While many people were enjoying sun and fun last summer, members of the Mattapoisett Council on Aging Board of Directors were busy distributing and tabulating the results of a survey designed to gauge community engagement and the needs of an aging population.
Rachel McGourthy, chairman of the COA Board of Directors, flanked by Jackie Coucci, COA director, and board member Shirley Haley met with the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen to share the survey results.
McGourthy said of Mattapoisett’s 6,570 inhabitants, half were 55 years of age or older and, of that group, some 2,000 were over 60 years of age, making the case that even more seniors would be living in town as the wave of ‘baby boomers’ headed towards senior citizen status.
While the survey asked participants a variety of questions including what types of programs they would like the COA offer, it also captured the types of services seniors are looking for.
Based on the survey results, McGourthy said, “Our greatest concerns are transportation and housing.” She also said the COA is exploring ways to communicate to all seniors in the community including homebound residents. “We need to educate seniors on what services are available and to see what we can do going forward.”
Regarding transportation, Coucci said she was looking into ride share opportunities with surrounding councils, adding that retaining drivers for the senior van was a big challenge.
On the topic of housing, Town Administrator Michael Gagne said that Governor Baker hoped to increase housing units by 125,000 over the next five years through public and private partnerships. Referring to the work of the COA, Gagne said, “If housing gets off the ground, we’ll be positioned for grant applications.”
Haley asked about the availability of Community Preservation funds. Gagne acknowledged there were funds earmarked for public housing.
Beyond the survey, the COA is addressing the needs of the greater community – those not yet at retirement age – with programs on financial planning. Coucci said, “In April, there will be a representative from the Social Security Administration at the COA to talk to those people preparing for retirement.” She also pointed to a monthly CPR class hosted by the COA and open to the public at large.
Of the current structural needs of the senior center, Gagne said that ADA compliance was being addressed. Coucci said that parking was very difficult for seniors accessing Center School where the offices of the COA are located.
Gagne said that as the Capitol Planning Committee begins the next session of long-range spending needs, a combined recreation and senior center could be on the schedule. He explained that, as debt was retired, the committee’s focus would be shifted from the needs of the library and school buildings to other needs such as a building for the Council on Aging.
Coucci said the survey would help in the development of a five-year strategic plan for the COA. “We are all seniors in training,” Coucci chuckled. She also said that she wanted, with the help of the Board of Directors, to make Mattapoisett “an age-friendly community.”
Moving to other agenda items, Gagne updated the selectmen on a recent meeting of the Massachusetts Municipal Association where the issue of opioids and their impact on cities and towns in the Commonwealth was discussed. He said a group of legal firms, working as municipal legal counselors in various locations throughout the state, was exploring options for holding pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors accountable for actions on their part that contributed to the explosion in addiction and related outfall from off-label use.
Gagne said he would be bringing together a group comprised of members of town departments such as schools, police, community nurse, and COA, as well as private and public social service agencies to “address this issue and see if there is something that can be done to help the community with this issue.”
Regarding the Special Town Meeting that had been held the previous evening, at which voters passed two zoning bylaw articles to impose a temporary moratorium on recreational and medical marijuana sale in Mattapoisett, Gagne said, “Now the real work starts.” The town will now petition the Attorney General to grant the moratorium through December 31, 2018.
Gagne told the selectmen that he would be working with Planning Board Administrator Mary Crain to scope out the development of two committees to address the two separate zoning bylaws the board will now be tasked with writing. The Planning Board’s next meeting is scheduled for March 5 at 7:00 pm in the town hall conference room, but Gagne said he might bring the board together before that for a “working session.”
In other business, the selectmen met with a representative from Verizon to discuss double telephone poles along Route 6 that the utility needs to vacate. Selectman Paul Silva was especially frustrated with the length of time double poles have remained in place and worried that when they are finally removed the remaining holes, if improperly filled, will become a public safety hazard.
There was considerable discussion regarding which utility was ultimately responsible for removing the approximately 20 double poles located not only along Route 6, but also along River Road and other locations. It was disclosed that Eversource was responsible.
Silva asked Gagne to work with town counsel to review options, including removal dates for older poles when utilities request permits from the town to place new poles as well as the possibility of imposing fines when the abandoned poles are not promptly removed.
Gagne also reported that the Mattapoisett Flood Hazard Mitigation Plan would be uploaded to the town website for public review, comment, and revision. He said that once the document was approved by FEMA, the town could then apply for funding as needed for environmental remediation concerns. He said that of particular concern was the sewer main that crosses Eel Pond. Gagne said he had been working with the sewer department to prepare the necessary data and materials in preparation of grant applications. Of that project, he said, “We’ll need funding from multiple sources.”
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen is scheduled for February 27 at 6:30 pm in the town hall conference room.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen
By Marilou Newell