Cease and Desist Demanded – Again

It could have been a quick in and out for the Mattapoisett Planning Board on March 16 with the one agenda item – changes to a Form C approval issued to Michael Solimando for the Appaloosa Lane subdivision – again continued until April 6. There wasn’t any other business to speak of, but other topics did come up and passions were flamed as soon as Chairman Tom Tucker addressed the four people in attendance and asked if there was any other business.

Paul Osenkowski of 8 Oaklawn Avenue raised his hand and began an emotional appeal that included a demand that the board order work to stop on the Brandt Island Road subdivision.

This is not the first time Osenkowski has attempted to have construction stopped at this permitted subdivision. He said that although the Planning Board mandated that work be completed on Phase I before any work was started on Phase II, the entire site has been clear-cut.

“There was a big rain in December … the water was flowing down the street, not into the (engineered) retention ponds,” said Osenkowski. “The catch basins are too high; this is a disaster in the making that is all going to flow into the cove.”

Pointing to Planning Board member Karen Field he said, “It’s all going to end up in your back yard, Karen!” He continued, “They haven’t followed the rules.” He said that the Planning Board had asked the developer to complete roadwork in the subdivision before continuing on with Phase II, but instead all the wooded area had been cleared now making rain events disastrous.

Mattapoisett Highway Surveyor Barry Denham presented the board with a series of photos he took at the site during one of his nearly weekly inspections of the work in progress. Although those images were not shown to the public in attendance, the expressions on the board members faces spoke volumes.

“They got 15 to 20 acres of land that has been clear cut, instead of selective pruning,” said Denham. As they looked at the images Denham said, “It was quite a logging operation. They took a lot of good wood out of there.”

The board members appeared visually stunned by the photographic evidence.

Field asked if there was a new owner. No one on the board was able to answer her question.

“We did meet with the owners (approximately two months ago). They were supposed to put a top coat on the side streets,” said board member Ronald Merlo. “There was a cease and desist and a check-list.” He also said that the Conservation Commission had given the developer an Order of Conditions that must have included hay bales to keep solid material runoff from entering the saltwater cove.

“This is going to be an ecological disaster for the town,” said Osenkowski. He was thanked for his input.

Also during the meeting, resident Bonne DeSousa asked the board about next steps in the public hearing planned for bylaw changes. She had sent her comments directly to the board members via email.

The board read her comments silently with Tucker saying it was the first time he had seen them. DeSousa said she wanted an informed conversation about the suggested bylaw changes offered by Brad Saunders, a representative of The Bay Club – changes that are now being sponsored by the Planning Board.

DeSousa said she want to understand what it means to “put cluster zoning in the business district.”

“I’d like to hear about how duplex housing fits for the town,” DeSousa said. She also questioned the impact this type of residence would have on property taxes. Tucker said he would do some research and would also invite the assessor to the public hearing.

DeSousa asked if it was time to review the Town’s Master Plan that is now nearly 15 years old. Tucker agreed it was time to review that document.

In another ongoing matter, the Planning Board is waiting to hear back from town counsel on whether or not they have missed the deadline for submitting a letter in support of the Conservation Commission and/or the Marine Advisory Board regarding the proposed Goodspeed Island Pier.

If they can still do so, they will, Tucker stated. The Planning Board has some jurisdiction via Massachusetts General Law over the construction of piers, Merlo stated.

Regarding the Appaloosa Lane subdivision, Denham said he was in possession of the February 20 letter from the Town’s engineering consultant Field Engineering outlining water drainage needs. He said that he was in agreement with Field’s conclusion, but that the town’s drainage was too small.

“The way all things shape up, if you accept the solution I won’t block it,” said Denham. He called the subdivision water management plan as having “no benefit to the town.”

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board will be a public hearing held on April 6 at 7:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room, primarily to discuss bylaw changes that will be presented to the voters at the Annual Town Meeting in May.

By Marilou Newell

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ORR Approves School Choice, Bond Savings

Six school choice slots will be offered at the high school for the next school year, now that the Old Rochester Regional School Committee concluded its ongoing discussion March 11 and voted unanimously to maintain the status quo of 72 school choice students at ORR.

Superintendent Doug White urged the committee to continue to offer new school choice slots for their revenue and the diversity they offer, but to also factor in rising student population and limited resources.

With class sizes already high at the junior high, the committee opted not to offer any new school choice slots at the seventh and eighth grade level.

“We’ve seen an increase in our own enrollment at the junior and high school,” White reiterated. The high school is presently hovering at about 780 students, with the junior high at 467.

White said it’s a give and take when it comes to looking at the high school population, with some class sizes rising and others falling, and the potential revenue school choice students bring to the district.

Last year, the committee voted to rein in school choice numbers to keep class sizes lower, and passed on offering junior high back in 2014.

“We’re starting to get to a place where we are stretching our resources,” said White. “We need to take that into consideration.”

ORR High School Principal Michael Devoll said mostly, with school choice, ORR attracts “the best and the brightest,” contributing to a positive impact for the school as a whole.

“It’s a collection of different kids,” said Devoll. “We’ve had valedictorians that were school choice kids.” However, he added that now, “We’re pretty full.” If Devoll had known that his incoming freshman class for this school year would be 40 more students than projected, he said he would have made a different decision regarding school choice.

The committee and White focused on maintaining 72 as the magic number for school choice. Devoll said he was willing to “roll the dice” for six more slots, as well.

Also during the meeting, after a short presentation from representatives from Unibank, the committee voted in favor of refinancing its $13.7 million bond issued in 2005, resulting in a 7.3 percent savings and a bond refund of $565,000 over the remaining life of the bond.

“It seems like a no-brainer,” said School Committee member Robin Rounseville. She asked if there was any downside to approving the refund.

“The only downside is not taking the opportunity before the market changes,” said Business Administrator Patrick Spencer. “The vote gets us in the door. If we don’t like what we see, we can continue to do it again.”

The next meeting of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee is scheduled for April 8 at 6:00 pm in the junior high school media room.

By Jean Perry

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ORR Present ‘Sweeney Todd – School Edition’

The Old Rochester Regional High School Drama Club is very proud to present Sweeney Todd – School Edition. This full-scale musical / thriller, written by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler stars Emily Faulkner (Jr), Kyle Costa (Jr), Holly Frink (Jr), Michael Amato (Sr), Isaiah Kidney (Sr), Patrick McGraw (Sr), Victor Morrison (Jr), Chris Savino (Fr), and Lexi Melloni (Jr) along with a supporting on-stage cast of 55 students, as well as 54 technicians and seven high school band members playing in the 17-member orchestra.

Sweeney Todd – School Edition: Costumes by Helen Blake; Sound by John Farrell; Musically Conducted by Michael Barnicle; and Directed by Paul Sardinha.

Presented in the Gilbert D. Bristol Auditorium of Old Rochester Regional High School, under the auspices of the David S. Hagen Performing Arts Series, Sweeney Todd – School Edition will be performed Thursday, April 9 through Saturday, April 11 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, April 12 at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $12 for students and seniors and $15 for adults and are available at The Pen & Pendulum in Mattapoisett, The Marion General Store in Marion, and Plumb Corner Market in Rochester. For information and ticket reservations, please call 508-951-5302. Tickets may also be purchased at the door; ORR is located on Route 6 in Mattapoisett.

Bluegrass/Folk Concert

Come to a bluegrass/folk concert on Saturday, March 28 at 7:00 pm at the Mattapoisett Congregational Church, 27 Church Street. Local performers include David Dunn, Paul Amenta, Joe Zajak and son and from New Hampshire, Gravel Road (Beth Grosart and Chris Little).

This is a fundraiser for the New Bedford Baby Project. All proceeds will go toward providing diapers and formula for needy infants and toddlers in New Bedford. Tickets are $12, $10 for students and $25 for a family. Tickets may be reserved by calling the church at 508-758-2671 or email Sue at ggrosart@aol.com.

New this year, if you bring a package of diapers you will be entered into a raffle to win a basket of goodies. Good music, good times and for a good cause.

SouthCoast Toastmasters Speak Their Minds

The SouthCoast Toastmaster’s Club, also known as Marion Toastmaster’s Club is a public speaking, communications and leadership organization which meets the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 12:00 pm (noon) to 1:00 pm at the Wareham Library, 59 Marion Road, Wareham.

Come and experience what happens at our meetings! We have a vocabulary word of the day, a joke of the day, two 5-7 minute prepared speeches, two minute extemporaneous speaking sessions and evaluations of what just happened. The meeting is one hour. Come and bring your brown bag lunch.

Get over your jitters and gain more confidence in your presentation skills. Bring a friend. For more information, call 508-292-6706 or visit our web site at http://southcoast.toastmastersclubs.org/.

Commission Clears Turtle Hurdle

There was a procedural question over how The Cove in Marion Trust might apply for a Notice of Intent with the Marion Conservation Commission for a project on Town-owned land, with the property overseen by the Conservation Commission itself.

This presented a hurdle for a proposed turtle habitat, or turtle garden, to be created in an open space wetlands parcel near Jenney Lane and westerly by Hammett’s Cove. On March 11, ConCom Chairman Norman Hills, unclear as to how to proceed, liked the idea of having one ConCom member sign the application along with the 43 other abutters and interested parties that make up the trust. That ConCom member would then recuse him or herself from the vote.

Town counsel told the commission that there had never been a precedent one way or the other regarding a procedure for an application under these circumstances, and the commission decided to go with Hills’ preference.

The plan, although not yet officially filed as a NOI, is to create a habitat area for Diamondback Terrapin and Eastern Box turtles. An area approximately 42 feet by 48 feet would be excavated and then refilled with 8 inches of clean, course sand.

Upon completion, a post and rope barrier would be erected and the surrounding open meadow would be subject to controlled mowing, with no mowing between June 1 and July 15, the typical nesting period.

Also during the meeting, the commission continued the Town of Marion’s NOI for the reconstruction of a 337-foot long, 4-foot high stonewall at Sprague’s Cove until April 8. The project is still awaiting a response from the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.

The next scheduled meeting of the Marion Conservation Commission is March 25 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

By Jean Perry

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Property Taxes to Increase

The Rochester Board of Selectmen met March 16 to hear the recommendation from the Board of Assessors on the Town’s tax classification, which selectmen unanimously approved.

The Town will leave the tax rate unified among the different property types, as it is now. According to Board of Assessors Chairman John Mello, the Town is broken into 4 percent personal property, 4 percent commercial, and 4 percent industrial, with the remaining 88 percent residential.

“Given that … the distribution amongst the different classes of property has not changed significantly, the assessors recommend that we continue with the unified tax rate,” Mello said. “If we continue with the unified tax rate, our excess levy capacity would be $4,378.34.”

An excess levy capacity is the amount the Town can levy (impose a tax), but it has chosen not to change. As the Town is operating at a level within less than 1 percent of the levy, the excess capacity is low.

“So we’re running at about 99.99999 percent of total levy as we have for the past six, seven or eight years,” said Mello.

According to Mello, the overall value of the Town for fiscal year 2015 is $813,572,400, an increase of 2.4 percent over fiscal year 2014.

The Town’s tax rate will increase by 1.6 percent to $14.07 per thousand dollars in home value.

“We’re starting to reflect the improvement of the appreciation of value we’re seeing in the real estate market,” Mello said.

The tax rate will be signed and submitted to the State quickly, according to the Board of Assessors.

The Board of Selectmen thanked Mello for his 22 years of service as an assessor. Mello is stepping down from his position this year.

“I’m sure the people who come after will do as good a job if not a better job,” Mello said.

Selectman Naida Parker told Mello, “You’re leaving very big shoes.”

Town Administrator Michael McCue delivered an update on the progress of the budget proceedings, saying that they are meetings almost every day and progress is underway.

Also during his report, McCue submitted a plan to have the Town officially recognize Arbor Day as a holiday as he mentioned he would in the March 9 meeting.

The Town is also putting together a memorandum of understanding, which details the transfer of a recycling truck from Rochester to Marion. The two towns originally shared the truck, but with ABC Disposal’s recent overhaul of recycling collection duties in Rochester, the truck serves no purpose for Rochester.

The board briefly discussed Governor Charlie Baker’s proposal, which would allow towns to split the costs related to snow and ice over two fiscal years. According to McCue, the cost for snow and ice management in Rochester topped $100,000 this year.

McCue also submitted to the board a draft of a letter to the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) to discuss the prospect of extending Route 58 to cover County Road in Rochester.

The board read a Notice of Intent to sell for residential use an area of 116 acres along Snipatuit Road in Rochester. The board put the matter on hold, as there had been no response from the Rochester Land Trust.

The board then read correspondence regarding the Comcast Xfinity subscriber fee for 2014. The fee is $498, an amount that was determined by multiplying the town’s 996 subscribers by the per-subscriber fee of $0.50.

The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for March 23 at 6:30 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

By Andrew Roiter

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Machacam Club

The Machacam Club will hold its April meeting on April 1 at the Legion Hall, 3 Depot Street. Social time is 5:30 pm; dinner is at 6:00 pm.

Our speaker for this meeting will be one of our members, Sung Bok Kim, PhD. Dr. Kim immigrated to the United States in 1960 after a noteworthy stint in the Republic of Korea Army during the Korean War. Sung Bok’s subject will prove to be most interesting as he will cover both his personal and professional life in the States as a young immigrant over a 50-year period.

Callers and members are asked to bear in mind the importance of call list accuracy. Caller lists should be done and reported no later than 9:00 pm on March 30 by email to GPFNR@aol.com or by phone to Mike at 508-758-9311. Members with requests or changes can contact either no later than 9:00 am March 31.

FY16 Increases and Realities

Town Administrator Michael Gagne put out the word through various Town departments to try and keep any fiscal year 2016 budget increases to a mere two percent. That call was heard as most department heads are presenting budgets that are flat year-over-year or around the two percent requested. Most increases involve contractual agreements with Town employees.

On March 11, the Mattapoisett Finance Committee continued the process of meeting with department heads. On this night, they met with Town Clerk Catherine Heuberger and Police Chief Mary Lyons.

Heuberger said, “I think I’ve been able to live within the budget,” which she inherited from the outgoing clerk. She said that big hits to her budget, like mailing out census forms even to a small number of seasonal residences, were a problem. She said that her department spent $2,600 on postage to mail out the census forms with approximately 500 being returned due to vacancy.

Heuberger explained that the Commonwealth mandates census taking, including to homes that are not owner occupied year round as oftentimes those homes are rented out during the winter season. However, she noted that what this exercise found was many homes remain vacant.

Gagne said that if the home is rented out, those occupants are counted as residents. He said that it is important to get as accurate a count as possible for state funding purposes.

On the theme of whether or not town bills could be paid online versus having to mail out paper bills, Heuberger said that some of the services billed from her office can be handled via the town website – such as dog licenses, marriage, birth and death certificates, and invoices associated with harbor services – but that other town offices weren’t able to do so at this time.

The town clerk’s FY15 budget was $149,322 with the FY16 budget coming in at $161,681.

In closing out her comments, Heuberger told the committee that the Town needed a new voting machine, considering that the current equipment is antiquated and problematic during elections. She estimates a new machine will cost approximately $6,000. Gagne told the committee he would include this equipment in his bundled request for new town hall equipment.

Next up was Police Chief Lyons. Her FY15 Police Department budget was $1,887,133 with the FY16 worksheet totaling $1,949,954. She said that her staffing needs would be unchanged with 18 full-time police officers (including herself), six part-time officers, and three (on-call) paramedics.

The Police Department budget has a line item of $40,000 for a new cruiser. Another cruiser is being requested through Capital Expenditures, eliminating the use of older Ford Crown Victoria models. She said that one of the retiring cruisers would be given to the Council on Aging.

The ambulance service also falls under Lyons’s responsibility. In FY15, the budget was set at $343,000, while the FY16 budget number is $346,540.

Ambulance receipts have helped to offset the expense associated with purchasing new ambulances, Gagne told the committee. A new ambulance is on order from FY15 Town Meeting vote. Factory delays have prevented delivery of that unit.

Gagne shared some other financial realities. He said that group health insurance, which stands at approximately $2 million, would go up 20 percent, which he called “moderate.” He said the pension assessment would go up $82,000; utilities about $10,000; and other liability insurance coverage – workers compensation, cyber, HIPAA, fire, theft, property and others – will increase $17,000.

Regarding the termination of a decades-long contract with SEMASS and increased solid waste disposal costs, Gagne said, “on the flipside,” the solar farms on Tinkham Hill Road will generate tax revenues of approximately $29,000, and he said that the larger commercial solar field planned for Crystal Spring Road will bring in even larger sums. Overall, he said that revenues are on par with last year.

When the committee meets again, Gagne said that Superintendent of Schools Doug White will present local school budgets saying, “(We) are working very well with the schools.”

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Finance Committee is scheduled for March 18 at 6:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room.

By Marilou Newell

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Candid Discussions with State Representatives

Approximately 30 municipal officials, employees, and state representatives met for their annual Massachusetts Municipal Association breakfast hosted on March 13 at Mattapoisett’s Center School with opening remarks by Town Administrator Mike Gagne.

This regional meeting brought together attendees from the south shore and Cape Cod, as well as the Tri-Town area, to meet with state officials to learn about state funding and other matters that have an impact on cities and towns. Representatives attending the working breakfast were William Straus (Mattapoisett), Chris Markey (Dartmouth), Susan Gifford (Wareham), and Paul Schmid (Westport).

Gagne, in a follow-up interview, said the meeting included “an excellent presentation by John Robertson, (legislative director with MMA),” touching on such diverse issues as the condition of the state budget, deficit accounts, and fiscal issues.

“There was good news, too. Governor Baker the day before had signed a $200 million Chapter 90 (bond) expressly for roads and highways,” said Gagne. “In light of the predicament we have right now with road conditions, this couldn’t come at a better time.”

Calling the discussions with the state representatives in attendance as “very candid,” Gagne said important issues such as changing EPA requirements, FEMA flood mapping problems, and regional transportation were all touched upon during the nearly three-hour event.

Robertson told the attendees about an MMA letter written to Governor Baker urging him to try and gain swift passage of funds.

The Chapter 90 bond bill in the amount of $200 million for fiscal year 2016, paired with $100 million in new Chapter 90 monies authorized by Baker in January, would bring the total available funds to cities and towns to $300 million.

The letter stated that the previous administration delayed distribution of Chapter 90 funding, causing many municipalities to hold off on much needed projects.

The MMA has also petitioned the State House to release emergency funds to cities and towns reeling from snow removal costs. In a letter written to the administration on March 3, the MMA reported that it is collecting snow removal data that is estimated in the tens of millions of dollars and asked the state to engage FEMA for up to 75 percent reimbursement.

Gagne shared that it now appears there will be a slight increase in unrestricted state aid to cities and towns, but, “We’ll wait on the fiscal numbers (to come out) and use last year’s figure for planning purposes,” not wanting to over-estimate until the state funds have been committed.

By Marilou Newell

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