COA Advisory Board Dissolves

The Council on Aging is changing, as it always has, so when COA Chair Harry Norweb, COA Director Karen Gregory, and COA strategic planning leader Paul Naiman came before the Town of Marion with their two-part petition, Select Board Chair Norm Hills readily acknowledged that nowhere does it say a board is forever.

            Norweb said the COA has transitioned multiple times in the past and it is time to transition once again. Acknowledging the COA’s professional staff and home and ongoing opportunity for advocacy, Norweb told the Select Board that there has not been a single instance in his four years as chair where the advice of the Council on Aging’s Advisory Board has been sought.

            During the same period, he said, COA programs and services have expanded, requiring more volunteers.

            Fifty-one years after the mission of the Advisory Board was established, the focus has shifted, said Norweb, who believes the dissolution of the Advisory Board would allow COA volunteers to more effectively spend their time. “Volunteers don’t get paid – not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless,” he said, quoting author Sherry Anderson.

            Fourteen of the 18 COA members present at an April meeting unanimously voted their approval for the recommendation that the COA’s Advisory Board transitions from an appointed board to informal groups of volunteers. Norweb said the COA is now in the hands of a full-time director (Gregory) and a professional staff that reports to Town Administrator Jay McGrail.

            After hearing out Norweb, Gregory, and Naiman, and offering comments, the Select Board voted to approve the recommendation and the added motion that the Advisory Board suspend regular meetings until it is decided that this is, in fact, the right move.

            Select Board member John Waterman told Norweb it is important that any agreement leave open a pathway for the Advisory Board to revisit the matter.

            Attorney Mark Bobrowski appeared in an appointment representing developer Ken Steen in a petition for approval of an increase in his Heron Cove development. The Local Initiative Program (LIP) calls for an increase to a maximum of 120 residential units and 252 bedrooms. No fewer than 25 percent of construction is to be rentals.

            McGrail told the Select Board that the town has been negotiating with Steen over the past six months. Conditions include a clause that the agreement cannot be used to bypass the Zoning Board of Appeals; an October 1, 2021 project-approval deadline; substantial financial agreements including a $590,000 payment to the town to support the treatment of wastewater; a $410,000 sewer connection fee; installation of a sewer line on the northern part of Route 6 to Hill Street; payment of a 10-percent bid cost to up to $110,000 relating to the pump station; and compliance with all town requirements.

            Town Counsel John Witten attended the meeting along with Steen’s engineer Phil Cordeiro and developer Sherman Briggs, who would address the board before its adjournment. With 41 buildings, Heron Cove is expected to be back before the ZBA in July. Briggs’ discussion centered around sewer hookups.

            Tucker Burr was appointed as an alternate member to the ZBA and will fulfill Louise Nadler’s term scheduled to expire in June 2022. Nadler resigned the post. McGrail said he is working on a training program with Witten designed to prepare potential candidates for Planning Board and ZBA.

            Action Items included the Select Board’s approval of a reduced grease interceptor at Brew Fish with the condition of inspection every two months instead of quarterly.

            The Select Board voted to approve Fire Chief Brian Jackvony’s new five-year contract. Jackvony’s term was up at the end of July. “He’s done a super job,” said McGrail.

            The board reappointed member Randy Parker as the Select Board’s delegate to the Mattapoisett River Valley Water District Commission (three years) and Water Protection Advisory Committee (one year). Marion is also represented on the MRV by DPW Director Nathaniel Munafo and DPW Engineer Meghan Davis.

            McGrail announced Employee Handbook revisions designed to give recent non-union personnel maneuvering proper administration. Former Recreation Director Jody Dickerson, transitioned to the DPW in January, now has the title Highway & Parks supervisor, a Grade E position equal to his former position. McGrail is equally happy with the performances of Health Nurse Lori Desmarais and DPW Office Manager Becky Tilden. The Select Board approved all of the reclassifications proposed. The board also approved several staff reappointments, Water/Sewer commitments, and Recreation Department user fees.

            In his Town Administrator’s Report, McGrail told the Select Board that completion of the lagoon cleanup project is targeted for December 3, 2021. The next operation is to remove sludge from Lagoon 1. Concrete walls are in production, and the town is exploring ways to save money on the floor, citing the high cost of sand.

            McGrail was disappointed to report that air-conditioning on the first floor of the Town House, a goal of his since last year, is unlikely to be completed in time for the hot summer months. Nonetheless, the beautification of the main entrance is almost complete, and the interior is within two weeks of being finished.

            After two straight cancellations, in 2019 by the EEE virus and in 2020 by COVID-19, Marion will hold a Town Party on August 28.

            The next Water/Sewer Commissioners meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 24, and the next regular meeting of the Select Board is scheduled for Tuesday, June 22, at 6:00 pm at the Music Hall.

Marion Select Board

By Mick Colageo

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