By Jesse Williams/Zip06.com • 05/26/2021 08:45 a.m. EST
In a both surreal and encouraging scene, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) gathered for the first time in-person at Town Campus for its regularly scheduled May 24 meeting—the first time all members had met together since late March 2020. First Selectman Peggy Lyons said the selectmen have opted not to wear masks as they have all been fully vaccinated at this point, and were separated six feet from the general public.
State guidance does not require masks for fully vaccinated individuals, but Lyons was also careful to caution members of the public who have not been fully vaccinated to continue wearing masks indoors.
The so-called “hybrid meeting,” which allowed attendance, comment, and participation from people at home as well as a limited number of the public to sit in the Hammonasset Room, went smoothly from a technical perspective, though making sure this happened required the attention of three or four town employees, as well as significant technology infrastructure, including two large mobile television screens.
With Town Services Coordinator Lauren Rhines supervising and hosting the meeting remotely as she has throughout the pandemic, there were additionally three other staff members operating camera equipment and troubleshooting for officials as the meeting streamed virtual and in-person components live on both Zoom and YouTube.
Rhines said there were seven members of the public attending virtually, and only one member of the public signed up to join the meeting in-person.
Lyons has previously said staffing and technology infrastructure will likely be a challenge going forward if the town’s numerous boards and commissions all want to operate in a similar fashion. The Board of Finance plans to hold hybrid meetings in the near future, while the Board of Education has said they will likely wait until later in the summer to meet in-person.
Town Campus is also open five days a week without an appointment beginning this week.
A “paving study” undertaken last year has revealed some significant, urgent needs in regards to roads that are falling into disrepair around Madison, with 32 needing “major rehabilitation” and three of those bordering on unsafe, according to Town Engineer John Ienacco.
Madison’s “road surface rating,” which Ianacco said measures the overall quality of pavement and surface, is overall up slightly over the last eight years, but with a handful of roads falling behind.
The town budgeted capital funds amounting to around $1 million over the last two years for “major roads” in town, but Lyons said she hopes to use some of last year’s budget surplus to get to work sooner on a couple of the more urgent needs.
That would require approval by the Board of Finance, which already shifted some of that surplus earlier to address needs in Madison’s fleet of vehicles.
Fixing those 32 lowest rated roads could require a complete replacement of the pavement, and costs about $28 per square foot, Ienacco said.
Lyons made the point that the same fund used for paving also funds larger projects like bridge repairs, which the town also must address based on the same study, although those projects might be eligible for some state grant money.
“These are roads that are used by a lot of people in town, and yet we’re not going to be able to get some of these roads done this year,” Lyons said.
There are three roads, including Race Hill Road, that Ienacco said might be fixable without a full replacement if the town acts soon, and Lyons cited Scotland Avenue as another she felt was in urgent need of being addressed.
Director of Planning and Economic Development Dave Anderson has resigned to take another job in the private sector, according to First Selectman Peggy Lyons, and the town is looking to possibly shift some of his responsibilities around across multiple other positions going forward.
Anderson will be leaving the town in June after almost a decade, Lyons said.
Human Resources Director Deb Milardo said that the town planner role, which Anderson was originally hired for about a decade ago, would be “refocused,” and other responsibilities would be spread across a new environmental planner position (already budgeted) as well as a potential economic development role that Madison would share with Guilford.
“Dave supported this path, and quite frankly a lot of towns are reversing direction,” Milardo said. “They are now carving that back out…We’re kind of in the same path as many of our neighbors are already.”
Anderson supported numerous boards and commissions, and Milardo said she did not imagine the new position or positions would be expected to carry as many of those responsibilities as he had.
The new economic development position could create some savings, Milardo said, as those conversations with Guilford remain ongoing.