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Townsend selectmen chair calls for return to decorum


TOWNSEND — The chairwoman did not like what she heard around town.

“I’ve heard from a couple of people in town that their perception is that our meetings are, what one said, kind of a free-for-all,” said Susan Lisio. I take that personally because I’m the chair.”

“I ask our board as well as the public to adhere to board protocol to speak through the chair when recognized,” she said, “Maybe that will eliminate some of the back and forth.”

“It appears that we are not as professional as we should be and I’d like to get that back on track. Please,” she said.

During the remainder of the meeting Tuesday, board members, Town Administrator Andy Sheehan and the public did address most of their comments through the chair.

Selectmen heard from the Cable Advisory Committee, which has been reviewing a new contract with cable provider Comcast.

“There were two main issues when the contract come up,” said Chairman Stan Dillis. Between 35 and 40 homes do not have cable and the town will need to form an access corporation to run the government and public channels.

Comcast has agreed in principle to provide access to all homes, he said. “They’ve agreed to upgrade the infrastructure,” he said. “That was the big stumbling block.”

Unitil-owned poles servicing Vinton Pond Road, Sauna Row Road and parts of Bayberry Hill Road and New Fitchburg Road are not high enough to accommodate the cable.

Comcast got a quote from Unitil to extend or replace the poles. The cable company can then build out the new cable infrastructure.

The work, costing in total around $100,000, will add about 42 cents to each cable subscriber’s monthly bill.

There are about 2,100 cable subscribers in town, said former Chairman Steve Cloutier.

The proposal would allow every homeowner in Townsend to get online, said Selectman Carolyn Smart.

“School-aged kids need to get online,” said Dillis.

Because the price increase would affect every cable subscriber in town, Lisio said holding a hearing would be a good idea, “just in fairness to the community.”

The cable committee and the selectmen agreed to schedule a public hearing on January and invite Comcast.

Comcast agreed to fund the access corporation that will be formed to run the local access channel with a full five percent of the revenues generated in town, Cloutier said.

They will have one year to get the station up and running.

Sheehan will check with town counsel to find out how the corporation should be set up.

In other business Tuesday:

Four people who won ice cream certificates for wearing a helmet while cycling were chosen to receive a $150 gift certificate to a bicycle shop. Police Chief Erving Marshall said that since the ice cream awards began, there have been no bad accidents involving bicycles in Townsend.

Police stop cyclists wearing their helmets to give them a coupon for a free ice cream. “I strongly believe in it and it works,” he said.

Marshall will contact the winners: Ava Coates, Alexis Connor, Grace Willett and Alex Candow. They were chosen by selectmen and Sheehan from a box filled with names.

Selectmen agreed to extend the Townsend-Ashby Youth Soccer Association’s lease on the Squannacook Meadows fields for another five years. The site includes endangered species and TAYSA is working closely with the Conservation Commission, said Joseph Simao, president.

After three rounds of vandalism involving motor vehicles on the fields, TAYSA installed a gate at the entrance. The temporary structure will be replaced and town public safety officials will have access to the fields, he said.

Town Meeting is scheduled for Dec. 3. Selectmen will meet on Nov. 25 to discuss two articles on the warrant. One funds changes to the treasurer/collector’s office and the other funds improvements to information technology.

Also on the agenda will be a discussion on updating the wage and compensation plan or looking at other ways to ensure the town’s salaries are comparable to salaries in other locations.

Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.