As I write this, we are experiencing a work period that is quieter than what we expected. Right now, we should be preparing several reports for the Department of Revenue Administration, all due within 20 days following the Town Meeting. However, that activity is on hold thanks to Winter Storm Sage.
In accordance with RSAs 669:1 and 669:1-a, Andover and over 70 other towns postponed Town Meetings to March 28. By law, that weighty decision is up to the Town Moderator. Andover Town Moderator Stuart Green solicited input from the Select Board and department heads. He and the other officials considered safety of the public while reviewing weather briefings provided by the National Weather Service. They decided with power outages expected and no generator at the school, as well as a forecast of heavy snow, high winds, and hazardous driving conditions, postponing was the safest option. Hopefully most of our residents agreed.
Meanwhile, recent dumps of snow highlighted a seasonal shortcoming of the Town Offices / Library building. As required by law, all doors marked “Exit”, also known as egress doors, must be maintained free and clear so that people can quickly and easily exit the building in an emergency.
If you have a metal roof on your home, you know snow coming off it can move with speed, sometimes without warning, and compacts quickly where it lands. The design of the Town Offices / Library building has three egress doors located right in the path of roof snow, including the handicap ramp. Also, one of the egress doors is not accessible by the public and all of the office staff. In these regards, the design of the building is not ideal. We will continue to try to clear away snow as quickly as possible whenever it falls or releases from the roof. Meanwhile, these shortcomings were discussed at a recent Select Board meeting and are now on the radar.
Very recently, another new issue popped up on the radar! In February, I placed a charcoal radon test kit in the basement and then sent it in for analysis. This week, the shocking results were received. The basement measured at 32.0 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). The EPA recommends taking corrective action for radon levels between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L. We are well above that! We have arranged for qualified radon mitigation contractors to visit the building, confirm the problem, and then advise on permanent corrective actions to take.
Meanwhile, we are actively planning for a temporary closure of the Town Offices with some staff working from home and some working from a temporary office trailer. Our goals in these efforts are simple: To limit exposure to the building for our staff and the public, while also continuing to provide municipal services
The Transfer Station is also on the radar. During visits to the Transfer Station, I observed and experienced the challenges of opening the door to the office on very windy days. Speaking with the staff, it was agreed the door needed to be reoriented so that it would not get yanked open by the strong west wind. The Select Board supported that idea and a modification will be made.
The staff also shared their thoughts and concerns regarding a side door in the recycling building. It has a particularly tricky raised threshold with different single step heights inside and out. Stepping in and out of the building demands great care and attention. This too was discussed at a recent Select Board meeting and is now on the radar.
We have Zoom capabilities once again for our meetings. The new equipment we have is quite capable of providing Zoom support of meetings with high definition video. However, the Zoom video quality is stepped down as we have the Pro Plan which only costs $150 per year. To get full HD quality video, we would need to get the Business Plan which costs $2,000 per year. So, being frugal for now, we’ll stick with the Pro Plan and see how many residents Zoom into the meetings. If it gets popular, then we can talk about upgrading. It’ll stay on the radar.
What else is on the radar? Records! Before I even accepted the Town Administrator role, I knew records management was going to be a critically important focus of the job. During my second interview, I was given a tour of the building. Seeing the basement, I knew immediately that the town needed to put a lot of time and effort towards the proper retention, preservation, and disposition of its municipal records. This spring, we will kick off that effort starting with RSA 33-A:3. We will create the required committee that will govern the disposition of municipal records. We will move forward from there.
Of course, the Town Website is certainly on the radar. We will continue to work on improving it. When it becomes the first place people look for information instead of the second, third, or ninth place, I’ll know we’re on the right track.
Please email me at email@example.com if you have any comments, suggestions, or wish to volunteer your services to the Town in some way. Until then, happy spring!