoning regulations affecting White Silo Farm set the tone for the November 3rd public meeting, at which town leaders and residents offered robust support for White Silo Farm to continue operating unfettered by additional regulations. The unprecedented turnout and passionate defense of White Silo Farm at the November 3rd meeting appears to have sent the P&Z Commission back to the drawing board to reconsider their recommendations, if not drop the matter entirely.
It is not clear what the next steps are for the P&Z or for White Silo Farm; however, questions remain about the origin and intent of the proposal and the perceived lack of transparency on the part of the P&Z in coming up with their recommendations. Selectman Don Lowe requested P&Z minutes to be made automatically available to the Selectmen, as are other Commissions’ minutes, in order to be aware of developing issues within the Commissions. Additionally, the BOS expressed concern that legal fees were being incurred for presenting the P&Z’s position, BOS’s position, and White Silo Farm’s defense.
Fire Chief Jim Reilly requested funds for repairs of Engine 3 and Tanker 8, both which did not pass inspection. The Selectman authorized the expenditure, not to exceed $23,000, noting that since this was a repair expense and not a new purchase, that the town would take on 100% of this cost. (New purchases are split 80-20 with the SVFD.) A new Fire Marshal was appointed, Addison Larson, who accepted the position at the meeting.
Marc Cohen of ASRWWA (Atlantic States Rural Water and Wastewater Association) who has been working with the town on the high sodium and chloride levels in the water around the town center, provided the BOS with a definitive if somewhat pessimistic update.
According to Cohen, high levels of sodium and chloride are still present in the ground water and these chemicals cannot be “flushed out” by precipitation but stay at constant levels in the soil and bedrock aquifer. He determined the cause to be “putting salt down for some 50 years” and stated that it could take another 50 to flush out the accumulated salt. The report contained the assumption that “since public safety requires salt applications…there is not much chance that salt use will change, despite potential health impacts.” Cohen did describe “a limited range of solutions,” including using the minimum amount of salt required, proper snow plowing and removal around wells, etc. U-Conn geology Professor Gary Robbins and a graduate student will be joining the effort to study the problem, and are proposing to dig a small well in the center of town.
In response to Selectman Don Lowe’s query about what can be done, since salt use presumably won’t change, First Selectman Cope offered to talk to the CT-DOT about selective salting (not salting in certain areas) and said he would contact the business owners in the town center to go over best practices.
Happy Acres provided its monthly herd report. Related to the farm, Eric Holub, town Treasurer, noted that legal fees for T-Mobile cell tower negotiations should be billed to the Happy Acres budget, not the town.
Residents for Responsible Cell Service in Sherman (RRCSS) requested follow-up on many questions and action points presented to the BOS since July. First Selectman Cope replied that he had spoken to Ray Vergati of Homeland Towers who reported that 2 private homeowners in the southern end of Sherman would be entering into leases “very soon” to build cell towers on their properties. First Selectman Cope also noted that he had reached out to Selectpersons in Sharon and Washington regarding the grant awarded to NW-COG to study broadband cell phone service. Gail Maletz of RRCSS stated that while she was pleased there had been follow-up, that there had been a missed opportunity for the First Selectman to attend a 9/14 meeting of NW-COG presenting small-cell technology. She asked that the Selectmen make themselves available for a meeting on 11/14 that RRCSS had set up with radio frequency engineer Alex Restrepo, concluding by saying: “We are determined to pursue all possibilities.” The Selectmen agreed that they would try to make the 11/14 meeting.
The CLA Patrol Boat purchased through the ICE (Inter-Town Capital Equipment) grant has been delivered but apparently at $2,000 over the grant. This turned out to be just one of several confusing aspects of this purchase. Selectman Ostrosky stated that “there was nowhere to put [this extra expense]” in the budget. First Selectman Cope reported that Sherman had agreed to assume the title of the boat and trailer with the intent to transfer these to the CLA, but this can’t be done since Sherman holds the insurance. Treasurer Eric Holub stated the need to see a copy of the agreement with the other towns contributing to the ICE grant as well as the agreement with the CLA, emphasizing that the BOS had originally agreed to apply for the grant, not hold total liability for the boat. From the audience George Linklater commented that the boat would not be used by anyone until the liability was shared.
Selectman Lowe reported that a trial run of videotaping the 11/21 BOS meeting had been set up with local high school student trained through Channel 21 who would be doing it as a school project. The other Selectman requested that the student email his proposal to the BOS.
First Selectman Cope agreed that he would attend the next Board of Education meeting, and Selectman Ostrosky noted that the emergency procedures review should be added back in to support Principal Jeff Melendez’s program.
Audience comments included Ashleigh Blake’s request for a copy of the water report, an update on the tennis court, and an update on the Veteran’s field bathrooms. First Selectman Cope replied that there was a “disconnect” between P& R and the town regarding the tennis court and that the bathrooms were out for bids.
Steve Maletz asked for an update on the Septic Walkover program, wondering what had happened to the referendum on the matter. Selectmen Ostrosky and Lowe assured Mr. Maletz that the program was “not dead,” and that it was “on hold,” with a vote to occur maybe in late Spring in order to allow for more mapping.
Selectman Ostrosky concluded the meeting with a commentary on the “ridiculous” amount of dog excrement on the town fields. Continuing a conversation from several months ago, the Selectmen returned to the idea of signage or perhaps even cameras to warn or catch offenders.
By Alexis Mace