With the clock ticking down for the signing of the Fall Special Town Meeting warrant, Mattapoisett Selectmen Jordan Collyer and Paul Silva met at Town Hall on Sunday, October 6, in the nick of time to sign and post the warrant two weeks before a special town meeting as mandated by state law.
The warrant for the October 21 Fall Special Town Meeting contains 20 articles and begins with Article 1 that asks voters to accept the provisions of the Massachusetts Veterans’ Brave Act. The Brave Act that was signed into law last summer by Governor Baker allows cities and towns in the Commonwealth to waive property taxes for residents who have a family member whose life was lost in while serving in the military. Town Administrator Michael Gagne had stated at a previous meeting that possibly five families in town would be eligible to apply for the exemption.
Other highlights of the warrant include Article 4, sponsored by the Board of Assessors and the Board Selectmen, asking voters to grant a Home Rule Petition that would help protect the town’s interests related to alternative energy developers who may balk at signing a payment in lieu of taxes agreement (PILOT).
“So far we have been lucky,” said Kathleen Costello, administrator of assessing. She explained that a loophole in the law governing the development of commercial solar arrays and other alternative energy sources has the potential for those developers to take advantage of language intended to benefit homeowners and agricultural businesses.
Costello said that, currently, the regulations governing such installations is so poorly written that large commercial developers are trying to use the no taxation clauses to their advantage when, in fact, that language had been intended to grant relief to homeowners and agricultural entities.
“The solar developer we’ve been working with has been good to work with,” she said of Blue Wave, LLC. But she cautioned that with the closing of the Brayton Point and Plymouth power plants, “Solar companies have found us and our open lands.”
Costello said that the Home Rule Petition (HRP) would not affect the PILOT agreements currently in place, if adopted at Town Meeting. Only new alternative energy producers would be required to pay personal property taxes. They would not be able to avoid taxation if this passes, Costello said.
Speaking for assessors across the Commonwealth, Costello said they have been trying to get the legislature to move on this matter and, frankly, are fed up with inaction.
“If this passes, Mattapoisett would be the first town in the state to have such a law,” she said. “It’s a bold move.”
But, believing “nothing ventured nothing gained,” Costello hopes the voters will understand that, by forcing legislative action, Mattapoisett would gain further protections when commercial alternative energy producers come calling.
Costello said if the HRP passes, it would further protect Mattapoisett against litigious actions that commercial alternative energy developers may take against PILOT agreements in the future.
Article 3 is another HRP being put before the voters, asking that costs for police officers and school resource officer services be shared between the three towns for Old Rochester Regional Junior and Senior High School.
Other highlights include Article 5 for the establishment of a seven-member committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen to study the future of maintaining two elementary schools and a cost feasibility study for the construction of a new town hall versus other alternatives.
Article 12 will ask the voters to appropriate “a sum of money” from the Waterfront Enterprise Fund and certified free cash for the restoration, improvement, and repair to the town’s historic wharves.
Article 20 seeks approval for the borrowing of $2,535,000 for Public Works Projects such as a bridge on Acushnet Road, improvements to Industrial Drive, an east entrance for the new fire station off Route 6, Pearl Street and Tobey Street drainage improvements, and design and engineering for stormwater drainage systems for Holly Lane, Wildwood Terrace, Knollwood Drive, North Street, and the subdivision streets off North Street.
Other articles that will appear on the warrant:
Article 2 that would allow board members absent from a meeting to cast a vote on any hearing missed by submitting a letter certifying they have reviewed all relevant documentation and are fully informed on the matter.
Article 6 is to accept a gift of land from Robert Gingras located off Fairhaven Road adjacent to Randall Road.
Article 7 is transfer $500,000 from surplus revenue/free cash to various stabilization funds: $100,000 to the Special Education Reserve Stabilization, $300,000 for Debt Service Stabilization, and $100,000 to the Capital Improvements Stabilization.
Article 8 asks for $51,000 to review and update the town’s master plan.
Article 9 is an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget for increases to Health Department salaries, $7,500; Fire Department Salaries, $10,000; and Town Building salaries, $10,000.
Article 10 is for $167,000 to supplement the FY20 budget from certified free cash to the following funds: Reserve Fund, $40,000; Town Shade Trees and Beautification, $5,000; Vehicle Leases, $20,000; Town Insurance Deductible Reserve, $20,000; Parks Facility Improvement, $5,000; Workplace Safety Training and Compliance, $10,000; Land Appraisals Phase 2A Shared Use Path, $10,000; ADA Evaluation and Priority Planning, $12,000; Accrued Liability Funding, $40,000; and Elections Town Meetings, $5,000.
Article 11 is for $62,000 in free cash to be appropriated as follows: town building repairs, $15,000; town and school infrastructure appraisals, $25,000; and replacement of lawn and snow removal equipment, $22,000.
Article 13 is for $50,000 to fund the design, engineering and bidding work for a solar energy system on the closed town landfill, harbor improvements and dredging, repairs to Long Wharf, EPA regulatory compliance, and OSHA workplace safety compliance. (No specified amounts per item are listed).
Article 14 would set part-time library and town personnel schedules.
Article 15 would authorize the Board of Selectmen to enter into negotiations with the American Legion regarding the meeting hall on Depot Street to be used by the town for municipal meetings and to appropriate funds to repair the roof.
Article 16 grants the Selectmen authority to enter into agreements for easements necessary for stormwater street drainage improvements for drainage systems off Knollwood Drive, Wildwood Terrace, and Holly Lane as a taking/gift to the town for that purpose.
Article 17 would also give the Selectmen authorization to enter into easement agreements for the purpose of providing service to photovoltaic arrays located on Lot 9 Map 28 contiguous to the town’s closed landfill.
Article 18 would authorize the Board of Selectmen to approve and accept trails within the Tinkham Forest for public access.
Article 19 would authorize the Selectmen to issue a Request for Proposals for lease and license agreements for the installation of solar panels and production of electricity on the closed town landfill located off Tinkham Hill Road. The town would have the option of using the energy for municipal needs.
In other matters, the board touched on the possibility of holding a special election to fill the Board of Selectmen seat left vacant after Tyler Macallister resigned last week in order to pursue the town administrator position.
Selectman Jordan Collyer said the board could call a special election, but it would take 64 days, according to Massachusetts General Law, before the special election could be held. He also noted that the public could call for a special election, saying, “If 200 registered voters sign a petition calling for a special election, we’d hold one, but the same 64-day period must take place.”
In both instances, that would put a special election sometime in early 2020.
Collyer said he and Selectman Paul Silva had not had the time to discuss the matter of special elections and were awaiting some legal clarifications from town counsel on several matters related to the vacancy. Collyer confirmed that such discussions had to take place in the public domain, but were not scheduled at this time.
“There’s a lot we don’t know right now,” said Collyer.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen is scheduled for October 9 at 6 pm in the town hall conference room.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen
By Marilou Newell