By Pattie Pacella, Neighb News Correspondent
The Acushnet Selectboard met remotely on Tuesday, 4/14/20, quickly deciding to extend the deadline for payment of Real Estate taxes and filing of exemptions to June 1.
The move is allowed because of new legislation passed to help municipalities manage business under the challenges of the COVID-19 restrictions.
The board also discussed the possible opening of the Acushnet Golf Course.
Board member David Desroches stated that because Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has the government and businesses closed, that the town should be following the same regulations.
Mr. Desroches said he felt it was “premature’ to open the golf course at this time.
Board member Kevin Gaspar said that with the COVID 19 situation still up in the air, they should not put definite date on the opening, but should perhaps review the topic in a few weeks.
Mr. Gaspar and Town Administrator Julie Hebert discussed where they were with the Town Accountant position. Ms. Hebert stated they had dwindled down the resumes to a total of four, including one internal candidate, and one person that stated they would only want to be an “interim” Town Accountant.
The board decided they did not want to go down the road of having an interim, and will move forward on interviewing the other three.
Mr. Gaspar stated that he and Ms. Hebert were comfortable asking the person to come into Town Hall to interview for the position, while still practicing social distancing; however Selectboard chairperson Roger Cabral said he was opposed to that process and asked that a Zoom meeting be first offered to a candidate.
Ms. Hebert stated she understood Mr. Cabral’s concerns, however she wanted to fill the position immediately and the person would have to come to Town Hall to work if he/she accepted the position. The board agreed that Mr. Gaspar and Ms. Hebert should do what would be in the best interest of the candidate as far as safety and health concerns.
The Selectboard briefly spoke about postponing the PJ Keating hearing that was slated for April 28, 2020 to May 26. Mr. Cabral stated that a Cease & Desist order by the Acushnet Fire Department was given to PJ Keating, and that the representatives from the company advised that they were going to ignore the order and continue to operate the business within two weeks.
Mr. Cabral reiterated that currently the site does not have a working license, or a soil removal permit from the Soil Board. Ms. Hebert stated she would reach out to the PJ Keating representatives about the new hearing date.
In another matter, Mr. Cabral read a proclamation naming the week of May 3 to May 9 as Acushnet Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
The board also met on Tuesday, 4/21, and received an update on COVID-19 cases in Acushnet. Ms. Hebert told the board that there were 17 cases in town.
Mr. Desrochers recommended creating a plan for an “exit strategy” in the upcoming weeks. He suggested speaking to restaurateurs and making the decision about opening the golf course. He said they really needed to come up with a plan.
Mr. Gaspar agreed stating that he would like to see a discussion with Building Commissioner Jim Marot on perhaps putting up plexi-glass at the Town Hall counters that are frequently used by the public, to protect the employees as well as the residents. Ms. Hebert agreed to have a conversation with Mr. Marot.
The Selectboard continued their discussion regarding the FY21 budget. Ms. Hebert received back budget decreases from the different Departments and forwarded that information to the Selectboard. They will continue to discuss in future meetings.
The board also discussed the Soil Board permitting for PJ Keating, with all three Selectboard members agreeing that the bylaws have been in place for years, but it did not appear that they were being followed.
Mr. Desrochers stated that it appears the quarry has never been in compliance, and Mr. Gaspar agreed.
The board agreed to continue the discussion to get a better handle on the quarry and involving the Mass. Department of Environmental Safety and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Fire Chief statement on PJK
Acushnet Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher posted the following statement on the department’s Facebook page on Wednesday, 4/22.
“At their April 14, 2020 meeting, held on Zoom due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Acushnet Board of Selectmen provided an update on continuing issues between the Town and P.J. Keating. I will attempt to summarize:
“First: the relocation of the Hot Mix Asphalt Plant triggered the requirement for revisions to an existing Land Use License for the storage of flammable and combustible materials. A public hearing was held on February 11, 2020 and was continued until a few weeks later. Unfortunately, due to the state of emergency, the resumption of that meeting has been further rescheduled. It is now slated for May 26, 2020 beginning at 6pm at the Ford Middle School.
“Second: while storage tanks for liquid asphalt (three tanks totaling 70,000 gallons total capacity) have been erected, they cannot be filled until a permit is issued by the State Fire Marshal. The permit application will not be considered until a revised Land Use License is approved by the Board of Selectmen. You may see these tanks as you drive down South Main Street. They are in place but are not operational until all necessary permits are secured.
“Finally: PJ Keating officials have indicated that they wish to by-pass the storage tanks and feed liquid asphalt directly into the production process from tractor trailers. While PJ Keating has indicated that this process may have been used in a limited scope in the past without the knowledge of the town, it was done when the asphalt plant was a considerable distance from residences and on an infrequent basis. I have asked Keating officials to provide an engineered plan stating that this alternative process is safe to the public, the environment and their employees. In the interim, I have issued an “Order of Notice” prohibiting Keating from using this abbreviated process until it is proven safe.
“While the pandemic has closed town buildings and reduced certain hours of operation, please know that town officials are staying on top of these asphalt plant issues and are working with our lawyers and others to seek a resolution that will be in the town’s best interest.”
You can find the vide of the 4/14/2020 Board of Selectmen Meeting, at https://youtu.be/LSbrIdUiGJEPJ; Keating discussion begins at 07:35
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