2013 In The Rearview Mirror

Well folks, 2013 was a really great year for me. I retired from a corporate job where for two decades, I had the pleasure of working with some really wonderful men and women in the electrical industry while slogging it out with mandates from headquarters that frankly were hard to fathom, never mind put in practice. And then – TADA – I found my way to The Wanderer. A whole new world of experiences and people has populated my days and many evenings, while educating me on the small town democratic process. I’ve met some incredibly dedicated, community-oriented people whose passion for Mattapoisett, its health, and wellbeing are part of their everyday existence.

Our highway and sewer departments work hard for us. Our schoolteachers are some of the best in the state. We have boards and commissions charged with protection of wetlands, property owners’ rights, financial well-being, history, agriculture, our senior citizens, our veterans, and even our pets, and they do so with a clear eye on what is best for all concerned!

We have a governmental infrastructure built from the inside out by good people wanting to do good things for the good of the community. Can I get a witness? Yes, this past year I’ve watched with increasing interest and appreciation how our town works and honestly, it’s pretty smooth overall. Remember that gold star we achieved for fiduciary competence! Three cheers for us and our Triple A bond rating.

As I was chatting with a lady recently, she said she equates living in Mattapoisett to being in a bubble. Not in a bad way mind you, but for her, living in this town means a safe, clean, beautiful environment – something she feels very lucky and happy about. She said that when she and her husband travel to other places, they are always happy to return to the ‘Bubble’. I understand where she is coming from – I rather feel that way myself.

Keeping life inside the Bubble comfortable and harmonious takes a lot of hard work. From all the good people working at town hall, who we depend upon to keep our fiscal life and licenses in order, to the fire and police personnel whose jobs protect our homes, businesses, our very lives –  it is not be to taken for granted. As retired police Officer F. Mitch Suzan said, “Mattapoisett is a small town that still has big city problems.” That we can go through our days basically feeling safe and protected while such issues ebb and flow around us is a measure of the security we enjoy, dare I say, inside the Bubble?

It’s not that we aren’t impacted by the world outside, on the contrary. This town and its residents are fully aware of trouble(s) and work hard to maintain a social fabric and community on a high note to keep everyone in town as safe as possible, while enjoying a pleasant lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with that. But we aren’t immune, and we do understand darkness can befall us at any time.

Next year our kids and the school systems will be learning new tactics for personal safety through the ALICE protocol. From sheltering in place to looking for opportunities to flee, our young people under the guidance of trained leaders will learn new ways to feel empowered during emergency situations.

There will be financial challenges ahead as well. State cutbacks in education funds will impact our schools. Administrators will be tasked with finding ways to continue to serve our children to the best of their abilities, but with less cash flow. While this is happening, our educators will also be following state orders to participate in a pilot program for new baseline testing. That, coupled with ongoing use of MCAS, can only make the day in the life of a teacher harder than ever. Who knows what the state will eventually decide to do in terms of measuring and monitoring the educational achievements and needs of our children. I hate to think it might come down to a conversation on a golf course somewhere, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Whatever happens, our schools will have to adhere and our teachers and the administrators will do their best to lead our students towards excellence.

Buzzards Bay Coalition, in partnership with Mattapoisett and surrounding towns, will continue their work protecting our waterways and aquifer that are absolutely vital to our continued existence as we know it today. They made great strides towards acquiring more land adjacent to the Nasketucket Bay State Reservation in 2013. A round of applause, please.

Open Space Committee members will be watching and working on ways to also keep lands critical to our seaside lifestyle clean and free from commercial development that might otherwise damage what we love so much about Mattapoisett. As residents, we readily vote at town meeting for measures that work in concert with these organizations. While Mattapoisett struggles to find ways to increase revenue through some development projects, these groups will be working to insure such projects won’t destabilize the peaceful environmental harmony. Light commercial development should be a good thing for the town and provide the residents with easy access to goods and services. I hope that is reasonable and acceptable to all the influencers involved with decisions impacting development.

The cleanliness of our sidewalks and streets was a big issue in 2013. In spite of the public’s consensus that Mattapoisett is Special (as in Bubble-like), sidestepping and skipping was sometimes needed while taking a walk. Dog owners felt the heat for being less than hygienic by leaving behind what came out of their dogs’ behinds. The conversation did increase awareness, and for the short term, things did get better. The town even funded several new doggie rest stations with bags and trash receptacles. Wonderful. I am sad to report, however, that since we are now well into winter darkness there has been a modest increase in uncollected piles. So if you walk after dark, make sure your flashlight doesn’t leave the ground immediately in front of you. Consider yourself warned. My observation is that we can’t blame the day-tripper or summer visitor for allowing their dogs to foul our byways. The enemy is most likely within.

The Bike Path and all those who have worked so hard to link to other communities via this safe passage made good progress this year. There were concerns around intersections with roads and conversations about best ways to increase bike riders’ understanding and adherence to rules, while also making motorists approaching these tender spots more aware. That work goes on. But the YMCA camp property transfer was a big leap forward for the project. Once all is said and done, we can stand tall that, in spite of what at times seemed like insurmountable problems, the Bike Path devotees achieved quite a great deal. Now if the issue of parking can be resolved along Brandt Island and Mattapoisett Neck Roads, our bike path will be a favored place to go.

The Recreation Department, with the help of the Community Preservation Committee, was finally able to get the tennis courts fixed. In the new year, work at the site near Center School will be completed. It’s good to see our tax dollars at work fixing a spot that had been an eye sore for much too long. I’m looking forward to learning how to play shuffle ball and bocce ball and glad for those choices given that tennis is way too vigorous a sport for yours truly.

Alternative energy was a big story in 2013 and will continue to be so in 2014. With two solar projects now approved along the entrance to the landfill and planned to encompass many acres of woodlands near Shady Oak Road/Drive, we don’t have a bylaw for these types of projects.  Wind turbines such as those in Fairhaven might never find their way into Mattapoisett, but you never know. Considering that many believe that the way of the future and the needs of the town require the use of non-fossil funded energy sources, we may wish to consider some zoning laws while we can.

There were the light and lively moments around our fair town with Harbor Days, vintage car gatherings, movies in Shipyard Park, 4th of July road race, a triathlon, boat races and parades. There was also the very sad event of saying goodbye to a fallen solider, Lance Corporal Matthew Rodriguez. Residents came out in force to wait along Route 6, flags in hand, expressing collective grief and support to his family and gratitude for his service.

None of us can see into the future, but we can all work together to make 2014 a good one. Here’s to remembering the fallen, thanking the people who keep things running along on course, contributing where and when we can, and taking the time to enjoy this special place – Mattapoisett.

By Marilou Newell

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