As the town nears its spring Town Meeting, Mattapoisett’s Finance Committee is closing in on the 2015 budget. During their April 2 meeting, committee members received a special visit from Bonnie DeSousa of the Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path and Steve Kelleher, Chairman of the Bike Path Committee. They also reviewed those areas of the budget directly managed by Town Administrator Michael Gagne.
The two hard-driving advocates for the Mattapoisett Bike Path met with committee members to outline their successes thus far and to discuss the fast-approaching deadline to complete mandated ‘to do’ items. Gagne noted that because of DeSousa’s and Kelleher’s hard work, arduous and complicated documentation and state requirements have been handled.
“…the amount of effort these two people have put towards this project is phenomenal…” Gagne stated.
Gagne went on to say how lucky Mattapoisett was to have these individuals spearheading this massively time-consuming project. Kelleher has been at it for nearly 15 years.
During that time, many state and local departments, environmental agencies, and layered requirements have changed. Thus, it has been all the more difficult to get things done.
However, after recently completing rounds of meetings with as many as 20 agencies, DeSousa and Kelleher have finally been able to rein in solid information to present to the Finance Committee on what exactly is needed and when.
First and foremost, the Town of Mattapoisett needs to pony up approximately $110,000 to complete the design work for the bike path segment from Mattapoisett Neck Road to Depot Street. They said that CPA is earmarking $39,000 of that sum for the design work, but the balance will have to come from the town coffers. This design work must be completed, or state funding will not be made available to Mattapoisett. Should voters fail to accept this request, the project is likely to stall as is for many years to come.
“Time is of the essence,” DeSousa said. The window to secure state funds closes May 15, and right now Mattapoisett is in the catbird seat.
Of the 1,000 miles of proposed bike path in the state, 20 of the top 100 priority miles situated along the south coast bike way are in Mattapoisett. However, in order to secure state funds that are ready to flow into town, a design for this next phase must be submitted. DeSousa and Kelleher are ready, but they need the cash to finish this stage of work.
“We need to go to town meeting with an end date,” DeSousa said, sharing that if everything falls into place, construction could begin in the fall of 2015. They told the committee that when everything is said and done, the fully completed bike path will cost nearly $3 million – a sum gathered from state, local, and fundraising sources. The requested funds will be part of a special town meeting warrant.
In other business, Gagne reviewed specific sections of the working budget model. Those sections with their estimated figures were: debt exclusion – $1,331,953; cherry sheet – $1,140,446; fund transfers – $670,777; and local receipts – $1,548,720. In the category of local receipts, motor vehicle excise taxes come in at a whopping $825,000, followed by licenses and permits at $290,000.
A deeper dive into the budget found modest salary increases possible for part-time departmental clerical staff. Gagne also directed the committee’s attention to the need for a budget increase to offset increases in water usage from restroom facilities at Ned’s Point, town beach and the wharves. He is also seeking additional conservative funds for improvements needed for accessibility to the bathhouse on town beach. Total town government general expenses are expected to increase $33,029 from the estimated 2014 total of $1,233,792. Again, this is a work in progress and requires additional fine-tuning before it is presented to the selectmen on April 16.
On April 9 at 6:30 pm, the Mattapoisett Finance Committee will meet with CPA Chairman John DeCosta, Water Department Superintendent Nick Nicholson, Capital Planning Committee Chairman Chuck McCullough, and Police Chief Mary Lyons. Chief Lyons is returning to respond to and clarify some issues raised during a previous session with the Finance Committee.
By Marilou Newell