WILMINGTON — During their meeting on Monday night, the Board of Selectmen received updates on COVID-19 and the hazard mitigation plan before they discussed a winter salt program for seniors and other items for approval.
Wilmington Board of Health Director Shelly Newhouse shared that the town had 272 active positive COVID-19 cases, with 134 being breakthrough cases. There were at the time more than 500 residents in quarantine.
She mentioned that the trend appeared to be among families, as most of the cases were in adults aged 41-60 and children. She promoted the vaccine and booster shots, perhaps from doctor’s offices or pharmacies, and self-monitoring for symptoms.
She also wrote a communication to the Finance Committee which was forwarded to the board about the recent rise in cases over the past month.
Selectman Judy O’Connell gave her appreciation for the health department’s tireless efforts and the efficiency of the recent COVID-19 booster clinic they held.
Gary DePalma asked if residents who show symptoms but test negative for COVID should still stay home. Newhouse answered that people should stay home anyway until symptoms subside.
Lilia Maselli asked how long after testing positive it’s necessary to wait to get the booster shot, and the answer was 90 days.
Director of Planning and Conservation Valerie Gingrich used the next appointment to discuss the 2021 hazard mitigation plan for the board to adopt. She explained that FEMA required this plan to be updated to receive grants. It would be targeted towards reducing loss of life and property by lessening the impact of natural disasters like flooding, high winds, and severe winter events.
Some of the measures they’d already completed included drainage improvements, tree inventory and risk assessments, and acquiring more DPW equipment. She said they planned to conduct Route 62 culvert replacement at Martin’s Brook, relocate the DPW admin building, and conduct outreach to homeowners about drought.
O’Connell asked if a new location was named for the DPW building, but Gingrich said it was just a plan to move, with no details or even a timeline set. She described the points identified as opportunities for the town to be proactive for the sake of the environment. The board approved the plan.
Then, Elderly Services Director Terri Marciello and Fire Lieutenant Ryan Quigley talked about an initiative to provide winter sand and salt for seniors, called “Sand for Seniors.” Quigley said that he got the idea from a conference in September and partnered with the senior center to bring it to Wilmington.
He instructed any resident over the age of 60 who would have trouble purchasing sand and salt themselves, or going to pick it up from the DPW, to call the senior center and the fire department would deliver it for them.
Marciello mentioned that Quigley had reached out to Ace Hardware who had agreed to donate 25 buckets and scoops for residents, which they would extend to 40 based on the response. Quigley added that the fire department receives a yearly grant to help pay for programs like this. One other plus he noted is that while the fire department is making deliveries, they could ask residents if they have any concerns and possibly catch issues like fire hazards.
DePalma commented, “This could be saving someone from a severe injury.”
The board thanked the pair for their departments’ joint efforts and shared their full support.
The communications from Town Manager Jeff Hull started with a final decision coming soon on the new Assistant Town Manager/Human Resources Director. He also sent all the different deadlines coming up to set up the special Town Meeting on March 8 for community support with the MSBA process for a new Wildwood School. In the site assignment process for the solid waste disposal facility, he said they were reviewing site suitability and moving forward soon.
His last note was about the necessity of the board to approve a license for the electric vehicle stations granted by Reading Municipal Light Department. O’Connell spoke up later to say that she wasn’t comfortable with RMLD paying for the law services required, given that K. P. Law would have a conflict of interest.
Bendel also had an issue approving a motion when law services weren’t retained yet. Hull proposed having the town pay for it instead, but the board still made no motion.
Public Works Director Mike Woods shared the most recent PFAS reading of non-detect in the Sargent treatment plant and 4.1 ppt at Butters Row in another memo.
Town Clerk Liz Lawrenson wrote to the board detailing that there would be a 45-day review period for the preliminary draft of the inhabitant by-law edits. Hull explained that their next steps would be to prepare articles for Town Meeting in April. Kevin Caira asked if this could be made available to residents, and Hull said he would oblige.
Regarding the building of the new senior center, Bendel shared that the committee voted in the old St. Dorothy’s site as the location. The board members each made a point of saying that they all supported a new senior center.
O’Connell made a point to say that any claims of the board members being cruel to the elderly were unfounded and unacceptable. She clarified that the special Town Meeting for the Wildwood is in accordance with the state’s timeline to be eligible for funding. Bendel agreed with O’Connell that communication should be more intentional going forward about both of these projects.
The board members also pointed out that the process for the new Wildwood building would be taking five to eight years and not beginning before the new senior center.
They received a memo from Senator Bruce Tarr about an act to allocate some American Rescue Plan Act funds for things like small business assistance, which Hull said would be helpful. Caira wondered if some funds could be moved around where they appear to be overlapping from what the town has already agreed to utilize.
They took no action on the town manager’s employment agreement.
However, they approved all the alcoholic beverages, billiard rooms, vehicle sales, common victualer licenses, and entertainment licenses requested for the town’s businesses. They also approved promoting an article for Town Meeting in April for a plaque naming the walking trail in Hathaway Acres in honor of John “Jack” Maguire.
The Salute to Service went out to U. S. Marine Corps Veteran Anthony J. Trimarchi, who served from 1967 through 1972 and passed away in November.
The board will next meet on Jan. 10, 2022.