The August 21 agenda for the meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen was packed with weighty line items. Everything from wastewater treatment to sewer extensions, from bike paths to Green Community status and open space – the two-hour meeting touched on them all.
Before launching into infrastructure and suburban planning, the selectmen had the pleasant task of voting to appoint Police Officer Jeffrey Habicht to Sergeant.
Speaking on Habicht’s behalf, Marion Police Lt. Nighelli said that Habicht’s list of accomplishments included a bachelor’s degree from State University of New York, a master’s degree from Canisius College, as well as currently being a Massachusetts Police Training Council Instructor for first responders. Habicht has been a police officer for sixteen years.
After the appointment of Sgt. Habicht, the selectmen also met with John Rockwell, chairman of the open space committee, who gave the board results from a recent public survey. Rockwell said that the results were no surprise and had a 46-percent return rate. He stated that respondents were interested in safe walking and biking recreational pursuits, along with concerns about the quality of the water in Sippican Harbor.
Seguing from open space surveys to the proposed Marion bike path, the selectmen met with Jeff Oakes of Forth-CLE Engineering Group, the engineers designing the Marion Bike Path.
Oakes displayed the route for Phase 1 of the bike path that will extend from the confluence of Route 105 and Front Street to Point Road, approximately 3.7 miles. He said that the plans had reached the necessary 25-percent stage in compliance with a milestone set in the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (Mass DOT) who is on track to provide some 3.5 million in funding for the project. Oakes explained that the plans would be presented to Mass DOT on Friday, August 24. Another milestone Oakes discussed was a public meeting in April, which would be led by the Mass DOT, but held in Marion.
On the theme of beautification of public spaces in Marion, Selectman John Waterman asked the other members to consider ways to work with the Marion Garden Group for long-term maintenance of spaces they plan on improving through landscaping. They acknowledged that the town’s Department of Public Works did not have the staffing or expertise in maintaining planted areas. The selectmen asked Town Administrator Paul Dawson to schedule a meeting with Liz Hatch, the prime mover from the Marion Garden Group who spearheaded the effort to spruce up the town, so that plans could be formulated. Waterman also suggested setting up a fund specifically for collecting donations earmarked for ongoing maintenance activities of the upgraded green spaces. Dawson was asked to coordinate the establishment of a beautification fund.
The selectmen spent some time discussing the importance of strategic planning for wastewater treatment and septic systems. Dawson said some of the moving parts for evaluating various aspects of these two systems included a comprehensive amendment to the wastewater plan, identifying areas for future expansion of the public sewer system, and facing regulatory hurtles. Dawson said he would set up a meeting with CDM Smith, the town’s civil engineering consultants, to begin the process of prioritizing future plans.
The selectmen then shifted to a discussion on solid waste issues. Dawson had been asked to research outsourcing of curbside trash removal, currently handled by the town. Waterman said that given the possibility of needing to replace a trash compactor in the near future, outsourcing might be a viable option. He asked Dawson to secure three proposals from contractors providing this type of service. Dawson also mentioned that he had been exploring the possibility of regionalization of solid waste removal with surrounding towns.
On this theme, the selectmen also asked Dawson for an update on the Carver, Marion, Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District in the wake of ongoing litigation leveled against its former director and other parties.
Dawson said that presently the board of directors was reviewing audit options, but he wasn’t convinced that auditing some of the earlier years would yield much, because of missing documents. He said forensic audits could top at more than $100,000. Moving forward, he said that all the necessary checks and balances were in place. “We are using best practices now,” he assured the selectmen.
Dawson reminded the selectmen that a public forum was planned for September 20 at which time such issues as wastewater management, DPW study, solid waste disposal, and renovations to the Town House would be discussed. He asked the selectmen to provide him with any other topic areas for the agenda.
Also meeting with the selectmen was David Pierce, chairman of Marion’s Energy Management Committee. Pierce gave the selectmen an update on where the town stood in relationship to the requirements for becoming a designated Green Community. Such a designation could lead to many thousands of dollars in grant monies, he assured the selectmen.
Pierce said there were five criteria. The first was selecting a site for alternative energy generation. He said the town had completed this by selecting Benson Brook Transfer site as a possible location for a solar array. Number two called for the adoption of expediting alternative energy facilities permitting. According to him, the creation of bylaws governing solar arrays satisfied this point. Number three required the establishment of benchmarks for energy use and reduction. This Pierce said had begun with the purchase of electric cars and energy audits. The fourth objective was purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles – check – the town now owns electric cars used by various town departments. And last, but not least, number five required the minimization of life-cycle costs for new construction. Pierce said that one way to accomplish this was for the town to accept the new state building code known was the Stretch Code. On this point he said there would be a meeting on August 27 in the Music Hall at 7 pm for builders and architects in town to learn more about the state code. He also said his committee would be writing a warrant article for the annual Fall Town Meeting to ask voters to adopt the new building code.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen is scheduled for September 4 at 7 pm at a location to be announced.
Marion Board of Selectmen
By Marilou Newell