Mattapoisett voters had few questions as they easily moved through the 17 articles of the Fall Special Town Meeting warrant on November 27.
There were several articles that dealt directly with easements and rights-of-way needed for Phase 1B of the bike path, or what Town Administrator Michael Gagne calls the “multi-use path.” The much anticipated pathway section that will connect the existing bike path from Fairhaven to Route 6 at Railroad Street in Mattapoisett received support from the voters as each article rolled along – but not without a few bumps at first.
During the long technical and legal process that the Town has undertaken with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to secure public funding of the bike path, hundreds of “Is” were dotted and “Ts” were crossed regarding the terra firma needed to make the pathway a reality.
Article 6 asked voters to accept northwesterly portions of Reservation Road as a public way, as well as sections of Goodspeed Island Road.
Before voters raised their hands in nearly unanimous agreement, resident Doug Schneider questioned the need to put these articles before Town Meeting. Schneider said that in 1893, the Town had accepted Reservation Road.
But Town Counsel Matthew Thomas, who has been working closely on behalf of the Town in matters related to the property needed to roll the bike path through railroad easements and private property, indicated that MassDOT wanted to make it ultimately clear that there weren’t any land claims against the project moving forward.
Thomas said, “It is uncertain if this portion of the road had been accepted,” given the historical documentation all parties had reviewed, and with $10 million in grant monies pending – money that would make or break the future of the path – he said this acceptance and the one for Goodspeed Island Road were necessary.
Paula Cobb asked if voters were being asked for more money to support the construction of the bike path. “How much more money is it going to cost the taxpayers?”
Gagne said that although he “couldn’t make an ironclad promise” that the Town wouldn’t be asked to spend more on the project, given that this phase was nearing completion in terms of checking off over 200 associated technical and legal issues, “I certainly hope we are coming to the end.”
Cobb then asked how much taxpayers had already paid over the decades the project has come before voters, and Gagne estimated, “Probably half a million…”
The article passed 102-2.
Goodspeed Island Road, Article 7, also asked voters to accept portions as a public way, where the railroad easement and private lands traverse the barrier beach and marshlands adjacent to Eel Pond.
After some discussion precipitated by Schneider asking about the necessity of a new road layout, previous takings in that area for a public beach, and the width of the roadway as related to Planning Board requirements, voters agreed passing the article 102-2.
Later in the evening the final article, Article 17, sought $55,000 to complete those easements and other acquisition expenses related to the bike path Phase 1B. Gagne explained that sections of the bike path construction will require relocation of a cart path at the Reservation Golf Club, screening along private property lines, and associated drainage. Gagne said the Chapter 91 license needed for the elevated bridge across wetlands was awaiting the governor’s signature, that 504 permits from the Environmental Protection Agency were ready, as was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting.
Gagne confessed, “I’m praying everyday.”
Schneider rose, pleading, “Please tell me this is the last we’re going to be nit-picked…” regarding financing the bike path. Again, Gagne said he couldn’t unequivocally say more funds wouldn’t be asked for, but as far as this phase was concerned, he was fairly confident more would not be required.
Article 17 passed 101-2.
On the theme of open spaces and recreation, voters passed Article 1 for the securing of a conservation restriction for land along Mattapoisett Neck Road known as the Old Hammond Quarry. A partnership between the Mattapoisett Land Trust, Buzzards Bay Coalition, and the Town is seeking grants for the acquisition of the parcel that will link to state recreational lands at Brandt Beach Road.
Voters also accepted a plan for Payment in Lieu of Taxes for the third solar array the town has approved. Crystal Spring II Solar Pilot Agreement, Article 10, will allow BWC LLC of Boston to pay the town a standard tax rate over the lifespan of the project versus a fluctuating tax rate. Principle Assessor Kathleen Costello explained that the program allows the town to collect $2,241,544 versus $2,149,208 without the program.
The voters also agreed to finance Article 2 – water well refurbishment $400,000; Article 8 -appropriations to the stabilization fund $250,000; Article 9 – continued improvements to roadways $250,000; Article 12 – security systems for local schools, Article 13 – waterfront upgrades $30,000; and Article 15 – supplemental funding for FY18 budget needs. These monies will come from enterprise funds, free cash, and, or reallocations.
The warrant also included the following articles that were all passed by overwhelming voter approval: Article 3 – $75,000 for acquisition of Pease Point Water Main Crossing; Article 4 – the acceptance of an easement for drainage purposes from Constance Pallatroni Trust; Article 5 – acceptance of Perkins Lane as a public way; Article 11 – $35,000 for software upgrades for the assessor’s office; Article 14 – building demolition costs for town property located at 67 Church Street for $15,000; and Article 16 – acquisition of land for a storm drain located on Marston Court.
Mattapoisett Special Fall Town Meeting
By Marilou Newell