The work of crafting a municipal budget is not for the faint of heart. Consider the numerous details each Town department must document – from pencils to life saving equipment, from salaries and pay scales to heavy equipment, from fresh water production to sewer systems – and the word ‘daunting’ comes to mind. As Mattapoisett Town Administrator Michael Gagne said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day or with municipal funds.”
Yet the bigger picture that all the numbers and calculations add up to is quality of life. And for the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen, quality of life along with making the numbers work was evident when they met with various department heads to review FY19 budget proposals on April 17.
Take for instance the Highway Department. Highway Superintendent Barry Denham proposed a FY19 budget of $775,604, less than 1% over FY18 that stood at $730,000. But before long, the conversation turned to matters much more aesthetic, much more historically significant to the community – protecting the arch stone bridge on River Road.
Denham said the bridge had sustained some damage in March when a long-haul tractor-trailer driver attempted to cross the bridge but couldn’t make the turn. He said he had tapped the services of Jon Connel of Field Engineering to study the north approach to the bridge to try and come up with a solution.
Selectman Tyler Macallister thought that with the completion of the two commercial solar fields on Crystal Springs Road, truck traffic would decrease making it unnecessary to spend money now on studying a new approach. Denham, however, thought, “At least we have to find out” what can be done.
Selectman Paul Silva questioned why additional signage couldn’t be posted that would limit the size and weight of trucks on the bridge. But Denham didn’t think additional signage would adequately resolve the problem.
Returning to the issue of the bridge later in the evening, Silva said, “I agree we’ve got to maybe do something with the turn there, but the bridge isn’t geared for that kind of traffic.”
Gagne said he’d look into whether or not a local ordinance was possible, one that might limit truck traffic as well as impose possible fines for drivers found in violation of size and weight restrictions. Silva said, “I want to protect the bridge as much as we can.”
Denham also discussed continuation of roadway improvement projects, noting a pavement overlay on Acushnet Road was planned. Denham also said the Highway Department roadway improvement list included drainage projects at West Hill Road and LeBaron Estates, as well as pursuing grant money for the reconfiguration of the intersection at Brandt Island Road and Route 6.
The Highway Department barn renovations were discussed with Denham pointing out how the structure could be modified to add two new bathrooms, office space, and a break room. He estimated the cost of the repairs at $225,000.
The selectmen and Gagne discussed another area where quality of life came into the equation when Gagne said that the state office overseeing the senior housing in town wouldn’t support paying for a generator.
Silva said, “We can’t have our seniors freezing.”
Gagne said he wanted to look into having an interconnect system installed on the property to allow a portable generator to be put in place in times of power outages. He said that during recent storms, first responders were faced with the possibility of having to evacuate the residents due to lack of heating.
Selectman Jordan Collyer said a letter should be sent to legislators asking for their assistance in getting someone at the state level to assist. Gagne was instructed to send a letter to Representative William Straus.
On the theme of quality of life and safety, Gagne said he wanted to advance a bylaw at Town Meeting that would make it illegal to push snow off private property onto public ways. He said it was a safety issue for all concerned. The selectmen were in agreement.
Also coming before the selectmen was Harbormaster Jill Simmons for the Waterfront Enterprise Fund. She described the level of destruction the wharves, floats, pilings, and ramps had sustained over the harsh winter season before discussing the need for appropriate watercraft.
Simmons said the harbormaster boat had also sustained damage and reiterated what she has shared in other meetings – that it is not the right craft for the types of activities her department is tasked with doing. She said she wanted to propose a bond at Town Meeting for approximately $134,000 to purchase a boat. Simmons also said that a boat for shallow water work was also necessary given the inlets and close shore duties she is faced with.
Gagne agreed that a small boat for shallow waters was needed, but that the issue of a larger safety boat was more all encompassing. He said that revenue sources and grants needed to be researched, but that infrastructure work needed on the wharves needs to be included in the budget discussion.
Silva said, “You have to look at the whole package,” and asked Gagne to take a deeper dive into the harbormaster’s budget proposal. The Waterfront Enterprise Fund budget proposal for FY19 is $241,665 versus the FY18 figure of $234,883.
Police Chief Mary Lyons presented the Police Department and ambulance budgets with modest increases. FY19 is penciled in at $2,201,639, $27,802 over FY18. The ambulance proposed budget shows a $6,378 increase from FY18 to $377,172 for FY19.
Mattapoisett Public Library Director Susan Pizzolato met briefly with the selectmen presenting a budget proposal of $468,716, $19,816 over FY18.
Rounding out the evening was the Water and Sewer Departments budgets. Henri Renauld, superintendent, said he would be asking Town Meeting to approve the purchase of some 200-plus acres of land situated near well No. 2. He said the purchase price of $250,000 could be achieved through a combination of funds raised from grants in partnership with the Buzzards Bay Coalition, Mattapoisett River Valley Water District, and approximately $150,000 from the Town of Mattapoisett.
Renauld also discussed the new water supply system available to landscapers that allows them safe access to water for their business activities. He said landscapers simply needed to contact the office, but that the process required yearly inspection of tanks used in the transportation of fresh water for a small fee.
Silva said that this was a relatively safe way for landscapers to access the water they needed for their businesses. He said it was not a moneymaker for the Town, but a solution to businesses needing to secure water.
The Water Department budget proposal as presented by Renauld for FY19 is $2,333,719 versus FY18 $1,951,407, and the Sewer Department FY19 $2,337,465 versus FY18 $2,318,394.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen is scheduled for April 24 at 6:30 pm in the town hall conference room.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen
By Marilou Newell