Town of Otis
Select Board Meeting Minutes
July 23, 2019
Call to Order: Meeting was called to order at 7:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room. A quorum was present and the meeting was recorded.
Present: Selectman Bill Hiller, Selectman Larry Southard, Town Administrator Becky Stone, Terry Gould, Kay Koloski, William O’Brien, William O’Brien, Karen Martin, Gene Martin, Jean Guy Martin, Michelle Lesieur, Monique Palazzi, Brian Palazzi, Troy Fluckiger, Alice Fluckiger, Karyn Ardizon, Rich Ardizon, Patricia Richard, Cheryl Morton, Craig Morton, Ray Damours, Jean Pullen, John O’Brien, Patrick O’Brien, Mark Amanti, Stephen Nelson, Jeff Gamelli, Jr., Mark Barnard, Mac Visser, Chris Tryon, Michel Zalot, John Zalot, Derek Poirer, Lisa Lewis, Debra Lewis, Bryan Arnold, and Nancy Crandall were present.
Review Meeting Minutes: The July 9, 2019 Select Board meeting minutes and July 15, 2019 Select Board/Finance Board meeting minutes were approved by Bill and Larry.
Board of Health:
220 Pine Road: Steve Nelson and Jeff Gamelli from Clearwater Recovery attended and presented the septic plans for the Cortigiano residence. Steve explained that a jet aerobic system to geoflow drip irrigation will be installed which is the best option to fit the lot. Peter has looked at these drawings and given his approval. Since it is just shy of being 100 feet away from their well, they will be required to do pre-treatment and some well testing. They are more than 100 feet away from abutters’ wells. Bill and Larry gave approval of the job as long as Jim has no issues with it.
234 Tyringham Road: Steve explained that the design of this system is dictated by the lot, which has a steep side slope (a hill). A conventional plan with a proper field, would require a wall with a 9 foot reveal, so instead they will do a jet aerobic system to infiltrator leach field after the septic tank. This will enable them to make the field 50% smaller than a conventional plan would require and there will be a wall with a 3 foot reveal. They are about 120 feet away from the well. They were able to do a perc test, so no pre-treatment will be required. No variance will be needed. Bill and Larry gave approval of the job as long as Jim has no issues with it.
408 Pine Road: Chris Tryon submitted plans for a proposed Jet-Bat system to a pump chamber up to a traditional bed leaching field to replace an existing failed septic system at the Daigneault residence. Existing septic system was next to the driveway. It’s a tight lot. They tried to perc in an area to be away from the surrounding wells, but there’s shallow depth to ledge, 2 feet and less. Variance to their own well is required which is 63.8 feet away. Abutter’s well is 76.5 feet away and he has been notified of this meeting. Since it is just shy of being 100 feet away from both wells, they will be required to do water tests on both wells. Bill and Larry gave approval of the job as long as Jim has no issues with it.
Library & Museum Agreement- Revision: This matter has been tabled until the next Select Board meeting in August after town counsel has had time to review it and the library trustees meet.
Petition regarding Tolland Road: Concerned residents came with a petition and photographs to discuss the traffic issues and problems on Tolland Road associated with the excessive number of cars and visitors going to the Tolland State Forest Campground and the Air Force Beach area of the Otis Reservoir. Their concern is with the high volume of traffic and at times at high speeds, as well as the excessive number of vehicles parked all over the narrow, unimproved road going through a residential area. They have observed that DCR does not monitor and manage the Air Force Beach and parking like they do at the Tolland State Forest Campground and Beach. In addition, there are no facilities, no bathrooms and no garbage pails for visitors on Tolland Road. An excessive amount of garbage is being left behind and DCR doesn’t always pick it up before the bears get into it. The residents would like to see the road gated off at the end of Tolland Road where the plow trucks turn around and make it a dead end road, because even though there is a No Thru Traffic sign, it is not enforced. Troy also suggested that No Parking signs be installed on the road, but leave the seven or so parking spots already available there for people who like to go down there to fish.
The Highway Superintendent told the group that the land on both sides of the road is owned by DCR and that the road is a right of way that was previously maintained by the town, though maintenance has been discontinued. He agreed that DCR should be enforcing the activity in that area because it is state forest land, though the residents reported that they’ve been informed by DCR that the town is responsible for enforcement on the road. Becky explained that Town Counsel advises against the town gating off the end of Tolland Road for liability reasons. She also stated that it is activity on DCR land and therefore, their issues to contend with. Larry would like to see better placement of the 15 mph speed limit signs on the road. He would also like to see ‘Thickly Settled Area’ signs placed on the road or a ‘One Way Only, Do Not Enter’ sign rather than a gate, though many agreed that over the years, even though signs have been installed, they are typically ignored. The residents have been using orange cones and they seem to be successful with getting drivers to slow down. Since they have been told they are not allowed to put orange cones out on the road, they proposed another solution to the problem of speeding. They suggested that speed humps be installed to slow down the traffic. Becky and Derek noted the issues and expenses related to installing speed humps. The Tolland Road residents agreed that they would be willing to pay for the speed humps. Bill shared that Town Counsel told him that DOT-approved speed bumps or humps could potentially be installed, though they would have to be removable for plowing in the winter. Bill would like to see the parking lot locked and vehicles towed to enforce no parking on the road, since gating off the end of the road is not an option. Bill and Larry reminded the residents that DCR has signs up welcoming visitors and they are allowing people to sleep overnight. It concerns them both that there is no enforcement and no fees charged at that beach and parking area. Bill and Becky let the group know that they have reached out to DCR, because they agree that it’s only a matter of time before there is an accident. Residents concurred and one couple shared that a passing car came so close to their property that a dog was hit while getting out of a car. Mark Amanti from the Otis Reservoir Property Owners Association suggests coordinating Town Counsel and DCR legal counsel to sit down with the town and residents to come up with a solution, specifically DCR District Managers Dom Sacco and Rick Woodard. It is his personal understanding that the DCR District Managers would like to see that road blocked off, because they don’t have people there to control the crowd in that area. Mark has spoken to Dom Sacco and also contacted Representative Smitty Pignatelli. Bill added that he spoke to a Deputy Director today who was not aware of the issues, but would move the information up the chain. There was additional discussion and agreement that Bill, Mark and Troy should request a meeting with Town Counsel and DCR counsel to come up with a reasonable solution, including possibly DCR being the authorities to install a gate just past the O’Brien’s residence. Another resident was skeptical that Otis could not legally install a gate when he has seen the practice done in Springfield neighborhoods where high volumes of traffic were a concern. He added that it was especially frustrating that this traffic is not forced or encouraged to use the road installed and intended for them to use. He is also concerned that the crowd visiting the Air Force Beach is becoming a more rough element than in the past and they seem to be scoping their homes. He is also frustrated that Otis taxpayers are supporting a road that only feeds a business in Tolland.
Craig Morton from Camp Overflow shared his concern that DCR does not appear to be held to the same strict standards as is required by him at his business, which includes weekly mandatory water testing, costing him $50/week. If he doesn’t turn in his weekly test results or if the results are not good, his beach can be closed. He feels that they are clearly breaking their own rules by allowing people to swim there without testing the water. He suggests that fact be included as leverage when meeting with DCR. Another resident would like to see the Department of Public Health involved because of the unsanitary conditions there, which are contaminating the Otis Reservoir.
There was discussion regarding the 15mph signs. Derek told the group that the 15mph speed limit signs are not legal, because they were never DOT approved. Gene Martin shared how the 15mph signs were installed many years ago after he started a petition and presented it to the town. He shared that the signs were supposed to be installed at the beginning and in the middle of Tolland Road, though only one was installed in the middle and it was only initially effective. This led to more discussion on the speed bumps and humps, including costs and numerous procedures and necessary approvals, including a DOT speed study. Derek has neon yellow and black signs on order and due to be installed that say ‘Caution, Slow Down, Pedestrian Traffic,’ which will be put in right before Camp Overflow and another one after O’Brien’s that will read ‘Slow, Speed Limit, 25 mph.’ He added that the petition is a good start and explained some other details of the protocol for legally changing the speed limit. Troy would like to see if the ball was dropped on the pursuit of a 15mph speed limit and if they are legal. The group agreed that the issue still remains with DCR ignoring their responsibility to control the beach and crowd and offer facilities. Bill asked Derek to follow up with DOT regarding the speed limit. He and Derek also commented on a parking ban, which could be done by the town of Otis, but would also be needed to be done by Tolland to be effective.
Bill, Larry and Becky told the group that they support the group’s concerns and the town is doing what they can, including increased police patrol. Becky suggests the group meet with DCR, though she doesn’t feel Town Counsel needs to be involved, because of the additional expense to the town. She will reach out and invite a Tolland Select Board member, as well. Bill would like to see the meeting at the DCR office around the corner from Tolland Road. Becky and Bill will set up the meeting. Derek shared that the towns of Russell and Chester are having similar issues this summer, though their roads are town roads, so they have legal responsibility. Rich Phair’s only concern with the residents at this time was that the cones in the road would be in their way if they need to come through with an emergency vehicle, but the residents told him they have no problem with him running over the cones in an emergency. He agrees that the camping activity should not be allowed without supervision on the Air Force Beach. Officer Bryan Arnold spoke to the group. They thanked him for checking for driving violations and shared the prime times for traffic with him.
Appointments/Reappointments: Dan Hamill was appointed Emergency Management Director. Larry Southard accepted the position as Alternate Delegate to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
Patricia from Rec reported on the status of getting a new load of sand for the town beach. She will review the DEP requirements and schedule the work with Jim. The beach will be closed for one day while the sand is spread.
Adjournment: At 8:05 pm the Select Board unanimously adjourned the Select Board meeting.
Selectmen’s Secretary, Town of Otis
List of Documents
- Signed petition and photographs from Tolland Road residents.