Select Board Seeks One to Fill Two Positions

The Mattapoisett Select Board spent the better part of its January 11 meeting discussing vacancies that have remained open for many months – a conservation agent and a town planner.

            Coming before the board were Janice Robbins and Nathan Ketchel of the Planning Board and Mike King and David Lawrence of the Conservation Commission.

            Town Administrator Mike Lorenco began the discussion saying that a part-time planner position had been offered but the applicant later withdrew acceptance. He said the concept of combining two part-time positions to create what is hoped to be a more attractive full-time offering was on the table.  

            Speaking on behalf of the Planning Board, Robbins said, “I have mixed feelings about a combined position.” She then went on to describe the difficulties the board had been experiencing even when a part-time planner had been on board. Robbins said that such projects as review and updating of zoning bylaws, review and updating of subdivision rules and regulations, seeking grants, and Master Plan development were all complex projects.

            “No one working part-time can do all of that,” said Robbins, who believes expanding the position to full time is needed. “We need a true planner.” She said that now with former Town Administrator Mike Gagne no longer assisting the board, “we can’t maintain the status quo.”

            Ketchel added his voice, saying, “I’m working about 10 hours a week using my personal time.” He said that in order to get minutes up to date, he’d have to watch months of video tapes.

            King was asked to share his thoughts on a shared, full-time staff employee. He said that the commission elected to bring in an environmental consultant whose work would be paid by applicants filing for permits. He confirmed that during the first three months there were a number of projects that needed a fair amount of clerical housekeeping, but that now things are working well.

            King suggested to the board that they take budgeted sums for a part-time agent and use them towards the hiring of a full-time planner. On more than one occasion he impressed upon the board how well things were working out for the town and the commission with a consulting agent.

            The board felt that a consultant was a short-term fix, that the town needs its own personnel handling conservation matters. But all agreed that filling part-time positions would continue to be a challenge, hence the concept of a 50-50 combination is something they wish to pursue.

            Collyer said, “We owe it to the taxpayer to try a combined role, it is long overdue.” He also asked Robbins and Ketchel to submit exactly the types of clerical assistance they need so that such assistance might be made available with current town hall staffing.

            In further discussion of the issue, Select Board member Tyler Macallister said that the vision is to have a director of Inspectional Services, a code-enforcement official that would work with the combined planner/agent. He said that having a hired consultant was “not the way it’s supposed to work.” Lawrence spoke up, saying, “But we don’t need help.” Macallister responded, “No, you do need help, the consultant is not the solution.”

            The board moved to advertise the combined position.

            The board also met with architect Stephen Kelleher and Highway Surveyor Garrett Bauer to discuss the status of plans for repairs and renovation for the Highway Department barn. Kelleher said that the project had been on hold for some months after coming in over budget. He said the plan, which was first conceived in 2018, was for a three-phase construction approach. Kelleher said that construction costs have soared, estimating the project now somewhere around $2,000,000.

            Both Kelleher and Baur asked the board to consider a single phase of construction with a seven-month construction period to get the work done.

            Lorenco said that various Town Meeting articles have been passed, appropriating money for needed work on the highway barn. He was asked to research funding sources while Kelleher was asked to prepare plans for bidding purposes. Collyer said that possibly a combination of free cash and bonds would make it possible to get the repairs completed.

            The board awarded a design contract to Childs Engineering of Bellingham for Long Wharf. The board, along with Harbormaster Jamie McIntosh and Chairman of the Marine Advisory Board Carlos DeSousa, were in agreement that Childs is the best pick for this preliminary phase of design work. The estimated cost for Childs Engineering is $257,477.

            Earlier in the proceedings, the board met with Attorney Matthew Thomas to discuss the final agreement between landowners and easements needed by the town along Acushnet Road. Such easements were needed during the construction of a new culvert across Acushnet Road. Four agreements covering three properties ranged from $216 to $1,332 for 164, 169 and 174 Acushnet Road.

            The board also met with Ray Andrews regarding noise complaints that have been lodged against groups renting the American Legion Hall located on Depot Street. Andrews said he met with members of the group who were asked to leave the residential neighborhood immediately after the closing of meetings versus congregating outside the building and that smoking on the grounds is not permitted. He said that follow-up meetings with the residents and the groups found matters resolved. The board thanked him for his time and attention in the matter.

            The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Select Board is scheduled for Tuesday, January 25, at 6:30 pm.

Mattapoisett Select Board

By Marilou Newell

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