Plans for 'Aging in Place'

The Petersham Committee, a local non-profit, met Oct 16 with local seniors to discuss plans to provide services in town aimed at helping residents "age in place."

The Petersham Committee, headed by Jim Regan of Hardwick Road was formed as a non-profit in 2015. The group has received a grant of $20,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development to develop an aging-in-place model of housing supports for the town.original tire co Leverett, Pelham and Shutesbury also have grants to develop similar plans, Regan said.

The grant is meant to help establish a network of local supports to help seniors with driving, shopping, and home upkeep in the "Village Model." When the help needed goes beyond the capacity of neighbors and friends, this network will also allow for referrals for services from agencies and vendors.

Seniors at the meeting said elder residents are often forced to move from town because Petersham often relies on neighbors to offer support for transportation, housekeeping, or home repair needs. The "village" elder support model was developed on Beacon Hill and is now operating  across the country, Regan said. The committee plans to visit a Monadnock area group offering such services.

Regan said plans for affordable senior housing are not being considered at this time but could be added in the future.

Who Owned the Tree in the Stone Wall?

Decades ago, two saplings took root in a stone wall on Old Hardwick Road. Over time, the two grew together into one large tree - 7 feet in diameter - with branches overhanging power lines.

Earlier this year, the top of the tree fell, taking down power lines and causing a brownout and finally an outage for Dennis and Linda Duguay's home. millersriver

The Duguays say they contacted the power company well before the tree fell , hoping to have it removed, but were told it was a "town tree." and the company could not cut it. They reached out to Melissa Levangie, tree warden, and were told the tree was a "private tree" even though more than half the trunk was outside their stone wall and in the town right of way. She told the board she marked several other trees a long the road for removal. quabbin retreat

Dennis Duguay said if the tree in the wall was a town tree, he was not allowed to cut the tree himself and could be fined for doing so.

After the tree fell, the Duguays said, their homeowners' insurance company refused to pay for damaged appliances and electronics in the home because the tree was a town tree.stone harvest farm

Selectboard chair Nancy Allen told the couple that board members will revisit the site and will ask the town's insurance company whether the town can pay for the damaged appliances.

Nichewaug Asbestos Abatement Project Update

 Petersham Selectman Henry Woolsey reported there was a small oil spill at the Nichewaug property as crews worked to remove asbestos from a furnace room. Woolsey could not say for certain how much oil spilled into the cellar when a work crew cut into an oil line on Oct. 9 but said the oil was cleaned up. An environmental pumping truck was on site for a third day on Thursday.

Woolsey said work to remove floor and ceiling tiles from the former Academy building and historic Inn is nearing completion. He is working to prepare an "all options" request for proposal that could be published in November to see if there is any interest in developing the property. He said a recent walk through indicated that the town should work quickly to determine whatever next steps may be on the horizon for the property.

Broadband Reimbursement Still Uncertain

Members of the Broadband Municipal Light Plant met Oct. 11 to discuss differences in versions of a  proposed contract with Matrix design.  Committee member John Blum said he will ask lawyers for Matrix and the town to provide what they believe is their latest version of the document and will work to reconcile and update them to create a final version. The documents as presented contain formatting errors, old language and typographical errors. earthlands

At issue is whether the project, with Matrix providing the broadband construction and service could disqualify Petersham from receiving a promised state repayment of some $880,000 for installing its own broadband system .Earlier this year, the state put in place a requirement that western Mass towns must build, own and operate their own local  broadband systems to qualify. Petersham has been working to have Matrix do the work with an option to buy the system from Matrix at some later date.

The committee argues that its arrangement with Matrix should not disqualify the town from being paid promised money for its planned system. eddies wheels

Town meeting appropriated and approved borrowing enough money to build the system on the promise of a state reimbursement.

In a Sept. 8 letter to the Board of Selectmen, Carolyn A. Kirk, deputy secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development said in part, "...there needs to be the appropriate documentation in place guaranteeing municipal ownership of the network which we find lacking in the (Petersham) request." Kirk said the state is working "... to open up an avenue to consider creative proposals such as this one."

Board Accepts Gift for Temporary Access Ramp

The Selectboard voted to accept a $15,000 gift from a resident to pay for a temporary handicap access ramp that will make the main town hall accessible while a town committee seeks grant funding for a permanent interior lift system that will serve both the upper and lower halls and provide access to both halls from outdoors. The gift includes a provision that the temporary ramp will be removed from the front of Town Hall when the lift system is installed.

Town Hall Access Committee Report

Stephanie Selden, a member of the Town Hall Handicap Access Committee, said the temporary ramp will allow entry into one front door while the committee pursues a state grant for the work. The three-stop lift is to be installed at the side door at the front southwest corner of the building at a cost of about $70,000. The committee asked the board to repurpose money set aside at the last town meeting for a concrete ramp at the front of the building to help pay for the interior lift system and was told that could only be done at the June town meeting in 2018.

Committee members said the Selectboard must provide several supporting documents in time for a November 17 grant deadline. Early submission of the paperwork will add to a point total used to determine who gets a grant award. Selectboard Chair Nancy Allen said the board will work to prepare those documents and provide a progress report at its Sept. 26 meeting. 

Petersham has engaged an outside firm to build, own and operate its system.

The board appointed Stephen Loring to serve as health agent for the next 12 months.

Roy Nilson, who publishes, is a member of the handicap access committee.


State Reimbursement for Broadband Still Uncertain

Members of the Broadband Municipal Light Plant met for an update on the town's high-speed internet project on August 16 and learned that promised state repayment for the system remains uncertain.

Last month, the state changed the rules and now requires that only towns which build, own and operate their own internet systems will be repaid. Petersham has contracted with a third party to do the work but has an option to purchase and operate the resulting fiber optic system. The town has appropriated and borrowed some $560,000 and hopes for a promised $770,000 reimbursement from the state.

Light board chairman Chip Bull said the committee and Selectmen have written to state agencies and legislators arguing that Petersham's approach to ownership should not disqualify the promised reimbursement but as yet has no answer and no commitment to hold the money aside until a determination is made.

Chris Lynch from Matrix Design told the committee that its survey of 1934 utility poles is complete and applications to add fiber optic cabling are ready to submit to the utility companies. He said the system could be operating before next summer's annual town meeting and that Petersham is moving ahead of other un-served and underserved western Massachusetts towns. Matrix is being paid $48,350 for  its survey of all 1,934 utility poles in town.  The survey was meant to determine what work must be done before another cable is  hung on each pole.

Bull said, "We are on track. We are going to have our network," adding that the lack of a firm commitment for state funding is a "frustrating problem." Bull said he is worried that promised state funds may be spent elsewhere, leaving none for Petersham.