The Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen, including the newly elected John DeCosta, dealt with issues around beach use and establishing a July operating budget when they met on June 23. After Chairman Paul Silva and Vice Chairman Jordan Collyer welcomed DeCosta, the trio got down to the business by approving a one-twelfth operating budget for the month of July.
Town Administrator Mike Lorenco reminded the public that the selectmen had postponed Town Meeting, opting instead to wait and see how receipts both local and statewide will shake out before setting a final FY21 budget for town meeting to approve.
“Due to the uncertainty and a possible 20-percent decline in state funding, we wanted to take the time to look at receipts before making any assumptions,” said Lorenco, who added that a postponed Town Meeting might achieve greater attendance. The state, Lorenco said, grants cities and towns the option of conducting the town’s business by using a one-twelfth formula based on the FY20 budget. The only additional spending, he said, would be for contractual, one-time payments that are due in July.
The total July-only budget accepted by the selectmen was $2,473,000. This sum represents $192,372 general government, $406,044 ambulance payment, $151,657 highway contractual obligation, $42,882 human services, $56,593 contractual salary increases library and recreation departments, $3,386 debt service, $1,618,451 Plymouth County pension payment, and $1,950 intergovernmental assessment.
Also approved were enterprise fund payments of $8,117 for the town landfill station, $608,042 for the Mattapoisett River Valley Water District, $614,695 for sewer treatment plant expenses, and seasonal increases for harbormaster staff expenses. The schools will also be operating on the one-twelfth plan with a July budget of $1,210,000, he said.
Beaches were very much on the minds of the selectmen as they have been hearing from residents about illegal parking along Aucoot Road and an abundance of beachgoer trash being left behind. “We established a “carry-in, carry-out” policy,” Lorenco stated, but things have not gone as smoothly as he had hoped. He said that starting June 29, beaches would be staffed and parking bans would be enforced.
“We are basically going towards resident-only beaches this year,” said Lorenco, who said that people will still be allowed to walk in, but parking will be strictly for permit holders. “No day passes will be issued… We are thinking about adding an attendant at Aucoot Beach, something we haven’t done in the past.” He said that signs will be posted at no parking areas, and tickets would be issued to violators. Lorenco urged the public to adhere to a few rules saying, “These are public spaces; the public needs to do their part.” Full guidelines are available by visiting www.mattapoisett.net.
Lorenco also gave a report on major projects happening throughout the community. He said that the Bike Path Phase 1b had stalled a bit due to COVID-19, but that things are moving along and a late fall opening is possible.
The new Mattapoisett Fire Station is on track, he said, with a ceremonial groundbreaking planned at the site next to the Police Station on June 30 at 10:00 am. Attendees should be prepared to exercise distancing and wear a face covering, an earlier press release stated.
The Acushnet Road bridge repair will be starting at the end of July, Lorenco said, with detours planned through Fairhaven and Wolf Island Road. The plan is to have all the work completed before school reopens in the fall, he noted.
Two large projects, the Industrial Drive roadway improvements and the landfill municipal solar array, are also moving along albeit a bit slowly, Lorenco said.
The Industrial Drive project finds the town is awaiting 100-percent engineered drawings required by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the federal government for grants that were awarded. “We added a shared-use bike path and a truck turn-around to the design,” Lorenco stated.
The solar project located at the landfill is awaiting the finalization of agreements between Nexamp and Eversource, Lorenco said. “The interconnection agreement between these companies is the longest process in these projects.”
Lorenco said he had met Jennifer Jones, the new library director, adding that her contract is in the works. He said that Jones asked for a little more time before exiting her current position in Plymouth given issues related to COVID-19 and the Plymouth library’s reopening. “She’ll be starting in August and will work with (retiring director Susan Pizzolato) until early September,” he said.
Regarding the announcement that longtime Conservation Commission Agent Liz Leidhold would also be retiring in July, Lorenco said a search for her replacement had thus far been lackluster. “It might be because it is only a part-time position,” he said, telling the meeting that Leidhold had pushed her retirement date into September to give the town more time to search for her replacement.
Lorenco was also very pleased regarding the cooperation and opening of outdoor restaurant seating that town officials had been able to work out with business owners. He said that the next phase would be interior seating, which he anticipates will go smoothly. Silva said that one restaurant wanted to consider outdoor seating even after the pandemic is declared over.
In other business, the selectmen reaffirmed Collyer as representative to the Plymouth County Advisory Board, and they appointed David Lawrence to the Conservation Commission as a member, saying they supported his appointment and thanked him for his willingness to volunteer on an active town board.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen will be posted at mattapoisett.net once scheduled.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen
By Marilou Newell