The Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path came before the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen on January 12 to affirm their desire to “strengthen relationships” with the town, said founding member Bonne DeSousa.
After introducing board members Bill Coquillette, Liz DiCarlo, Ann Bryant, Chris Matos, Renee Pothier, Robin Lepore, Jane Finnerty, Dick Grahn, Allyson Bradford, and Arlene Enos, the group presented a short video initially produced for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The stunning aerial footage, along with land-based imagery showing the scope of the epic project, was a powerful reminder that persistence does pay off.
Phase 1b, slated for a ribbon-cutting in the spring, features three bridges and four paved sections leading from Mattapoisett Neck Road across the Eel Pond spillway along barrier beaches terminating at Depot Street. The entire span from Brandt Island Road to Depot Street has been 20 years in the making.
Pothier, treasurer for the group, asked that the selectmen consider what other essential items will be needed, if the town is prepared for the influx of new visitors, and form a list of new projects the group could focus on next.
Board of Selectman Chairman Paul Silva said that Selectman John DeCosta would be their liaison. DeCosta said he was ready to work with the group and felt suited to the task, given his recreational resources background. DeCosta asked to meet with the group and to report back to the board members. He said he wanted to address and complete everything associated with Phase 1a and 1b before taking on any new projects related to the bike path.
Silva added that the town’s first priority would be safety, especially at the intersections of Mattapoisett Neck Road and Brandt Island Road, and that parking needs to be addressed. He said that the board would be working with Representative Bill Straus, as a utility right of way might hinder efforts to secure new parking at trailheads. “It’s a real concern,” said Silva.
Selectman Jordan Collyer also echoed Silva’s concerns, saying, “My priority is safety,” adding that amenities, while important, would come last. He acknowledged, however, that trash barrels are essential, followed by benches and signage.
During a recent discussion regarding the connector trail from the end of Industrial Drive to the Marion line, Collyer said more parking was added. He said upon reviewing the plans with the designers that he felt more parking would be warranted. There are now nine parking spots and one handicap space on the drawings.
Earlier in the meeting, Pothier reported that over the past 20 years, the “Friends” group had received donations of some $200,000 and continued to do fundraising. Pothier said the group was ready to earmark $20,000 for the opening of Phase 1b, now known as the Shining Tides Trail.
In a follow-up, DeSousa said that a new program was about to be launched that would go a long way toward giving bicycles to anyone in the town that needed and wanted to ride. DeSousa said that DiCarlo had proposed a program whereby people could donate gently used bikes for all ages to the Friends, who would then distribute them. DeSousa said the program was not finalized, but that interest and enthusiasm is running high.
The Mattapoisett Historical Commission, represented by Bob Spooner, came before the selectmen with continued concerns that the historic stone bridge on River Road continues to be threatened by heavy truck traffic. Spooner said that signs installed 15 months ago signaling to motorists that the bridge was weight restricted to 2.5 tons was doing little to stop heavier vehicles.
Silva said the board would send a letter to the chief of police asking for stepped-up surveillance of the bridge for a two-week period, issuing warnings to violators followed by the issuance of tickets thereafter. DeCosta also suggested the positioning of electronic message boards along the roadway leading to the bridge, announcing the restrictions.
Collyer said that computer mapping programs could be updated by the MassDOT programs used by commercial truckers. Those systems could alert drivers of the bridge’s weight restriction.
Spooner said that the Historical Commission had also been in discussion with the Planning Board to ensure that, when construction begins on a proposed solar array off of Randall Lane, trucks associated with that construction would be diverted away from the bridge.
Town Administrator Mike Lorenco said he would follow up with the Planning Board, but Silva was confident that the Planning Board would have the best interest of the bridge in mind when drafting conditions for the construction.
In other business, Lorenco said that a printing error had been discovered on tax bills stating the tax rate was $13.49 but that the actual calculated amount due had been based on the correct rate of $12.96. He apologized for the error. Anyone with questions was directed to call the collector’s office for assistance.
Lorenco also reported that the federal CARES Act ended on December 31. The FFCRA had paid town employees their salaries while stricken and unable to work due to COVID-19, he said. The use of personal sick time had been unnecessary. Now, Lorenco said, employees who contract the virus will receive paid leave if the disease is directly related to their employment environment. Use of personal sick time will be used if the employee’s exposure and subsequent illness are attributable to other sources.
On the theme of COVID-19, Lorenco said that first responders had begun to receive vaccines, that Phase 2 of vaccine distribution is slated for February and will include people over the age of 75 and those at high risk due to preexisting conditions. That group will also include teachers and food service employees. He noted that the general public would have to wait until May or June, adding, “Cases grow day by day.… I ask everyone to please wear a mask and continue to fight the good fight.”
Ending on a happy note, Lorenco said that the town was saving 80 percent year over year on electricity since the installation of LED lamps. He said that the latest electric bill for town buildings was only $516 versus the previous year, which stood at $2,600. Collyer added, “We are saving $28,000 a year,” chuckling that he remembered the exact number.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen is scheduled for January 26 at 6:30 pm. Editor’s Note: Marilou Newell is a member of the Mattapoisett Historical Commission.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen
By Marilou Newell