Retirements Could Leverage Position Upgrades

            On March 24, the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen opened the Spring 2021 Annual Town Meeting Warrant, which will remain open until April 5 at 4:00 pm. The Annual Town Meeting is scheduled to be held on Monday, May 10; more details to follow.

            After finalizing that piece of business, the board moved on to reports from Town Administrator Mike Lorenco concerning the FY22 budget.

            Lorenco said that earlier school budget drafts had “come down.” The current total for education stands at $14,125,553. He also stated that both the Police Department and Fire Department had cut their budget requests. The Police Department budget was cut by some $50,000 representing a cruiser, while the Fire Department cut $45,000 in its salary line.

            Lorenco reported that, for municipal department heads, merit raises were proposed versus standardized annual raises.

            Regarding the previously discussed retirement of Conservation Agent Liz Leidhold, Lorenco said the board still needed to determine if the position should be more fully-funded versus part-time. He said that the agent regularly has to work overtime to keep up with the vigorous pace that the position demands, and that overtime pay is allocated to the Building Department.

            Lorenco also said that the position vacated by the retirement of Melody Pacheco needs to be upgraded and that he is working on a job description that would better suit the demands of an assistant or project manager to the town administrator.

            On a bright note, Lorenco said that the town has been able to fund approximately $4 million of its $9 million in Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) liability. He noted that in recent years the town has elected to set aside up to $240,000 in free cash to the fund. He suggested that for FY22, that sum could be reduced to $150,000, giving leeway to redeploy the difference in another direction.

            “We’ve reached a good match,” said Lorenco. “Maybe we could move around the funds for something like a new fire truck.”

            Moving on to items listed on the Capital Planning spreadsheet, Lorenco said the total of all capital items is $327,000. He then began discussing roadway projects. Currently listed for this category is $250,000 on the Capital Plan.

            In recent discussion with VHB, the project consulting firm handling design and engineering for the town’s Village Streets Improvement Project, Lorenco said the firm needs another $175,000 that had been previously approved in order to reach the 75-percent, shovel-ready design target. Thus far, $250,000 has been approved for the consultants to reach the 25-percent mark required before the town can move up the TIP ladder in FY22. Currently, the project rests on the state’s Transportation Improvement Project list for 2023.

            Improvements to Pearl Street were reviewed, with Lorenco indicating that the Water and Sewer Departments are ready but waiting for the green light as those engineering plans need completion. But the good news here, he stated, was that, due to savings realized by the Water and Sewer Departments on other projects, money is in-hand for that portion of the job.

            The board and town administrator also discussed Phase 1 of renovation and improvements to the Highway Department Building. Lorenco said that this phase would encompass drainage, water, and other infrastructural needs, and that $300,000 was already available from a previously approved Town Meeting article.

            Lorenco also said that he anticipates two petition articles for the warrant, one for the paving of Tinkham Lane. Anyone interested to having an article printed in the warrant is advised to contact the Town Clerk’s Office.

            The issue of high indirect costs assessed to the Transfer Station was raised by Selectman Jordan Collyer, who pondered, “Why are there indirect costs of $60,000 on a $90,000 operation with no full-time staff?” Lorenco said he would not wager a guess but would discuss it with the town account. Collyer said the operation has been receiving $50,000 in subsidy for several years to break even and wanted a clear line of sight in this matter. Lorenco said it was likely due to a portion of the Board of Health agent’s salary being allocated to the department.

            Selectman Paul Silva said he has the same concerns regarding the Waterfront Enterprise Fund. Lorenco said that, in part, that is due to the harbormaster’s retirement obligations that the town is required to fund.

            Lorenco rounded out his budget and Town Meeting warrant comments by adding that there will be two zoning bylaw articles. One article will address zoning updates to FEMA flood plain mapping, while the second is a new bylaw governing the construction of solar arrays. A public hearing will be held by the Planning Board to vet the bylaw changes on Monday, April 5, at 7:00 pm.

            A dog and cat rabies clinic will be held on Sunday, April 18, between 10:00 am and 12:00 noon at the fire station. All cats must be crated, and all dogs leashed during the clinic. There is a $15 fee.

            The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen is scheduled for Tuesday, April 13, at 6:30 pm.

Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen

By Marilou Newell

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