In a lead-up to Mattapoisett’s May 10 Annual Town Meeting, months of board and committee meetings dissected finance reports, consultants’ studies, and departmental needs analyses, and debated at least a few controversial topics. Two Water and Sewer Department projects raised concerns during the April 29 meeting of the Mattapoisett Finance Committee.
The members systematically reviewed each warrant article needing their comment at Town Meeting, but when they reached Article 24, Transfer of Funds for New Project Funding, a sum to be used for sewer main line improvements across the Eel Pond breach, Finance Committee member Tyler Macallister spoke strongly against spending money on a plan that would leave the line in its current location.
“I’ll be speaking against anything other than bringing it down Route 6,” Macallister firmly assured the committee. He said that years ago, when he was a sitting selectman, the discussion had always been the importance of moving the main line from the environmentally sensitive location.
“We were always told we were one storm away from catastrophe,” he said, painting the dire state the town would be in with a rupture of the line, which would not only impact the waterfront, but the entire community. “We’d have to use trucks to take the waste to Fairhaven.” Macallister said that a Transportation Improvement Project (TIP) is planned for Route 6, and thus the sewer line should be moved along that roadway before construction takes place.
In a follow-up, Macallister said the Board of Selectmen during his tenure “looked at this between 2007 and 2014,” and that discussions were centered on moving the line from the beach and trestle bridge.
The Sewer Department’s current plan would take approximately $600,000 in savings from several completed projects to pay design costs for the Eel Pond sewer line. Though no note was taken, the committee members agreed that additional study is needed before the project moves forward.
In Article 11 covering Capital Plan Funding, both the Water and Sewer Departments would be shouldering 50 percent for design costs for a new overall departmental headquarters involving land owned by the town in the Bay Club subdivision. Each enterprise fund would pay $25,000 for a total of $50,000 for the plan. FinCom Chairman Pat Donoghue voiced her concern: “I’m troubled about moving ahead with funding on land that’s pretty valuable. We have other needs.”
Back to the beginning of the meeting and the warrant articles.
Article 1, Elected Officers Compensation, Town Administrator Mike Lorenco noted the overall increases were 2 percent with the exception of the town clerk, whose salary is being increased from $63,800 to $70,000 to bring the position more in line with other communities. Conversely, the salary being proposed for the highway surveyor, a position that will see a new staff member with the retirement of Barry Denham, is being decreased from $90,958 to $75,000. Lorenco said the Board of Selectmen felt a new hire would not have the level of experience that the outgoing surveyor brought to the job and thus a decrease is in order. The members voted to recommend.
Article 2, General Operating Budget for FY22, $29,894,778, was also voted for recommendation. Article No. 3, Payment of Prior Year Bills, a sum of $25,699 was explained as part of a reconciliation with the solid-waste contractor ABC Disposal Service, Inc. Lorenco called it a “righting of the ship.”
Article 4, Appropriation for OPEB (other post-employment benefits) in the sum of $179,100, was recommended by FinCom for a reserve fund established to help pay for benefit obligations to retiring municipal employees from various departments. From that total appropriation, $140,000 will be earmarked for the town – $10,000 for Mattapoisett’s share of ORR liability, as well as $4,100 from Sewer Retained Earnings and $25,000 from Water Retained Earnings.
Article 5, Revolving Fund Authorization totaling $300,000 authorizing expenditure limits, was recommended. Article No. 6, Cyclical Annual Property Revaluation and Town Mapping, $36,000, was also recommended for the purpose of funding the Department of Revenue mandated cyclical revaluation of property and mapping updates.
Article 8, Water Reserve Account, $10,000, establishes a fund for unforeseen expenses. Article No. 9 establishes the same amount with the same purpose. Both were recommended by FinCom.
Article 11, Capital Planning Fund, $479,889 with $294,889 from free cash, $90,000 from Water Retained Earnings, and $95,000 from Sewer Retained Earnings, was recommended. The article lists the following expenditures: $42,889for local school phone upgrades; $18,500for library roof and skylight repairs; $85,000 for Highway Department sidearm mower attachment; $14,500 for Fire Department pontoons for boat; $54,000 for Long Wharf grant match; $25,000 for local schools floor tile replacements; $55,000 for a police cruiser. Water Department expenditures are well upgrades for $30,000; new building design (50-percent share) for $25,000; new truck (50-percent share) for $35,000. Sewer Department expenditures are lift station upgrades for $35,000; new building design (50-percent share) for $25,000; and new truck (50-percent share) for $35,000. All were recommended.
Articles 13, 14, and 15, Allocation of Revenues Community Preservation Act, covers grant applications recommended by the Community Preservation Committee and the FinCom. Those requests are $35,000 from the Mattapoisett Historical Museum for repairs to the front entranceway, $20,000 for the funding of Cushing Cemetery Records from hardcopy to digital formatting, and $20,000 for the ORR Press box, also supported by funds from Marion and Rochester.
Article 18, Meals Tax Statue, though not part of FinCom’s watch, inspired a bit of lively discussion when Donoghue wondered if the voters have received sufficient notification that a tax on meals at local venues is being proposed. Lorenco said that the new revenue generated from the tax would be 75 cents on $100 spent.
Article 19, Town Road Improvement Plan Funding, $450,000 was recommended by the FinCom. The sum will be used to fund the 75-percent design needed to qualify for federal grant monies. It will be paid for by debt exclusion, Lorenco explained, or other funding means.
To view the warrant in its entirety, visit Mattapoisett.net.
On May 3, the Board of Selectmen met briefly to vote on the Town Election Warrant. It was explained that the ballot is not considered valid until the selectmen vote to accept it and sign approval as well.
Chairman Paul Silva asked for a moment of silence in honor for Selectman John DeCosta, whose death he said was shocking, and he expressed deep sympathy for his family. DeCosta’s funeral took place earlier in the day.
Other matters handled included the approval of yoga at Ned’s Point for up to 50 people sponsored by the Mattapoisett Wellness Center with a portion of the proceeds earmarked for Friends of Jake and a local food pantry. Classes will be held from May 29 through September 4 at 8:30 am. Also approved was the return of the Antique Car Shows on Friday night twice a month between June and Labor Day in Shipyard Park, and the Relay for Life event held in August. All events and activities held on town properties are subject to local and state pandemic guidelines. Presently the limit on gatherings is 50 people in outdoor venues until further notice.
The next Board of Selectmen meeting will be held prior to the start of Town Meeting on Monday, May 10, at 6:00 pm in the ORR gymnasium.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen
Mattapoisett Finance Committee
By Marilou Newell