Restaurant Facing Non-Compliance Hearing

            With an increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases being reported at both the state and local level, the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen believes it is their responsibility to protect the residents of the community. To that end, responding to complaints that a local eatery was not complying with state guidelines, a public hearing was opened on October 13 for Nick’s Homemade Pizza, owned by George and Daphne Vrakes.

            A letter sent to the business owner(s) via certified mail was not responded to by the hearing date. That led to a rather long discussion on whether or not the board could or should hold the meeting in the absence of the business owners or continue to a later date.

            But first, read into the meeting minutes was the litany of complaints the Board of Health had received, complaints that centered around masks not being worn by employees of Nick’s Homemade Pizza. Between May 26 and September 30, there were 13 calls to Town Hall stating that masks were not being properly worn at the pizza restaurant by the employees. On October 1, Mattapoisett Health Agent Kayla Davis visited the establishment and was told by the owner, “I will not follow fake mask rules.” Davis had been sworn in by attorney Brian Riley of KP Law, the town’s counsel, earlier in the hearing for the purposes of providing her testimony.

            Selectman Paul Silva said that anonymous complaints were followed-up on but that those could not be used to build a case against the business. “We need people to identify themselves,” he said. When the number of complaints where customers had been willing to identify themselves reached critical mass, the board sought to take action.

            After a considerable discussion that included Silva stating, “My concern is the timing, there have been five new cases in eight days … if this goes on, we could be hurting someone.” He pushed to have the board re-open the hearing at the earliest possible date and time. It was determined that it would be in the best interest of the town to have a hand-delivered hearing notice brought to the business by a police officer or a constable to ensure that the Vrakes were positively notified.

            The hearing will reopen on Friday, October 16, at 5:00 pm via the remote platform. The Vrakes were to receive the notification on October 14, within the 48-hour notification requirement. Weighing in the balance are both the common victualer and alcohol licenses that the Vrakes currently hold.

            In other business, Dale Leavitt of Blue Stream Shellfish reported that during the past year, he has been mired in red tape at both the state and local levels when it was uncovered that all the permits from the previous business owner had expired. The situation has taken the entire year to untangle, but Leavitt said he was confident things would be cleared up in the coming days. The board decided to rollover the $2,000 fee Leavitt paid last year that granted him 10 acres in Nasketucket Bay. They also agreed that his agreement with the town would be “re-set,” giving him all the provisions previously granted. Leavitt noted deep appreciation to Conservation Agent Liz Leidhold for assisting him with documents.

            John Cornish of the Matt-Sail program said that the summer season had been a good one with some 89 youngsters participating in the summertime program. There ensued a decision of finding a permanent location for the 24 boats used in the program. For several seasons they have wintered over at the former Holy Ghost grounds now owned by the town. Selectman John DeCosta voiced his concern that the boat storage might eventually interfere with the property being used for other activities. In the end, it was decided that Town Administrator Mike Lorenco would work with the Board of Health to secure a location at the town landfill.

            Turning to the matter of whether or not the town should discourage the October 31 ritual of door-to-door trick-or-treating, the selectmen heard from both the Mattapoisett Police Department and the Mattapoisett Lions Club about alternative activities that would offer a bit of festive fun for children and their families.

            Silva said, “These are difficult times. Our goal is to keep the residents of Mattapoisett as safe as possible,” so discouraging door-to-door trick-or-treating was in everyone’s best interest.

            Kimberly Ray of the Lions Club discussed a drive-through event on October 24. She said that plans include passing out pumpkins and goodie bags to children while they pass by Lion Club members stationed along a roadway loop. Police Chief Mary Lyons said that the department wanted to do a similar activity on Halloween Day.

            Where to hold such events safely without causing traffic snarls and endangering pedestrians was discussed. In the end, it was decided that Old Hammondtown School offers the best central location and can be safely accessed by participants. Lorenco said he would reach out to the school department and let them know about the events.

            In his report to the board, Lorenco said the Police Department was close to finalizing updated Emergency Management Plans and hoped to have them ready for the board’s review by next week. He said that work on reorganizing the shellfish-enforcement duties with the Harbormaster’s department was underway and that engineering for the solar array planned for the town’s landfill was also well underway.

            On the topic of possible new revenue sources, Lorenco said he was reviewing such areas as a local commercial-rental excise tax of 6 percent, short-term rental tax of 3 percent, and a new cell tower on town property, and would embark on a feasibility study for the latter of these. Lorenco also reported that he was working on a possible new bylaw aimed at establishing local littering fines.

            Board of Selectman secretary Melody Pacheco announced that scallop fishing will open for the inner harbor for residents on Thursday, October 15, and for commercial entities on Sunday, November 1.

            The Vrakes’ public hearing will be held on Friday, October 16, at 5:00 pm and regular meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen will be held on Tuesday, October 27, at 6:30 pm.

Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen

By Marilou Newell

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