Happy Acres Farm in Sherman has had its share of renovations and repairs over the last few years, but the most recent projects brought before the Board of Selectmen are large-scale repairs to the barn and painting of the barn and house.
Dan Havens, of Havens Fine Homes & Woodworking, was awarded the bid for painting the house and barn; however, the decision was made to not yet bring the barn-painting project to a town meeting until the repairs have been reevaluated and determined. Havens reviewed the originally submitted specs for the project, but presented to the Board a different design, which was briefly discussed at the June Regular Monthly Meeting. Havens voiced that while the drawings were comprehensive, the scope and method of the repairs should be handled differently.
Selectman Kevin Keenan has looked at the barn and spoken with Mason Lord about the original specs, and voiced that the designs were based on the structure of the hay storage area; he voiced that the structural deficiencies have been as such for years, and none seem to be cause for immediate concern. Dan Hatch, an expert in barn construction, was recommended by Phil Korsant, and will analyze the specs; if he recommends that they be changed, the project will have to go out to bid again.
Though painting of the barn has been put on hold, the Board unanimously voted to bring an amount not to exceed $27,000 to town meeting for the painting of the house at the farm.
Another structural concern at Happy Acres is the degeneration of the silo. An engineering firm was hired by T-Mobile to assess the silo and it was determined that it is not sufficient to support the cell tower equipment. Possible solutions were discussed, ranging from building a new silo to repairing the existing one, to installing an independent tower inside the silo versus mounting equipment on the silo itself. All three Selectmen agreed that the town had a responsibility to alert AT&T of the engineering report findings.
Sherman resident Rick Hudson inquired about the cost of a temporary tower, or a cell-on-wheels (COW)—”a portable mobile site that provides temporary network and wireless coverage to locations where cell coverage is minimal or compromised” (as defined on techopedia.com). Terry Hahn inquired if T-Mobile payments have been processed; First Selectman Don Lowe replied that payments have begun as per the agreement. Town Treasurer Eric Holub commented that silo repairs would be covered by the Happy Acres Farm Trust, but that a new tower would not.
John Motsinger’s report stated that there were no major changes to the farm, but that there are 19 new calves, the garden is in full swing, and the barn is being filled with hay. Though Motsinger and MacLean will not be renewing their lease, they may remain on the farm until December 31, 2019, but have the right to leave at any time prior. There was a discussion on how to proceed, and the Board decided to have a “formal, transparent process” as opposed to having a volunteer committee. A forum will be scheduled which should include member of the Friends of Happy Acres. First Selectman Lowe will also sketch a rough draft and all ideas will be considered.
Sherman resident Joel Judd voiced concerns for the cows’ welfare. On July 15th, when the temperature reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the water tubs at Happy Acres were turned over and the installed electrical fences don’t allow access to the watering holes, so the cows had no access to water. Judd requested that the Town insist the electrical fences be removed; he also contacted another local farmer, the State Police, and Animal Welfare; the tenant was observed giving the herd approximately 275 gallons of water around 8:30 that night. Judd spoke with the tenant, and Animal Control recommended moving the water to an area with more shade. Lowe stated he would personally look into the Animal Control report and ensure the cows are properly cared for.
Gravel Path Repairs
There have been discussions regarding changing the gravel path leading from the upper parking lot at Veterans Field into a stairway; the cost would not exceed $9,999 and would include railings. Holub asked if the stairs would be ADA compliant, and Lowe responded that he would follow up with Beth Trott. Art Von Plachecki, who was appointed to the Commission on Aging with Carol Sperling earlier in the evening, stated that additional handicapped parking spaces in the lower lot may render the stairs unnecessary.
Boardwalk Repairs and Fence Installation
Parks and Rec has also set up a five-year plan for boardwalk repairs and requested that money be put aside for them. After a conversation between Lowe, Holub, Fran Frattini, and John Wrenn, it was determined that a separate fund was unnecessary; Parks and Rec should approach the town for funding when ready to move forward. A conversation was also had regarding the purchase and installation of a fence at Volunteer Field at a cost not to exceed $9,000. The fence will define the space, deter cars from driving on the field, and keep the children on the field safer. It was part of a discussion that included surveillance at all three fields; however, the received costs and recommendations are inconsistent with each other. A separate proposal was given to use hunters’ cameras since electricity and Wi-Fi are not accessible at all fields.
Selectman Bob Ostrosky asked for more time to review the proposals. When Lowe asked for input from representatives from Parks and Rec, they stated that they are in favor of security surveillance. Questions were raised as to the enforcement of consequences on offenders. Lowe will be an item on August’s Monthly Meeting agenda, along with the vote to bring funding for Volunteer Field fencing to town meeting.
The well in front of The Sherman School has been approved by the state to use as drinking water and will provide enough water for all of the school’s needs. Representatives from the school have requested funding for new drinking fountains as the current ones haven’t been used in years. They are getting quotes now and will send them to Lowe. Holub stated that if the school funded the fountains in their existing budget, the fountains could be purchased and installed before school begins this fall. Water previously used to purchase bottled water may be allocated to the cost; they may reach out to the town for additional funding later in the year if necessary. Lowe will speak to school administration on the issue.
The possibility of a new well at Mallory Town Hall has also be discussed; the possibility of a well that would service Town Hall, Charter Hall, and the Playhouse is being considered. Three bids have been submitted. A Special Meeting will be held on Saturday, August 17th to walk the trench line and debate with Tim Simpkins, Gary Robbins, and Tim Beatty on the best course of action.
Solar-powered crosswalk signs with timed flashers have been state-approved and will be operational “soon.” Ostrosky had to reschedule the meeting on the sidewalk project; he will report on it at the August Monthly Meeting.
Relocation of Senior Center
The Feasibility Committee has been evaluating the possible move of the Senior Center to the JCC for next year. Considerations include the expenditure of $25,000 annually for rent; it would be a move spanning one to five years. When Terry Hahn asked why it would be a temporary move, Commander Ed Hayes responded that among the many reasons, neither the Senior Center nor the JCC wanted to lose its identity. Lowe asked the Board if they would support the annual expense, and they responded affirmatively.
Hayes separately asked if the Veteran’s Association needed to make a formal request for storage space at Happy Acres for their supplies, to which the Board recommended they use the shed at the farm. Fran Frattini inquired if the V.A. would no longer be using Parks and Rec space; Hayes confirmed so but commented that the scouts may still need the space.
Sandra Wellwood was appointed as Town Auditor.
Bob Acosta reported that the Sherman Volunteer Fire Department has responded to 18 fire calls, 23 EMS calls, and one boat rescue call as of July 25th, and the Annual Fireman’s Ball was held on August 3rd.
There will be a Town Meeting at 9am on Sat., Aug. 17th before the BOS Special Meeting. The Regular Monthly Meeting will be on Thurs., Aug. 22nd at 7pm at Mallory Town Hall.
By Anne Marie DiDomenico