Town Explores New Loader

Members of the Highway Department, Financial Committee and Board of Selectmen are looking into replacing the Highway Department’s loader in the near future after the current one suffered severe maintenance problems last week. The new loader was discussed at the Selectmen’s regular meeting on Tuesday, December 11.

According to Highway Supervisor Barry Denham, the loader was spewing water out of its cooling system. Upon a mechanical investigation, the diagnosis is a potential blown head gasket, which would require major maintenance to replace costing around $22,000. Right now, the current loader is only valued at about $18,000.

“The loader is the biggest piece of equipment we’ve got,” said Denham.

The loader truck is used for a variety of tasks around town including plowing snow, loading sand trucks, loading sand and gravel, grading dirt roads and pulling the floats out of the water at the wharf. Denham estimates the loader sees approximately 600 work hours per year, averaging a nearly daily use. The maximum amount of hours for a loader’s life is 10,000.

“We really need a machine of this capacity because of its component in snow-related activities,” said Town Administrator Michael Gagne.

Denham researched three possible replacements for the loader which ranged in price from $144,700 to $154,570. The recommended truck was the Caterpillar model, which has a price tag of $147,000.

A piece of equipment with such a large price tag usually requires a vote at Spring Town Meeting. However, due to the timeliness of the situation with an impending winter, the committees want to act on replacing the truck quickly.

“Soon came sooner than we had expected,” said Gagne. “We thought we were going to have to do this at the May Town Meeting.”

It is not feasible to buy a new machine right now, as the money would have to come from the Reserve Fund. As it stands, there is $61,000 in the Reserve Fund that could be used for leasing a truck. Denham said a five-year lease with the Caterpillar truck would cost $31,301.76 per year. A monthly lease would cost $2,700.

Representatives from all three committees will meet on Tuesday, December 18 to further discuss the best options for this investment.

In other news, the Board met with Police Chief Mary Lyons and Town Treasurer Brenda Herbeck to further discuss the privilege sticker situation for the upcoming summer. Two weeks ago, the Board rejected a plan that would mandate town residents to purchase a dual placard that would be valid for both beach parking and landfill parking. The Board rejected it because they felt it was unfair and unnecessary to mandate residents to pay for both facilities if they are not used.

Herbeck informed the Selectmen that the Board of Health has declined to join in on this project for fear that they would be losing money.

“We are back to square one with just coming up with a new way to do the parking,” said Herbeck.

The Board revisited the dual-permit and Selectman Paul Silva estimated that nearly 1,000 residents would have to pay for the use of the landfill when they wouldn’t normally be paying for it. The Board agreed making the dual-permit was not the best decision.

“What we’re looking for here is some clear-cut rules,” said Herbeck.

Selectman Jordan Collyer suggested meeting with the Board of Health to get them back on board with the project. Then, the three groups would sit down and discuss fair pricing options. Collyer hopes to make a ruling on this by the end of January, with an announcement in the town excise tax mailings to follow.

Grant King, a representative from the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) met with the Board of Selectmen to discuss possible changes to the maps for the South Coast Rail Community Priority Area.

Five years ago, the maps were created in order to define the development and protection areas for each of the 27 cities in town in SRPEDD’s coverage area.

“Five years is a fairly long time, especially with fiscal terms,” said King. “We want to allow you to make adjustments.”

SRPEDD will be holding a public workshop in town in the winter for a day to be determined, and is inviting the public to come out and share their input as to whether or not the maps should be changed.

“It’s classical top-down planning, so it’s up to us to make sure the map is the way we want it and not the way that the state creates it,” said Conservation Commission member and SRPEDD Commissioner Bob Rogers.

Residents can review the SRPEDD maps on the town’s website prior to the public workshop. The maps are available at After the public workshop, SRPEDD will revisit the town at the end of the fiscal year on June 30 to review any changes. After all changes are made, the town will be asked to endorse the map.

The Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen will meet again Tuesday, January 8 in Mattapoisett Town Hall.

By Katy Fitzpatrick

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