The Marion Board of Selectmen voted unanimously during its March 2 meeting to turn down Diane Bondi Pickles’ proposal of a memorial bench in honor of her late husband Raymond Pickles that she would donate and set near the Harbormaster’s office at her own expense.
Ray Pickles, former Marion town administrator, town clerk, assessor, building inspector, and Carver, Marion, and Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District director, passed away on December 19, 2020, at age 86, while he faced six criminal felony counts of Grand Larceny for allegedly stealing $675,000 from the CMWRRDD. The CMWRRDD later dropped its civil suit against the surviving defendants on April 15, 2020, of which Bondi Pickles was one; the criminal case was dismissed after Pickles’ death.
In publicly reading a letter she had sent the board prior to the meeting, Bondi Pickles emphasized her late husband’s 47 years of public service to the Town of Marion, including his 29 years as town administrator. “Ray loved this town,” she said, citing testimonials.
Selectman Norm Hills, who served as treasurer of the CMW district for Marion’s final three years of membership, referenced “significant irregularities” and said, “Based on that, I’m not inclined to agree to this request.”
Bondi Pickles asked Hills to be more specific, arguing that her husband was only accused and that the case never went to trial. Furthermore, she said she was the victim of slander. “I lost my job, I had to resign,” she stated.
Hills agreed that the CMW was a very complex financial undertaking but said, “A lot of money missing when Ray was involved,” calling Pickles “captain of the ship at the time.” Hills said, “In the early years, Ray did an amazing job, but in the last three years…” Hills was interrupted at that point.
Neither Selectman John Waterman nor Chairman Randy Parker offered comment, but all three voted against the proposal.
In his Town Administrator’s Report, Jay McGrail publicly announced that DPW Director David Willett plans to retire on May 14, 2021; Willett will stay part-time through June 25 to help with the transition process and continue assisting with several large capital projects. He also said he would remain available on a consulting basis should the need arise. Willett started with Marion in April 2019. McGrail said he would start the process of finding a replacement within the next few weeks.
McGrail expressed the town’s regret at the news that Lockheed-Martin is closing its Marion facility, affecting approximately 400 employees, the majority of whom he said would be offered work elsewhere but would need to relocate to stay with the company. The closure is one of several by Lockheed-Martin across the country.
“Our priority is for a new tenant in the Sippican Office Park space that will enrich the community,” said McGrail.
Marion has spearheaded a Tri-Town plan in partnership with the Old Rochester Regional School District and Superintendency Union #55 to host another regional COVID-19 vaccination clinic, this one for 1,192 Tri-Town educators over a two-day period. The proposed program would vaccinate educators in every school within the ORR District plus Tabor Academy and Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School, along with any educators residing in the Tri-Town who happen to work outside the Tri-Town area. State Representative Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett) has supported the project.
On February 25, the selectmen met publicly to view BHB engineering representative Scott Damelio’s presentation of a solution for Hiller Street parking problems. The plan under consideration maintains two-way traffic on the street but limits parking via diagonally striped areas marked along both sides of the road.
In a public hearing, the selectmen voted to approve the application of Ansel’s Cafe, LLC, 403 County Road, for an on-premises license to sell all alcohol. “We don’t have a full bar or anything like that,” said owner Elizabeth Carter, who said all servers are over age 18. Ansel’s Cafe is open from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm Tuesday-Sunday. McGrail told the selectmen that, with Ansel’s approval, Marion still has four available liquor licenses.
The selectmen voted to approve Harbormaster Isaac Perry’s and Shellfish Officer Adam Murphy’s request for a one-year extension to the three existing aquaculture licenses as new regulations are formulated in partnership with the Marine Resources Commission. Perry expects the selectmen to be able to review the new regulations in the next three months.
The selectmen voted to approve the DPW’s request to deficit spend on snow and ice removal. “We’ve spent the budget completely,” said McGrail, who estimates four snow-plowing efforts so far this winter.
The board approved the appointment of Patricia White to the Scholarship and Education Committee.
As Tuesday’s meeting opened, Parker was presented a large birthday cake and a song.
The selectmen, who also act as Marion’s Water/Sewer Commissioners, set their next meeting in that capacity for Thursday, March 25, at 4:00 pm. The board’s March 4 joint meeting with the Finance Committee was postponed to Wednesday, March 10, at 7:00 pm. The next regular meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen is scheduled to be held on March 16 at 4:00 pm.
Marion Board of Selectmen
By Mick Colageo