Tuesday night’s meeting of the Mattapoisett Select Board found the members reviewing potential warrant articles for the May 8 Annual Town Meeting. The list of potential articles from Town Administrator Mike Lorenco contained proposed bylaw changes, property sales and even the acquisition of the iconic Ned’s Point Lighthouse.
Select Board member Jordan Collyer said on Tuesday night that Coast Guard Auxiliary member Joseph Dawicki brought to his attention months ago that the auxiliary wishes to sell the structure. Much-needed money for such things as regular maintenance and neglected repairs plague the lighthouse, and no financial support from the federal government can be expected, reported Collyer, who cautioned the board of the potential loss of the lighthouse through a private-party sale and/or deterioration.
The overall Mattapoisett operating budget for FY24 now stands at $32,405,000, a 4% increase over FY23. “We have a levelly funded budget,” Lorenco stated during Monday’s working session of the Select Board and department heads.
On Tuesday night, Lorenco listed potential warrant articles brought to his attention, including: a nip-bottle ban, a veteran’s tax work-off program, the need to transfer funds from the sale of the Water Department building on Church Street to the Water Enterprise Fund, funding the Old Colony feasibility study, adding scenic-roadway status to the town’s General Bylaw, establishment of alternate members for the Planning Board and Capital Planning Committee, establishing a cemetery commission and the sale of town-owned properties.
The Select Board also met with Dr. Dale Leavitt of Blue Stream Shellfish. Leavitt said that in spite of predation from the Eastern Oyster Drill, a type of snail with the capacity to drill through the shell of oysters after secreting an enzyme that softens the shell, 2022 was a good year. He therefore requested the release of another 20 acres of aquaculture area in Brandt Cove. That was quickly approved. He also asked the Select Board to consider letting Blue Stream pay the $200 per acre fee in oysters that the town could plant for the benefit of the residents. The board took that request under advisement.
The Select Board made two appointments on Tuesday of Thomas Simpson as a civilian paramedic and Norman Lussier as plumbing inspector.
Lorenco shared that a recent meeting between several towns had taken place on the topic of a broadband-aggregate program. He will attend future meetings to get further details for the Select Board to consider. He said he also attended a state Department of Transportation meeting in which the DOT sought input from towns regarding Route 6 modifications. More details will follow, including how the public can get involved.
On Monday, the Select Board members met at the Fire Station to continue ongoing working sessions with department heads as FY24 budgets are reviewed and refined. They met with Fire Chief Andrew Murray, Police Chief Jason King, Recreation Department Director Greta Fox and Water and Sewer Superintendent Henri Renauld.
The proposed Fire Department FY24 budget stands at $931,320.
Murray made the case for a third daytime-staff firefighter. While debating the pros and cons, including Murray’s assertions of the importance of having another firefighter immediately available to operate apparatus, it came to light that the $50,000 requested was already in the budget. Lorenco said he would work with Murray reallocating that sum to the proper spreadsheet column.
The Select Board also heard that an increase of $12,500 in the on-call column from FY23 (from $250,000 to $262,500) for FW24 was necessary. Murray said it was difficult to control the number of on-call firefighters who respond to incidents, especially on nights and weekends. Lorenco said covering the budget overage has not been an issue.
Murray defended his request for a new SUV for $55,000, reminding the Select Board that the current vehicle in service has mechanical issues and that in all the years he has been associated with the department, “We have never asked for a vehicle.”
The estimated FY24 Police Department budget is $2,613,080, and the Ambulance Service is $481,700.
King thought that his request for a new domain server and radio console (totaling $145,000) could be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant. After discussing the request and the importance of effective communications equipment, the board pondered next steps to effectuate the request. Lorenco will follow up on the process for using funding in this manner, including consultation with the Finance Committee.
King reported that other grants funded the purchase of bullet-proof vests and body cameras. He said he is only requesting one new cruiser for FY24.
Receipts from the Ambulance service have reached a point where that department can fund its own operation, King commented. Further review is expected.
King and Lorenco confirmed a grant will pay for an emergency utility, all-terrain vehicle, augmenting emergency responses in wooded or inaccessible locations. The Ambulance service is run by the Police Department, and all police officers are EMT’s.
Fox’s time with the board was brief, given few if any changes from FY23 to FY24. The FY23 and FY24 budget requests were and are $58,600. She said all camps and programs fill up quickly and that financial aid is available for Mattapoisett residents wishing to have their children enrolled in summer camp.
The Water Enterprise fund’s FY24 budget is $2,339,820, and the Sewer Department lists $2,198,376.
Renauld talked about upcoming infrastructure projects such as Oakland and Pearl Streets, and the plan to approach the residents of Peases Point and Hollywoods neighborhoods for a sewer betterment project. Some 130 homes would be impacted, Renauld said. He also briefly discussed the Eel Pond sewer-line replacement project and the intention to have that project funded through grants with a cost estimate of $3,000,000 listed on the Capital Plan. Also listed on the Capital Plan is $3,700,000 for piping and plant upgrades for the Fairhaven sewer treatment plant.
In closing out the meeting, Lorenco noted that the Veterans Office is seeking the expansion to two full-time employees from two part-time employees. He said Veterans’ Agent Chris Gerrior is reaching more veterans than ever before, linking them to more services and proposes more outreach and networking opportunities. The position is shared through the Tri-Towns, thus splitting the proposed cost increase of $14,700 three ways if all towns agree. Collyer asked for a report from Gerrior outlining his plans and goals.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Select Board is scheduled for Tuesday, March 7, at a time to be determined.
Mattapoisett Select Board
By Marilou Newell