Mattapoisett Election and Meeting Results
Mattapoisett Town Meeting
By Marilou Newell
Before Town Meeting began on May 8, the Mattapoisett Select Board held a brief meeting which included recasting a vote taken on April 20.
The vote was for the Select Board's support of Article 1 Elected Officials' Compensation, contained therein, a $7,500 raise for the Highway Surveyor Garrett Bauer. It was later determined that since Select Board member Jodi Bauer should have recused herself as a family member, the board recast the vote on this night with Bauer recusing herself. The support of Article 1 by the board remained in place.
Included in the Article were increases to the Town Meeting moderator up to $290 from $282, Select Board chairman $5,945 up from $5,829, Select Board members $5,358 up from $5,253, town clerk $75,000 up from $71,400, Board of Health members $692 up from $678, Highway surveyor $75,000 up from $71,400, Mattapoisett School Committee members $692 up from $678, Water/Sewer commissioners $692 up from $678, Tree Warden $10,500 up from $10,083 and Herring Inspector $988 up from $968.
Article 2 General Operating Budget $31,691,197 was moved with nary a comment. Town Administrator Mike Lorenco presented an overview of the ballot and the budget in a video that was posted on the town's website in the days leading up to the meeting.
The Warrant contained 31 articles, spanning a wide variety of topics from routine financial matters to whether or not to ban nip-sized alcohol bottles, seen by many as a source of mounting roadside litter.
Article 29 was a dog-waste removal imperative that sought to amend the town's General Bylaws by making dog walkers and owners in default if they didn't have a means to collect their dog's waste from public spaces. That motion passed with 77 for and 37 against. When the Select Board was queried on who and how the expanded bylaw would be upheld, the answer was "by the dog officer."
During the course of the meeting, debate sprang up with Article 17 CPA Funding for the Florence Eastman Legion Post 280. The grant application requested $42,000 for necessary ADA improvement to the historic former Pine Island School built in 1837. Several voters including outgoing Finance Committee member Pat Donoghue questioned why the town should be investing in a structure it had no material interest in, no benefit to the town's coffers. Committee Chairman Chuck McCullough said, "... because it's for the veterans."
Legion member Ray Andrews, who has been the point person for the Legion's effort to receive financial support for much needed updates, said that the Legion would be willing to join the town in negotiations to convey the building or give the town the right of first refusal should the Legion need to close due to lack of active members. Article 17 was moved 184 in favor and three opposing.
Another article garnering considerable effort before being voted down was the elimination of nip-sized alcohol bottles - Ban of Sales of NIPS. Sponsored by Don Cuddy (citizen petition), who said that the prevalence of the bottles littering the roadways has increased over the years and, as an avid runner, sees the bottles not so much as a nuisance but as a commentary on human behavior. Cuddy said changing behavior wouldn't be feasible, thus taking away the irritant might be best. He urged the voters to stop the sale of nips, a move he believed would result in fewer bottles being tossed out car windows.
Speaking in opposition to the proposed ban was local liquor store owner Dan Lima, who said that only nine communities in all of the commonwealth have enacted such a ban, the result not diminishing the quantity of litter. A deposit on the tiny offenders might help, he offered, but what would result is a 20% drop in sales.
"This will have no impact on littering and will put more pressure on businesses," said Lima, noting that there is legislation creeping through the state and that towns should wait to see what happens with those efforts. "Let the state fix the problem." Lima presented a list of some 600 signatures from customers in favor of no ban on nip sales. It was not confirmed that the signatures were from Mattapoisett residents. Article 30 was defeated, 83 opposed and 49 in favor.
Another citizen petition submitted by Russel Chase, Article 31 Exit Agreement for Landfill Solar, asked voters to "move that the Town vote to encourage the Select Board to enter into negotiations with NEXAMP, Inc., to exit the unsigned agreement to place a (photo-voltaic) system on the landfill."
Original plans included the development of a solar array on the capped landfill located on North Street for the purposes of generating energy for the municipality's use. Chase suggested that an understanding between solar vender NEXAMP and the town would not generate revenue, monies the town could benefit from.
"We can do it ourselves," said Chase, asserting that the development of a town-owned system would save Mattapoisett $1,000,000 per year and would be paid for in just three years.
But issues between the state and utilities such as Eversource were touched on when Select Board member Tyler Macallister addressed the voters. "Do we want to own and operate a solar array?" Macallister asked. He said that the solar array on Crystal Springs Road is at least four years out. "They don't have the land."
Chase said that although he probably wouldn't be around to see the project implemented, he believes it is a better deal for the town as a revenue source. Article 31 was moved, 53 to 40.
All other articles were moved as written, except Article 26, which was found to have a small typographical error that was fixed on the Town Meeting floor, and Article 25, which was withdrawn. Article 25 would have asked voters to establish a cemetery commission for Hammond and Barlow cemeteries. It was discovered that to do so also required a ballot question. Lorenco said it will be placed on the next election ballot.