Patricia Donoghue, Chairman of the Mattapoisett Finance Committee, opened the annual spring town meeting with a health report on the town’s finances. While noting the hard work of the FinCom members, department heads, Capital Planning Committee and the leadership of Town Administrator Mike Gagne, she also expressed deep concerns.
Donoghue said that it was FinCom’s responsibility to warn the town of potential risks, namely possible mismanagement of ORR’s finances. She said that when the cyber theft was finally brought to light two years after it occurred, it signaled a lack of full disclosure and good communication between the school’s administration and the Tri-Town governments. She went on to say that over the last several years, the school’s reserve funds had been tapped by ORR administrators to balance their annual budgets.
“Several years ago there had been some reserve funds set aside, but we found that ORR has been using the reserve funds for operating budgets instead of emergencies,” she stated. This year, $325,000 was being asked for out of the reserve. “The school committee was going to decrease that amount by $100,000 but the administration did not do that,” she told the audience. Regarding the OPEB needs of ORR, she said that zero monies have been put aside with a looming $10 million price tag.
She said that FinCom is recommending the development of a committee to help work more closely with ORR in an effort to have greater visibility into the handling of school finances. Mattapoisett is responsible for approximately 35 percent of the ORR overall budget. ORR budget had been reduced based on declining student enrollment.
Donoghue concluded by saying that although the town has worked diligently to repair roadways, recently the severity of the deterioration in roadbeds in many locations has been discovered, which will drive up the cost of repairs. She advised the residents not to expect repairs to be completed in the village area anytime soon. NSTAR has agreed to make gas line repairs when the roads are opened for sewer and water upgrades.
Then the town got down to the business of the warrant articles. There wasn’t a single contested item, and although some clarifications were asked for, all articles except one passed smoothly.
Defeated Article 35 was a ‘Citizens Petition – Sewer Connection Antassawamock.’ Having declined on the opportunity to tie into the sewer when it was first being constructed in the area, the property owners have benefited from a lower tax rate, assessor Kathleen Costello informed the people. Also the petitioner, who was unnamed in the article, would not be able to tie into the sewer unless additional capacity was available. Several townspeople felt that it wasn’t fair to other residents who have borne the brunt of sewer betterments to ask belatedly for this consideration, especially given that the petitioner was neither present nor had a representative at the meeting.
Also of interest was the approval of all funds needed by the bike path committee to complete 25 percent of engineering plans as required by MASS DOT before state grants and funds would be made available.
Article #1: Elected Officers’ Compensation (no funding required) – Moderator/$215, Board of Selectmen Chairman/$3990, Board of Selectmen members/$350, Assessors/$3570, Town Clerk/$53,658, Board of Health/$435, Highway Surveyor/$72,629, Mattapoisett School Committee members/$435, Water-Sewer Commissioners/$435, Tree Warden/$7915, Herring Inspector/$805. Carried
Article #2: General Operating Budget – $22,538,028. Carried
Article #3: Appropriate for OPEB Liabilities – $297,720. Carried
Article #4: Amend ORR Assessment Stabilization Fund to Include Voke and Aggie Assessment Reserves. Carried
Article #5: Appropriation to School Assessment Stabilization Fund – $190,000. Carried
Article #6: Departmental Revolving Fund Authorization. Carried
Article #7: GASB 45 Audit Funds – $7500. Carried
Article #8: Phase IV Town Road Improvement Plan Funding – $200,000 borrowed money. Carried
Chuck McCullough, Chairman of the Capital Planning Committee, introduced the articles associated with his committee, noting that capital planning is a very “fluid” process and that the new Fire Station was the most critical item in the next few years.
Article #10: Capital Plan Funding – #4 fire engine/$15,000, police cruiser/$35,000, Library window repair/$7000, rebuilding fire engine #2/ $135,000, police ambulance/$175,000, parking improvement at tennis courts/$18,500, playground repairs OHT and Center Schools, town beach swim raft/$10,000, town equipment repairs and replacement/$17,400, completion of road signs/$22,000. Carried
Article #11: Cyclical Annual Property Revaluation – $35,000. Carried
Article #12: Sick Leave Buyout Appropriation – $10,000. Carried
Article #13: Zoning Map Change – this housekeeping matter was to correct numbering on FEMA documents required by FEMA. Carried
Article #14: Storm Hazard Mitigation Grant Match – $7,500. Carried
Article #15: Allocation of Revenues Community Preservation Act – budget reserve $99,000. Carried
Article #16: CPA Funding – Bike Path Engineering – $39,000. Carried
Article #17: CPA Funding – Nasketucket Bay Protection Project – $96,000 with $50,000 from stabilization funds to purchase 400 acres. Carried
Article #18: CPA Funding – Preservation, Restoration and Rehabilitation to Town Piers – $49,000 to start the work that will take additional funds over five or six years. Carried
Article #19: CPA Funding – Preservation, Restoration and Rehabilitation to the Town Beach House – $50,000 of total costs of $200,000. Carried
Article #20: CPA Funding – Center School Tot Lot – $55,000. Carried
Article #21: CPA Funding – Barlow Cemetery Fence Replacement – $3,672. Carried
Article #22: CPA Funding – Historic Records Preservation – $16,000 for town records, deeds, and historical artifacts that need to be cataloged at the Mattapoisett Historical Society Museum. Carried
Article #23: Sewer Reserve Account – $10,000. Carried
Article #24: Water Reserve Account – $10,000. Carried
Article #25: Water Meter Replacement Funding – $250,000. Carried
Article #26: Waste Water Treatment Capacity Increase. Carried
Article #27: Waste Water Treatment Capacity Increase – $200,000; the sewer master plan demonstrates a need to increases capacity to take care of demand over the next 20 years. Carried
Article #28: Authorization to Sell Property presently owned by the town for the water and sewer department. Carried
Article #29: Vehicle Replacement – $30,000 from Water and Sewer for half-ton four-wheel drive truck. Carried
Article #30: Water Service and Appurtenance Replacement and Upgrade Marion Road – $315,000 to fix a 90-year old system. Carried
Article #31: Acceptance of a Gift of Land and Easement from YMCA for bike path. Carried
Article #32: Adoption of Personnel Schedules. Carried
Article #33: Bike Path Perfection and Amendment of Easement created in 1973. Carried
Article #34: Acceptance of an Easement – allows the Board of Selectmen to sit and discuss the easement and the taking of land with McIntire and Mahoney families. Carried
Special Town Meeting: Article #1: Additional Funding Bike Path Engineering. Carried; and Article #2: Reserve Fund Supplemental Appropriation to fix a broken snow plow. Carried
By Marilou Newell