Patience Sought in Wake of Police Chief Arrest

            During the July 20 meeting of the Mattapoisett Select Board, Chairman Jordan Collyer asked for the public’s understanding as the town works through the weekend arrest of Chief of Police Mary Lyons.

            Reading from prepared notes, Collyer called it “an unfortunate matter. [Chief Lyons] has been placed on administrative leave with pay effective [July 19],” he stated. “The town is taking this seriously and will be moving forward with our own investigation immediately. Once information can be obtained, we will take appropriate action on behalf of the town.”

            Collyer acknowledged that the public had questions, but noted the town was unable to comment any further at that time. Collyer asked for the public’s “support, patience, and understanding as we navigate this matter.” In the interim, Captain Jason King will handle the command position.

            “We have every bit of faith that the integrity of the town’s Police Department will be maintained, and they will continue to serve the public as they always have,” said Collyer. “We, as a board, stand behind the men and women of our police force as they continue to provide the needed services of their department to the citizens at large.”

            The next agenda item was the acceptance of the resignation of Shannon Finning from the Mattapoisett School Committee. Collyer then read in full Finning’s letter of resignation dated July 15. In the letter, Finning asserted that School Committee Chairman James Muse “has treated me, personally, with disrespect and, of more concern, has, in my opinion, demonstrated unwillingness to hear from all constituents and effectively engage and communicate with parents and families in particular.”

            Collyer publicly thanked Finning for her many contributions during her time as a Mattapoisett School Committee member.

            In an interview Monday night, Muse told The Wanderer that he has always respected Finning professionally and personally and wished her well in her future endeavors.

            The board also met with Marine Advisory Board Chair Carlos DeSousa, who discussed the need for a professionally written Waterfront Management Plan. He said grant monies were available up to $120,000 with the town needing to kick in another $30,000, but Collyer wanted to know what the deliverables would be. “What will we actually get?” he asked.

            DeSousa pointed to technical information that would be useful to boaters as well as others using the waterfront. He said that last time a management plan for the waterfront was drafted was in 2011, but it lacked much of what a plan for the current times should include. DeSousa said that doing the plan now is an important step towards having it incorporated in the town’s Master Plan currently under review. Collyer pressed further, asking, “What does this get us other than a stack of papers?”

            DeSousa pointed to aquaculture as a big reason to produce a management plan, given the town’s investment in revitalizing shellfish beds. Collyer told DeSousa that the proposal would have to go before the Capital Planning Committee and the Finance Committee, as both are involved in the allocation of taxpayer dollars. Collyer said he is on board but wants to ensure that the money invested in a waterfront management plan would be beneficial to the townspeople. Select Board member Jodi Bauer concurred, saying, “People will want to know, ‘How is this going to benefit me?’”

            Shifting gears to the needs of the wharves, Collyer asked the Marine Advisory Board to produce suggestions on best ways to roll out future construction and asked Town Administrator Mike Lorenco to draft an RFQ (request for quotes) by September 15.

            Also meeting with the board was architect Steve Kelleher regarding renovations and repairs to the Highway Department barn on Mendell Road. Cost estimates for Phase 1 came in far over expectations. “It’s $156,000 over budget,” Kelleher said.

            There ensued a discussion of best next steps, including a complete unpacking of the proposed three phases and parsing some work to in-house resources. Collyer said a meeting between FinCom, the Select Board, and the Highway Department should be set up to drill down through options and issues. He encouraged Kelleher to “estimate the whole thing [and] trend it out for 18 months … then set up a working meeting.”

            The board also discussed the conservation agent vacancy and how best to try and interest qualified people to come forward. The biggest problem identified was the part-time status of the position. Discussion of the need to review the agency’s fee structure was brought to the fore with Collyer asking David Lawrence of the Conservation Commission, present for the meeting, to ask the commissioners to review current fees. “This is a service; it’s a cost center for the town,” said Collyer, who also said that FinCom needs to be involved with any staffing decisions moving forward.

            Lorenco commented that the town is also searching for a new fulltime Board of Health agent.

            Meeting with the board was Mike Sudofsky, proprietor of the Walrus and the Captain restaurant. Sudofsky requested and received conditional approval for a bar cart to service the outdoor patio tables he’ll be allowed to use until April 1, 2022. The condition placed on the board’s approval is that the Building Department also approve the request to ensure it is in compliance with permitting.

            The board approved the annual Watershed Ride hosted by the Buzzards Bay Coalition on October 3 and the South Coast Bikeway Alliance’s Pedal for the Path bike ride planned for September 12. Also receiving approval was the Mattapoisett Road Race Committee’s request for its annual race. Normally held on July 4, the 2021 race was moved to August 21.

            The public was reminded of the July 27 special election to fill a seat on the Select Board. The vacancy was created with the untimely passing of John DeCosta Jr. Polls will be open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at Old Hammondtown School.

            Lastly, the public was told that a Free Vessel Safety Inspection and Safe Boating information will be available at the town wharves on Saturday, July 24, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, sponsored by the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla.

            The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Select Board is scheduled for August 10 at 6:30 pm.

Mattapoisett Select Board

By Marilou Newell

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