It’s not often that large joint meetings work well, but the November 17 group meeting hosted by the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen did just that. Coming together at the invitation of the selectmen were members of the Capital Planning Committee, chaired by Chuck McCullough, and the Finance Committee, chaired by Pat Donoghue.
Three department heads came before the collaborative seeking to have their grant applications supported with matching town funds from the Capital Stabilization Fund, or, as was the case with harborside projects, a borrowing from the fund to pay for necessary wharf repairs.
Coming before the committees first was Barry Denham, the highway surveyor. Denham explained that the town had been awarded a Coastal Zone Management Grant of $75,000 that required the town to chip in $25,000.
The CZM grant, Denham explained, would be used for an engineering study of a culvert located on Mattapoisett Neck Road that redirects tidal flowage from marshland into Molly’s Cove. He said that the drainage pipe was most likely not appropriately sized when it was installed decades ago but furthermore was damaged and failing. The suspect piping had been patched, Denham said, but called it a “ticking time bomb.”
Denham said there were two other culverts in the beach communities of Pico Beach and Crescent Beach that were also failing, but fear over the Mattapoisett Neck Road culvert ranked higher given that residents have only one way to and from homes in that area.
Questions arose when McCullough stated that the 2019 Capital Planning schedule did not list any culverts; thus, he wondered aloud at the process and why such important items weren’t listed. “When a project hits us, it’s because due diligence has been done.” He said the Capital Plan should include all the funding required so that his committee can then rank the projects from highest to lowest priority. The Capital Planning Committee ranks all projects and equipment requests over $10,000 needed within a 10-year timeframe, then advises the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen.
Town Administrator Mike Lorenco said the culverts were not on the plan but that he and McCullough had been in discussions about what belongs on the working document. “Chuck and I have had conversations; things are missing,” Lorenco said of the Capital Plan list. He said he would have a discussion with department heads on what needs to be listed on the Capital Plan, calling it an “overhaul.” He added, “The plan should also note how things will be paid for.”
In the end, it was decided that Denham and Lorenco would reach out to CZM and learn whether or not the timeline for committing to the matching monies could be extended out to the spring. At that time, the request could go before Town Meeting. Barring that, Selectman Paul Silva said the board would revisit the proposal at their next regular meeting.
Next up was Fire Chief Andrew Murray, with a request for $33,755 from the Capital Stabilization Fund to be added to an award of $173,821, a grant received from FEMA. Murray explained that SCAB, which stands for self-contained breathing apparatus, will be purchased with the monies. He said that currently, the department is using equipment that is 24 years old. Murray plans on buying 23 units, one for each seat inside Fire Department emergency apparatuses as required by OSHA.
In this instance, the requested funds have been listed on the Capital Plan for a number of years, it was noted, but now time was of the essence. With the FEMA grant, the town could supply the safety equipment sooner rather than later, at better rates if done so before January 1, at better rates.
Murray’s request was positively received by all in attendance and approved by the selectmen.
Harbormaster Jamie MacIntosh also came before the assembled with a request to borrow $30,000 from the Stabilization Fund to pay for the replacement of damaged or missing pilings and associated gear for the wharves.
A Town Meeting vote had previously approved a separate project for $30,000 to dredge between wharves in October 2019.
Regarding the ‘loan,’ Silva wasn’t comfortable moving the funding unless it could be established how much would be paid back and over what period of time from the Waterfront Retained Earnings.
Again the group was in favor of supporting the request. In the end, it was approved by the selectmen with the stipulation that the Waterfront Enterprise Fund pay no less than $10,000 a year to the Capital Stabilization Fund.
Earlier in the meeting, it was discussed that the selectmen had the authority under the state’s emergency orders to move monies from the Stabilization Fund to other accounts. The selectmen sought the Finance Committee’s advice before acting on requests that they had received from the departments.
At McCullough’s request, Lorenco will prepare a list of all grants being pursued and any costs to the town. Lorenco said he would work on a documented procedure for department heads for grant applications moving forward.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen
By Marilou Newell