It was a stress-free night for all involved in the public portion of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen meeting on September 26.
The three action items on the agenda were approved without any real debate, and the two aquaculture licences sought by two local oyster farmers also got the green light in a genial fashion.
From the Pledge of Allegiance and moment of silence to the move into executive session, the entire public session lasted a tidy half-hour.
The majority of the meeting centered on the aquaculture licenses being sought by Nicholas Wright and Michael Ward. Fans of oyster farming certainly got their fill as first Wright and then Ward detailed their plans to have oyster farms up and running as soon as possible. The selectmen displayed an adequate knowledge of aquaculture, and if the small crowd in attendance wasn’t quite following the conversation, it didn’t let on.
Wright and Ward had both received their approvals from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, having been conditionally approved for licenses on that eventuality.
Most of the discussion centered on the amount of performance bond each prospective farmer would have to post. There is a bylaw in town requiring aquaculturalists to provide bond “in the event that you go belly up and the Town has to clean it up,” as Selectman Jordan Collyer put it.
Ward argued that any new aquaculture farmer taking over an existing license and area would get a lot of value from discarded equipment, and that bond should be lower than the $5,000 to $15,000 range that was discussed. He added, “But whatever we come up with, I’m happy to pay it.”
In the end, Ward and Wright were both approved for a license beginning immediately and running through the end of 2018, conditional on a bond commitment that was TBA.
“Thank you,” both Ward and Wright said in unison at the conclusion of the vote.
Town Administrator Michael Gagne brought it back to oyster farming in his report, putting the license of Taylor Culture Seafood up for discussion. It was noted that the company, which also operates in Fairhaven, had not been using the Mattapoisett site and had not responded to outreach.
“They have to exercise the area that they have, and in my position they have not done that,” Gagne said. “They must be present on site with management.”
He recommended that the selectmen proceed toward revocation of the license and noted that the company was compliant with the rules in the Fairhaven portion of their operation.
“I think they may possibly have called it quits in Mattapoisett,” Gagne said. “And I’ve had conversations with a few people aware of what’s happening, and they want to stay in the loop if there is availability.”
The final piece of oyster farming business came from Gagne, who said he’d been in touch with the Wareham harbormaster about what they do to make the process easier.
The upwell system use in town isn’t good for the purpose, Gagne said, and suggested pursuing a grant to mirror the floating raft system used by Wareham and other towns. He suggested that the Town could match the funds. But Selectmen Chairman Paul Silva and Selectman Collyer noted that there were enough existing floats and materials in town to do it without added expense. Selectman Tyler Macallister wondered if the Old Colony students might get involved, as they have in other town projects.
A placement of the raft was proposed by Gagne on the east side of Long Whart, but Collyer and Silva felt it would be a bad location.
“The water beats the hell out of everything over there,” Collyer said. “That’s a bad spot.”
Also during the meeting, the board voted 3-0 on two items: to appoint Jennifer Szabo as a member of the Agricultural Commission and to approve the date for the Lions Club Family Fun Festival as October 21 from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm in Shipyard Park, with a rain date of October 22.
There was some debate over the appointment of Szabo to the Agricultural Commission, with Collyer asking how Szabo’s work with her current position handling the farmers’ market would conflict with the AgCom role. Gagne noted that the farmers’ market reported to him, not the Agricultural Committee.
“Any decisions about permits, or any of that stuff, comes through my office,” Gagne said. “Just note that I’m not pleased with the farmers’ market and would like to have Miss Szabo come in and talk to us about next year,” Collyer said.
In other business, the Fall Special Town Meeting was set for November 27 at 6:30 pm in the ORRHS auditorium.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen should be scheduled for October 10 at 6:30 pm at the Mattapoisett Town Hall.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen
By Jonathan Comey