Crossings, Happy Hours, and Harbormasters

Mattapoisett’s Board of Selectmen swiftly dispatched all “action items” on the night’s agenda which included: Common Victualler License for Lion’s Club July Harbor Days event, acceptance of resignation from Barbara Sullivan as member of Old Colony School Committee, and a vote to approve Special State Elections to be held at Old Hammondtown School on April 30 from 7am to 8pm. Selectmen then tackled the night’s appointments, hearings, and reports.

First up were representatives from the engineering firm Fay, Spofford and Thorndike to discuss the latest innovations in crosswalk warning devices. Town Administrator Michael Gagne had invited the firm to detail for the Board the latest in crosswalk warning devices. FST is well positioned to assist towns in these matters with a portfolio noting such services as highways and bridges; transportation facility planning; municipal assistance, outdoor recreational and waterfront facilities, and transit systems.

Douglas Prentiss, Senior Principal Engineer of Transportation with the FST described a new “rapid flashing beacon,” a warning device that transmits a brilliant and highly visible set of alternating flashes, which alerts drivers to pedestrians in a crosswalk they are approaching.

“Drivers aren’t paying close attention to mid-block crosswalks,” Prentiss said. These devices are 88 percent effective in alerting the driver giving them ample opportunity to slow down and or stop. He said the device had been approved by the DOT in August 2012, but as of yet had not been deployed into practical application.

Mattapoisett has two midblock crossroads on state road Route 6, or County Road: 1) Barstow Street and 2) Pearl Street, both of which are poorly marked. Mike Delaney of FST said that one of the biggest problems at these two locations was the acceleration rate of motorists after stopping at a traffic light, increasing the danger to pedestrians.

Both Chief Mary Lyons of the Mattapoisett Police, Safety Officer Justin King and Barry Denham of the Highway Department were on hand to ask questions of the engineers. King shared that one device is currently being tested on a state road in Sandwich. He went on to say that in his conversation with the DOT they seem to want uniformity throughout the state. Denham said that the state won’t even allow the town to re-paint the crosswalks and improve their effectiveness. There was a general feeling that Massachusetts DOT was nonresponsive to issues associated with crosswalks on State roadways.

Selectman Collyer said, “We’ve already had one death, how much more compelling a case is needed!” Delaney of FST said that the federal government had already approved the devices, as had the state, so it shouldn’t be difficult to approach the DOT on permits for the installation at the noted location.

The price tag for each unit is approximately $20,000, which would be funded by the state but maintained by the town. Considering the costs associated it was decided that Lyons, King, Denham and Gagne would approach DOT Division 5 in an investigatory manner and get a determination as to whether or not they would permit an application for use.

Chief Lyons then remained front and center with her revisions to an outdated set of Rules and Regulations for establishments dispensing alcoholic beverages. Lyons said that presently it is very hard to enforce any rules given the lack of full detailed regulations. One sticking point that will need further work is the clause associated with noise. Presently the town does not have any laws restricting noise and several board members were concerned that existing establishments might be negatively impacted by those clauses as currently written. All applauded Lyons work and accepted the document for further review, including town counsel. It is planned to have the regulations completed before the December license renewal period.

Harbormaster Horace Field came to the table next with Allen Gillis, Chairman of the Marine Advisory Board, to discuss new hire opportunities and succession planning. After Gagne thanked Field for coming forward and providing the town with exemplary service they got down to the business of the job description for harbormaster. Gagne said the job description was done and would include details such as: part-time position, 912 hours per year primarily between May and September, necessity for applicants to be certified for 6 passenger water craft and within two years of hire, certified Massachusetts Criminal Justice Officer. The position would not offer health benefits. Gagne said the job would be posted immediately in the hope of finding a qualified candidate to work with Fields during the upcoming season.

Gillis said that the advisory board would like to be part of the selection process. He also said that possibly cadets from Mass Maritime could be hired on as interns for the season supplementing their education and the town’s need for sea-worthy personal to assist the Harbormaster. It was agreed that cadets would be invited to apply for seasonal work.

Next on the agenda was the issue of improving the documentation for Town Hall employees taking leave. Currently the system isn’t working well leaving the administrator with poor visibility as to who is working and who may not be available at any given time. Selectman Silva said, “I can’t believe we are having this conversation in the 21st century.” All agreed that an electronic system would give the town better analytics for workflow, time use, and accumulated time. Gagne received the board’s support to move forward into discussion with department heads.

Finally Gagne reported that the town has received four formal bids for the proposed landfill photovoltaic project. He was confident that the project will move forward given the interest demonstrated by the bids submitted.

Gagne also noted that the Town Meeting warrant should be available for public review sometime next week.

The board then went into executive session regarding preparation for upcoming negotiations with both union and non-union personnel.


By Marilou Newell

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