All Roads Lead to Shellfish

The most time-consuming issue of Tuesday night’s meeting came during the Town Administrator’s report, when Michael Gagne – with the assistance of Highway Supervisor Barry Denham – reported on their recent meeting with the state.

From that meeting, they were encouraged that financial assistance would continue to flow into town for the maintenance and repair of streets and sidewalks. As recently demonstrated during Town Meeting, the condition of secondary streets, or feeder roadways, is of deep concern to residents utilizing them.

Gagne shared with the Board a study he found that was conducted in Indiana. He felt the study would help Mattapoisett find a way to better plan the overwhelming needs associated with keeping roads and streets in good repair with fiscal efficiency.

“We have a fairly extensive list of streets on our capital plan,” Gagne said. “These are primary streets, not secondary or feeder streets.”

He also noted that in previous years, some monies had been set aside for the paving of feeder streets and said he thought the town might benefit from trying to do so again. He felt it would help address citizen’s concerns about those deteriorated roadway conditions. He said that the town should establish an assessment plan for secondary roads.

Gagne posed a solution for assessing the condition of secondary roads by using senior “tax work-off” people. Noting that some of the people enrolled in the program to work off some of their property tax responsibility had experience from which the town could benefit. He thought a team of seniors could help with the assessment reporting. Gagne further told the Board he was very concerned about the trip hazards present along many of these streets.

Denham gave the Board a list of town-owned unpaved streets. He pointed out that there are 6.21 miles of unpaved town-owned roads. As an example, he directed their attention to Wolf Island Road. Denham said that the road has never been paved and is heavily traveled by people using it as a pass through from Fairhaven, Rochester and Acushnet. It shows up in town records as becoming one of the original town-owned roads back in 1857. Today, it costs the town $10,000 annually to maintain it.

Of the 11 roads and parking lots that are owned by the town, Denham stated, “It would take $6 million to do it all … that’s one of the reasons I’ve never been much of an advocate for paving the roads. We have trouble getting the money together to pave our paved roads.”

Gagne said, “I think we need to put a plan together,” again making it clear that by doing so, the town would then have a clear picture of the total need and then be able to develop a course of action. While Denham felt that public outcry was the way roads had been prioritized in the past and may be prioritized in the future, Gagne differed, suggesting a more planned approach.

Regarding the capital planning that has been taking place for streets and other roadways in town, Denham said, “We’re getting to a point where we are getting to the end of the tunnel.” He added that to plan a project for secondary roads would take 18 months or more.

There are June dates scheduled for public hearings so that residents can share their concerns and ideas on several upcoming projects including Water Street, Beacon Street and parts of Marion Road; these would include sidewalk configurations.

It was left that the Board would review the Indiana report and associated street planning methodology for consideration and alignment with the town’s needs.

The Board also met with Kevin McGown, who has just completed a study of shellfish resources in the Pine Island Pond region. McGown’s credentials as an expert in fisheries and shellfish was offered to the members, including his Master’s degree from North Carolina State. McGown was then given the floor. His study took place in October 2012, and covered the east side of the harbor at 100 sites in the channel and the pond.

The exhaustive study produced substantial information on shellfish populations, primarily oysters, blood arks and quahogs. McGown found that the quahog population was in line with a more expansive study of the entire east coast explaining that “quahogs were the most numerous” of all shellfish found at the site. He found a total quahog population of approximately 675,000 individuals. The study also showed that the size of the individual specimens was consistent with the East Coast populations.

Oyster populations seemed to be doing well and would be good source for free seed to the town, but they need a hard substance to grow on and that isn’t the environment of the area study which was found to be primarily mud. Management ideas were also shared to help build up the oyster population by using wire forms that allow the young oysters to attach to and grow.

Various shellfish management ideas were floated to the Board, with input from Natural Resource Officer Kathy Massey. She said that they currently have two upwells, which would work for oysters but were not used last year due to the cost.

Selectman Paul Silva said, “We should look at soft shell clams. Back in the Fifties and Sixties, they were plentiful.” Massey said that efforts to improve their populations had not been successful due to predation by invasive worms.

McGown was thanked for his work and assistance in helping the town form plans for this important recreational activity of harvesting shellfish.

In other business: The Board re-organized with Tyler Macallister being named Chairman and Paul Silva as Vice-Chairman. Numerous appointments to various boards and committees were signed into the record and read aloud. A full list is available for the public to review. Dick Garmarch was appointed as Mattapoisett’s representative to Old Colony Vocational Technical High School.

Jessica Webb came before the Board requesting permission to offer weekly yoga classes for nine consecutive Saturdays starting July 16 between 7:15 and 8:30 am at Ned’s Point. After answering questions about insurance and her certification as a qualified instructor presently working at Gleason YMCA in Wareham, the Board approved her request.

Mattapoisett’s YMCA was granted three one-day liquor licenses for various activities at their location.

The Board set its summer meeting schedule planning the second Tuesday of each June/July/August as the date.

Gagne’s new 3-year contract was approved and he was reappointed as the Town Administrator.

Last item for the evening was the formal declining for purchasing the property noted as 61B, Map 19, Lot 17, Map 20 Lot 18. These lots underwent re-zoning recently to allow for the future site of the industrial solar field located at Tinkham Road. The town had the right of first refusal for this or any property that undergoes a zoning change for the purpose of adding recreational or open space to the town.

By Marilou Newell

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