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Selectmen Place Restrictions on Dog Kennel

Rochester Board of Selectmen

By Jean Perry

The owners of a dog kennel at 368 North Avenue will have to reduce the number of dogs at their kennel until they construct a proper building in which to house their breeding dogs after the Rochester Board of Selectmen decided September 15 how to handle the complaints of incessant barking that has created a nuisance within the neighborhood.

Liberal and Melinda Teixeira were ordered to reduce the number of dogs on their property from 16 to no more than six at a time within two weeks, while they comply with the board's requirement that the dogs be fully housed in an enclosed building within 90 days.

The Teixeras were not present at the meeting, but their attorney Robert Moore advocated to no avail on their behalf.

Town Counsel Blair Bailey, before a roomful of the Teixeras' neighbors, offered several options from which the board could choose to rectify the nuisance, with the board opting to reduce the number of dogs, demand a properly ventilated structure to house the dogs, limit the number of dogs outside at one time, and construct a solid fence for when the dogs go outside to control the noise and limit exposure to outside stimulants that can trigger the dogs to bark.

"They have to be kennel buildings," said Bailey. "These dogs are housed, and I use the word 'housed' loosely." He likened the existing kennel structure to a greenhouse of sorts. "Which, in my mind, is an echo chamber."

Bailey said he came up with his proposed solutions by looking into what other municipalities have imposed upon kennel owners under Massachusetts General Laws and existing case law.

Moore argued that the Teixeiras would need ample time to figure out the size of the mandated kennel structure, and he opposed the restriction on the number of dogs in the meantime.

When asked how many dogs are currently housed on the property, Moore said that while the Teixeiras had recently told him there were 16, he was unsure at that time.

"Where is she now?" asked one neighbor aloud about Ms. Teixeira's inability to answer the board's questions due to her absence from the meeting.

Moore requested another month to assess the building needs before selectmen placed any restrictions on the Teixeiras' kennel, but that request was denied.

"It doesn't make any sense for this board to do nothing," stated Bailey. "That's not fair. That's not fair to the neighbors." Bailey later said there have been further complaints about the dogs barking since the public hearing opened on August 25.

Blair told Moore that the Teixeiras could have all their dogs back on the property once the noise is mitigated, the structure is built, and the nuisance eradicated.

"They're certainly free to come back and amend the decision," Blair told Moore. "Because right now there's 16 and the situation is not good." Blair acknowledged the Teixeiras would likely appeal the board's decision and the matter could move forward to litigation.

Also during the meeting, Southeastern Regional Planning & Economical Development District (SRPEDD) Director of Municipal Management Ross Perry asked the Town of Rochester to join 14 other communities in an aggregation program to lower the cost of electricity while choosing the sources of electricity, green or otherwise.

Perry said the concept was three-pronged: to save money, stabilize energy prices long-term, and designate a percentage of green energy sources.

According to Perry, the aggregation program so far represents over 140,000 households from other towns, roughly 1.7 billion kilowatt hours.

"That makes us bigger than any large business in the area," stated Perry. He said residents could opt out of the agreement if they wanted to maintain their energy-purchasing status quo, which did not appear to fly with Selectman Naida Parker.

"Why would they have to opt out rather than opt in" asked Parker.

Perry explained that Town Meeting would vote on whether or not to join the aggregation program, which would include the whole town in the deal unless individual households wanted to opt out.

"I don't like to be told I have to get out of [something]," said Parker. She said she would like to see it be the other way around.

Perry explained, though, that consumers are already automatically "opted-in" with their energy sources through NSTAR. The aggregation program would, essentially, be a way for consumers to opt out of the price rate for the energy they receive today and seek a lower price rate through other sources.

"Nothing will change," said Perry, "other than the name on the [NSTAR] bill that says 'supplied by.'" NSTAR would continue to be the energy distributor and only the negotiated power supplier would change - along with, hopefully, cheaper electricity rates.

SRPEDD is close to narrowing down the contractor it will select to do the negotiating for the towns represented in the aggregation program, and John O'Rourke of Good Energy was on hand to explain his role further.

"We sit on your side of the table when it comes to putting out the RFP," said O'Rourke. He said this way, consumers in each town can get a better rate on their electricity and the company does all the outreach and education on behalf of the towns. "We take care of all that necessary work," said O'Rourke. "There's no cost to the Town." No cost, that is, except for a fraction of a cent per kWh per customer that would appear on electricity bills.

"We are the largest, most successful aggregation company in the country," said O'Rourke. He said each town would negotiate their own contract length from a "matrix of bids" the company would provide the towns, by term, and towns would decide on their own specific percentage of green energy sources.

"The larger the buying group, the better your negotiating power," said Perry.

The board considered an article for the Fall Special Town Meeting, but held off on making a decision until a special BOS meeting scheduled for September 22 to approve the Special Town Meeting warrant.

In a follow-up interview, Town Administrator Michael McCue said the aggregation plan did not appeal very much to selectmen because the Town has already entered into a contract to purchase some of its electricity from the a local wind energy source slated to be online in the coming months. The board will decide at its next meeting on September 22 at 6:30 pm in the Rochester Town Hall.

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