Candidates seeking reappointment to the Zoning Board of Appeals were back for another round of interviews on June 4 before the Marion Board of Selectmen who is exercising diligence in its search to appoint one new full member and one new associate member.
The board is considering the interest of three candidates: Ethan Gerber, William Tift, and Margie Baldwin, as a fourth candidate, Jarrett Drake, rescinded his request for consideration in person during the meeting.
Gerber, who was appointed during the last meeting to serve on the Conservation Commission and the Affordable Housing Trust, was drilled on whether he was a full-time resident or simply an owner of land in Marion, and also faced questions about his real estate career and any potential business conflicts of interest.
According to Gerber, he grew up in the Tri-Town and owns property in Marion. He said he attended the town meeting last month and voted, but selectmen were still wondering what Gerber’s situation is.
“Owning property is a little bit vaguer than saying ‘I own a home’,” said Chairman Randy Parker.
Gerber said he owns two properties with a family member but did not specify. He agreed that he is a resident of Marion by finally responding “Yeah” to the question.
Parker couldn’t quite ascertain whether Gerber was a real estate lawyer or broker because Gerber expressed his interest in real estate law, but finally answered that he was a real estate broker and wanted to start a company of his own.
Front Street resident Peter Douglas questioned Gerber on his real estate career and asked for his opinion on the potential for conflicts of interest. Gerber said he could not predict any.
Douglas, the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Zoning Board of Appeals, then aired his grievance over ZBA Chairman Marc LeBlanc being in the real estate business and alleged that ZBA member Michelle Smith was also a real estate worker.
Douglas hammered into LeBlanc again later in the meeting when he asked the selectmen to consider an applicant’s “competence” before appointing or reappointing members.
Baldwin’s interview wasn’t as long.
“I think I’m a reasonable voice,” said Baldwin. “I believe I am able to listen to all sides of an issue and study the issue and try to be knowledgeable and try to be an even keel voice.”
Baldwin commended the board on its due diligence in making its appointment, saying she was happy that appointing members was no longer a matter of simply having “warm bodies” available for the positions.
Chairman LeBlanc confirmed that he would defer to the Board of Selectmen in its selections, which it will make at a later date.
The selectmen have delayed making its reappointments to committees and boards until July 31 in order to interview candidates up for reappointment. Gone are the days of “wholesale” reappointment motions.
“I think that we owe it to the town to do a more thorough evaluation,” said Waterman. “Not just of new candidates, but also for [reappointed ones].”
In other news, the board authorized McGrail and DPW Director David Willett to put the formal request for proposals (RFP) for a new comprehensive wastewater back out to bid a second time.
“I think we decided that was in the best interest of the town as far as the process goes and the creation of what we’re looking for … that we start over again and that we ask – I reached out to all the groups that bid on the projects,” said McGrail.
McGrail said it was important to re-bid the management plan “to make sure the final product is compliant with the [Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection].”
“I think it was the best direction for us as a town to rebid it and look at it in another way,” said McGrail.
Five companies submitted proposals for the project.
“Some were a little concerned because they put a lot of effort and time into the plan that they presented to us,” said McGrail, and some were still interested in soliciting the business of the Town of Marion.
He said he would issue the RFP mid-summer.
“We have the blessing of the town to move forward with this,” said McGrail, adding that the document was too important to “rush.”
“There’s no tight fuse on it,” said Waterman, saying it would be best to spend some time to get it right. “So, we’ve got time.”
Also during the meeting, the board authorized new DPW Director David Willett as the town’s representative for the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit.
The board accepted a $5,000 check from the town’s insurance company earmarked specifically for a memorial to honor Firefighter Thomas Nye. Nye, 72, lost his life on February 27, just hours after assisting in a fire call the night before. The board will enlist the Marion Firefighters’ Association to determine how it would like to memorialize Nye.
“I think it’s a benefit we didn’t know we had,” said McGrail. [It’s a] great opportunity to memorialize a tragic situation.”
McGrail presented the board with his suggestion that all department heads, clerical staff, and board and committee members attend a mandatory Open Meeting Law (OML) training session in July.
“I think it’s warranted,” said McGrail, alluding to some pending OML complaints that are still unresolved.
The training will be hosted by town counsel at the Music Hall, he said, and topics such as minute-taking and ethics laws would be discussed.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen is scheduled for June 18 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.
Marion Board of Selectmen
By Jean Perry