The Wanderer - Mobile Edition

MATTAPOISETT SELECTMEN'S MEETING

Bikes, Buoys, And Roads

Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen

By Marilou Newell

On the evening of June 21, the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen discussed the issue of bike safety, once again finding it hard to reach a consensus on the best course of action to take to improve the bike path crossings at Mattapoisett Neck and Brandt Island Roads.

Police Chief Mary Lyons said her research was incomplete but that the combination of bikers not stopping at the crossings and motorists traveling too fast was lethal. She had found that some cities and towns use a gate system that forces the bicyclists to slow down and/or stop as well as pedestrian crossing cones that gave motorists a visual cue to slow down. But that latter suggestion made Selectman Tyler Macallister comment, "The root of the problem is that people are not stopping," referring to the bicyclists not the motorists.

Lyons thought that a committee should be used to weigh all the options and provide some clarity to the issue.

There ensued a 20-minute, sometimes tense discussion that included bike path chairman Steve Kelleher, longtime advocate and prime mover of bike path projects Bonne DeSousa, and Highway Surveyor Barry Denham, along with Lyons and the Board of Selectmen.

Macallister referred to bicyclists as "your people" when addressing a point to Kelleher. That caused DeSousa to point out to him that it is the entire public at risk and not a group belonging to Kelleher.

DeSousa also offered, "A complete street policy would help to get new funds." She believed that those funds could be used to improve safety at the crossings.

DeSousa also said that more education was necessary beyond simply showing the children how to put on a bike helmet. She said that the state Department of Transportation has a program called "Safe Routes to School Programs" from which the town might benefit.

However, Denham said that "...it's a grant we tried to get twice in my ten years as the highway supervisor, but the schools have to apply for it, not the town. The schools don't want to do it because it doesn't benefit schools directly."

It seemed that once again an impasse stalled efforts to fix a problem everyone at the table agreed existed.

In the end, it was decided that a committee consisting of Denham, a representative from the police department, and a representative from the bike path committee would bring back concrete options for improving the crossings. They are expected to return to the July Board of Selectmen meeting with their findings.

In another area of safety - boat safety - Harbormaster Jill Simmons came before the selectmen to discuss the disestablishment of buoys and other navigational aids proposed by the USCG as mandated by the federal government.

Simmons said that at least one of the four markers proposed for removal from Mattapoisett Harbor had to be kept, adding that, "Depending on what they take out, we'll have to put back," at a cost to the town.

Simmons will draft an impact letter to the USCG who is asking for local feedback as they try to implement budget cutbacks. Simmons will pen the letter as part of her work with the Buzzards Bay Task Force and asked for the town's support. Support was granted. Simmons will keep the selectmen informed moving forward.

Denham then came before the board to discuss the new gas line installations that have been ongoing throughout town. He said it was a complicated and slow process to remove the 100-year-old gas lines, but once complete "We'll be good for another one hundred years."

Denham also presented the selectmen with a report listing the condition of every public roadway in the town. He said of the 46 miles of public access roads, 74 roads were in good condition, 12 in fair condition, and 45 in poor condition. Denham said that the village street improvements would cost approximately $1 million dollars per mile and that there were 4.5 miles in that category.

Town Administrator Michael Gagne reported that the TIP (state transportation improvement program) vote was taken and that Mattapoisett was slated for funding for village street improvements in 2021. The selectmen agreed that Gagne should prepare a RFQ for engineering services in advance of the fall town meeting so that Mattapoisett could be ready with the 25 percent engineered drawings required by the program.

The selectmen also approved the transfer of $68,983 to cover various year-end overages from wages to legal services to snow and ice expenses.

Also meeting with the selectmen was John Foggerty regarding his proposal to place a food truck at the town beach for the summer.

After some discussion on the viability of the location to support a business, appropriate lease costs, and safety issues, Foggerty was asked to return with an updated proposal showing hours and days of operation. The selectmen agreed that the town beach location was less desirable than the town wharf location, with Macallister saying, "The Slip is the primo spot; the two locations are not on a par with each other." It was disclosed that the Ice Cream Slip pays the town $2,000 per season for the wharf location that includes easy access to electrical service and water. It was suggested that a fee of $500 per month for a trial period was acceptable for the town beach location.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen is scheduled for July 19 at the new time of 6:30 pm for the July and August 16 meetings.

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