The Town of Mattapoisett is going to fight the Boston Passport Agency’s abrupt decision to close the U.S. passport office at the Mattapoisett Town Hall as of March 31.
In a March 10 letter from the agency addressed to Passport Agent Paula Butterfield, the agency cited low numbers in participation as the reason behind the decision, but Town Administrator Michael Gagne told the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen on March 24 he disagrees that servicing 64 residents last year is low, considering the smaller population of the town.
“Washington says that any agency that’s not processing 250 or more passports should be shut down,” said Gagne. He told the Boston Passport Agency representative over the phone, “I beg to differ with you.”
Gagne said one could not simply compare a number between two cities or towns, for example, Brockton and Mattapoisett. Getting nowhere with the representative over the phone, Gagne contacted Representative Bill Keating’s office for assistance and then filed an appeal with the Boston Passport Agency.
Gagne said the local office often services the elderly, and parents have come in with their children, making the service much more convenient and comfortable than going to the city to process passports.
“I think it’s a great thing,” said Gagne. “I don’t understand.”
Also during the meeting, the board appointed two new members to fill the two vacant seats on the Mattapoisett Agricultural Commission after brief interviews with the two applicants.
Michael King, also a member of the Conservation Commission, and newcomer Michael Dubuc will each bring their own experience and expertise to the commission, which serves as a an agency providing advocacy and representation of residents involved in farming and agriculture as issues arise.
This appointment precedes an article on the 2015 Annual Town Meeting warrant that would officially designate Mattapoisett as a “Right to Farm Community.”
Dubuc told selectmen he has many years working in the cranberry industry, both in Quebec and Massachusetts.
“I‘m very involved with cranberries,” said Dubuc. “I figured, I’m in agriculture … I thought I could throw my hat in.”
King told selectmen that for three years he has been learning the regulatory processes of agriculture and his service on the ConCom would enhance his service on the Agricultural Commission since many farms involve encroachment of wetlands resource areas.
“I think it’s a great benefit to the Town and I look forward to the opportunity to serve the Town,” said King.
In other matters, Gagne reported on Highway Surveyor Barry Denham’s attendance at the Plymouth County Highway Association meeting and provided some “interesting data,” as he put it.
Reading from a sheet of data from various towns pertaining to the expenses related to the “winter of misery,” Gagne called the information eye-opening, and he also celebrated that Mattapoisett fared better than most other towns on the list.
Mattapoisett, with 59 miles of road to plow and salt, expended $129,362 so far this fiscal year. That boils down to $2,192 per mile. Other towns did not do as well.
Lakeville with its 79.7 miles of road spent $275,962 or $3,462 per mile. The numbers varied, with the highest example being Hanover, which expended $929,722 to plow and salt its 90 miles of road, at $10,330 per mile.
Gagne praised Denham for his management of snow removal during the worst storms this year and said, luckily, that Mattapoisett will be able to use free cash to cover the budget shortfall, in addition to federal dollars ranging from $24,000 to $30,000 in reimbursement still to come.
Also during the meeting, Gagne asked residents to visit the Town website to express any interest in learning more about the Van Pool Ride, which requires 14 residents to sign up for more information in order to begin the process for consideration. Gagne said so far he only has eight people signed up, and he encouraged residents to sign up even if they are only somewhat interested in hearing more about the commuter service.
Conservation Commission members are seeking resident feedback on a proposed draft wetlands bylaw, viewable on the Town website under “town news.” Residents can leave comments and feedback online.
The board met briefly with the Tri-Town Herring Inspectors who told selectmen the drawn-out winter has delayed the herring count, with ice still covering much of the still-cold waters. Counters are usually placed in the second week of March, and the gentlemen do not anticipate placing the herring counters until at least the first weekend in April.
Members of the Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School Committee were present long enough to reappoint Ray Andrews to the committee.
Gagne asked anyone who has signed their cat up in the Town’s new Feline ID Program to please submit a photo of your cat if you have not done so already.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen is tentatively scheduled for April 14, pending the presence of a quorum.
By Jean Perry