MOU Paves Way for Phase 1b

            It was received as good news when on April 25, three business days after the Mattapoisett Select Board meeting held April 20, it was learned that Phase 1b of the Bike Path is to open.

            Select Board member Jordan Collyer, who has taken the lead on dealing with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on the Memorandum of Understanding, told The Wanderer on Tuesday that they have received an acceptable MOU.

            “The board plans on meeting Thursday (April 27 at 6:00 pm) to review the MOU. I can’t speak for the board, but I’m comfortable with it,” said Collyer.

            This comes after the April 20 Select Board meeting in which Collyer railed against “name calling” on Facebook that he said, “wouldn’t solve anything.” He said that language and specifically the word “maintenance” without a definition as to just exactly what maintenance might mean in this context was the problem.

            Now with this resolved, plans are underway for opening the security gate and letting the public, at long last, enjoy the pathway from Fairhaven to Mattapoisett village.

            It took some time on April 20 for the Mattapoisett Select Board and Finance Committee to review Article One, Elected Officers’ Compensation. The sticking points were two pay raises being requested, one by the current Town Clerk Catherine Heuberger and the other by the Highway Surveyor Garrett Bauer.

            The meeting established which articles the board and the committee would support or decline support during the May 8 Town Meeting. The board and the committee had already reviewed budgets with all department heads leading up to the meeting, but Finance Committee Chairman Pat Donoghue questioned Bauer’s requested $7,500 increase, which would bring his salary up to $87,500.

            Donoghue asked, “What message are we sending the other town employees? I’m troubled by this.” Member Kevin Geraghty said that the salary was originally set at a lower level than that of former surveyor Barry Denham, who had held the position for over 20 years.

            “Garrett took a haircut, we gave him a reduced rate. He runs a good ship,” said Collyer, noting that during bad weather, roads remain open, that Bauer has a degree and that market rate for a job such as his ranges between $90,000 and $95,000. “If we had to look for a qualified person, we’d be paying more,” he said.

            Town Administrator Mike Lorenco noted that Bauer holds a CDL license and that when necessary, “…is in the ditches doing the work.”

            Also adding her support for the increase was Select Board member Jodi Bauer. “He puts in a lot. You are getting a lot for your buck. He could be gone,” she said.

            Lorenco said that Garrett Bauer had been looking at salaries paid in private industry as well as other towns to compare. “Yes, increases should be based on merit,” said Lorenco, adding that Bauer “was at the low end.”

            Donoghue was steadfast in her belief that it appeared as though elected officials were getting more. “I went to Town Hall and said the streets aren’t being cleaned. I was told we don’t have the people to do the work. Why aren’t we looking at that?” she asked.

            Regarding the town clerk’s requested increase of $3,600 to a salary of $75,000, Lorenco said Heuberger’s current salary of $71,400 was in line with other communities.

            When the two groups voted whether or not to support the pay increases in Article One, the Finance Committee members were all in favor, except Donoghue. The Select Board voted unanimously for Article One.

            The proposed compensation in Article One reads: Moderator $290 up from $282; Board of Selectmen Chairman $5,945 up from $5,829, Board of Selectmen members each $5,358 up from $5,253, Assessors each $5,358 up from $5,253, Town Clerk $75,000 up from $71,400, Board of Health each $678 up from $696, Highway Surveyor $87,500 up from $80,000, Mattapoisett School Committee each $692 up from $687, Water/Sewer Commissioners each $678 up from $692, Tree Warden $10,500 up from $10,083, and Herring Inspector $988 up from $968.

            While Article One garnered a large piece of the meeting, Article Two General Operating Budget was swiftly and unanimously (by both the board and the committee) supported at $32,405,674.

            Article Three asks voters to appropriate $204,000 for OPEB liabilities, Article Four $160,000 appropriation for the School Assessment Stabilization Fund, Article Five to authorize Departmental Revolving Fund expenditure limits, Article Six $45,000 for Cyclical Annual Property Revaluation and Town Mapping, Article Seven $4,500 for actuarial analysis of the Town’s OPEB liability, Article Eight Personnel Schedules and Article Nine Acceptance of the Capital Planning Committee report.

            Regarding the Capital Planning Committee Requests and planning are listed in Article Ten as follows: $20,000 for a security server for local schools, $170,000 CAT Backhoe/Loader, $19,000 replacement of fire panel in schools, $55,000 Fire Department SUV, $65,000 Police cruiser, Road Improvements $250,000, $19,500 school kitchen oven, $48,150 roof soffits and gutters for schools, $45,000 library carpet replacement lower level, $85,000 library slate-roof repairs, $35,000 Town Hall study, $20,000 repair window seals at schools, $25,000 replace VCT flooring in schools, $25,000 furniture and equipment replacements for Town Hall, $15,000 reorganization, repairs and cleanup at the Transfer Station.

            Waterfront Department requests are: $30,000 for Long Wharf boring study and $35,000 for dredging of the inner harbor. Water Department needs are: $120,000 village watermain replacement, $30,000 lead and copper study and plan and $30,000 for well upgrades. The Sewer Department is requesting $35,000 for lift-station upgrades.

            Article Eleven asks voters to approve the borrowing of $3,700,000 for necessary Fairhaven Sewer Treatment Plant upgrades. Article Twelve asks voters to approve the appropriation of $4,830,000 for the purchase of approximately 241 acres of primarily agricultural lands in the Mattapoisett River Valley for the purposes of conserving the area for drinking-water protection. The article notes that grants from the Community Preservation Act and other entities will be sought.

            Article Thirteen $48,000 for the Old Colony Debt Authorization for Feasibility Study is requested from member communities based on enrollment so that school expansion options and upgrades can be explored, and Article Fourteen will appropriate $1,437,000 for reconstruction of Oakland and Pearl Streets.

            Articles Fifteen through Twenty allocate revenues for the Community Preservation Act, with $25,300 for Housing, $25,300 Historic Preservation, $25,300 Open Space and $115,000 Budgeted Reserve. Article 16-20 are FY24 grant requests from: Mattapoisett Historical Commission for survey funding $15,000, Florence Eastman American Legion Post 280 for ADA improvements and restroom repairs, Mattapoisett Housing Authority for window replacements and other repairs $150,000 and Mattapoisett Christian Church/Museum for damaged exterior walls, windows, and other improvements $38,000.

            Article Twenty-One Water Reserve Account appropriates $10,000 from Water Retained Earnings for establishing a reserve for unforeseen expenses and the same for Article Twenty-two for the Sewer Reserve Account.

            Article Twenty-Three would reduce property-tax obligations for those veterans who perform volunteer services, Article Twenty-Four would beef up the language in Mattapoisett’s General Bylaws regarding the removal of trees on scenic roadways, and Article Twenty-Five would establish a Cemetery Commission for the purposes of developing care planning and to act as facilitators for the Barlow and Hammond cemeteries.

            Articles Twenty-Six, Twenty-Seven and Twenty-Eight seek to amend and/or modify appointment of alternate members placed on the Capital Planning, Finance and Conservation Commission.

            Article Twenty-Nine would amend the town’s Dog Waste Bylaw in an effort to improve adherence to dog-waste removal by responsible parties. Article Thirty would ban the sale of “nips” in an effort to control trash pollution along public roadways, and Article Thirty-One would allow the Town to exit the landfill agreement, which is unsigned, with NEXAMP for property located at the Transfer Station.

            Before the joint meeting began, the Select Board voted to accept July 4th Road Race route changes that will now avoid travel along Route 6. They also approved a request from Tastebuds for outdoor dining during the summer season. The board also approved the spending of $34,450 for test borings on Long Wharf.

            Town-sponsored student scholarships were discussed having received two applications recently. The fund currently holds $4,500, monies donated by property owners. They tabled a decision on how much to gift the students.

            The Select Board also voted to appoint Ben Church as a full-time Police officer.

            The Mattapoisett Select Board plans to meet on Thursday, April 27, at 6:00 pm to review the MOU related to the Bike Path. The Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 8, at 6:30 pm in the Old Rochester Regional High School auditorium. The next regular meeting of the Select Board has not been announced.

Mattapoisett Select Board and Finance Committee

By Marilou Newell

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