Lack of Plan Nearly Foils Article 8

On November 14, registered voters in Mattapoisett met for a Special Fall Town Meeting featuring a warrant of which nine articles proposed expenditures from certified free cash. Some weeks prior to Town Meeting, Mattapoisett received certification from state auditors that the free-cash figure was $2,200,000.

            On Monday night, voters were poised to make decisions on how some of that money might be used. Things went along smoothly with little or no debate until Article 8: Holy Ghost Property Renovations.

            When the draft warrant was being discussed by the Finance Committee, two members wondered at the wisdom of moving ahead with $150,000 planned for the construction of outdoor, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sanitary facilities attached to the rear of the existing masonry block structure at the town-owned, former Holy Ghost Grounds.

            Member Colleen Trahan expressed her concerns at the Finance Committee meeting that spending money in the absence of a plan was ill conceived. That resulted in the Finance Committee voting 5-2 in favor of supporting the spending now.

            Town Administrator Mike Lorenco said that he discussed the possibility of bringing in the construction services of students from Old Colony Regional Vocational-Technical High School. He said that Mattapoisett is presently on the Rochester-based school’s schedule but needed to commit to the funding.

            Lorenco, along with the majority of the Finance Committee membership, believed that in order for the 2016 land purchase (a 7-acre parcel off Park Street) to be a viable, useful parcel for the community, ADA-compliant restroom facilities are necessary. But a fully developed plan has yet to be drafted.

            Russell Chase asked if the former Holy Ghost Grounds was being considered as a site for affordable housing as noted in the recently released 2022 Master Plan draft.

            Select Board member Jordan Collyer said the Master Plan is only a draft. “It’s what could be but doesn’t dictate what will be done.”

            In a follow-up, Collyer said that the Holy Ghost property was purchased in part by a grant from the Community Preservation Act for recreational land use. As such, it would be difficult to undo the intended use of the acreage. “When we were thinking about purchasing the land, we thought about ball fields, a dog park and the bike path,” Collyer said, noting that the bathrooms located inside the existing structure are not functional and would not serve cyclists using the bike path.

            Collyer also stated during the follow-up that a large portion of the Holy Ghost property is made up of wetlands or buffer zones and that there is a cemetery there as well.

            During Town Meeting, Liz DiCarlo rose to speak, saying that in 2016, voters were excited about the property and were told that a committee would be formed to study land use. She questioned if that scenario is still possible.

            Lisa Hill, whose home is situated near the intersection of Acushnet Road and Park Street, asked if a traffic study has been done, given that speeding cars are already a problem in that location. Lorenco confirmed that no study has yet taken place.

            Bonne DeSousa asked if a public hearing could be planned, but Collyer said without a plan, a public hearing cannot be held. He then said, “It’s the will of Town Meeting whether bathrooms go in or not.” Collyer confirmed in his follow-up comments that the Select Board will establish a committee to begin the work of crafting a plan.

            After all questions and comments had been rendered, Article 8 passed by 41 yes votes against 18 no votes.

            Quickly and easily passed were: Article 1, Appropriation to Reduce OPEB Liability, $125,000 from Free Cash; Article 2, Appropriation to Debt Stabilization Fund, $150,000 from Free Cash; Article 3, Appropriation to Capital Stabilization Fund, $500,000 from Certified Free Cash; Article 4, Rescind Bonds and Notes, $2,214,426; Article 5, Amend FY23 Annual Budget (13 line items) Certified Free Cash and remove School Transportation, $200,000 which will now appear on the school’s budget and represents monies already expended; Article 6, Office Hours on Saturday as necessitated by early voting and voter registration; Article 7, Pearl and Oakland Road Reconstruction, $250,000 from Free Cash and Article 9, Sewer Betterment Reserve Allocation, $337,000 from Sewer Betterment for FY23 budget.

Mattapoisett Special Fall Town Meeting

By Marilou Newell

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