By Beth David, Editor
Trying to play catch-up, newly hired Acushnet Town Administrator Brian Noble laid out a tight, but do-able plan for getting the budget process finished in time for Town Meeting in June, he reported to the Selectboard at its meeting on 1/9.
Mr. Noble told the board that he was aiming for an early June TM date. He said he already received some budgets and the rest were due on Monday, 1/16.
Department budgets are requested to be level funded, except for contractual obligations.
Mr. Noble said he is not “shutting down” on all requests for budget increases, but expects departments to justify them.
The board also met with Building Inspector James Marot to discuss raising various permit fees. Mr. Marot gave the board a list with suggested increases, saying it would put the department “in line with our budget,” meaning it would get them closer to being self-funding.
Selectboard member Mike Cioper, however, recommended going further, and made his own suggestions on each permit, each of which was higher than Mr. Marot’s recommendations.
Mr. Cioper said that he is in the building trades and knows that Acushnet’s fees are low, compared to area municipalities, and that Mr. Marot’s suggestions were still too low.
He went down the list and suggested increases on almost all of Mr. Marot’s recommendations.
New fees include: .40 per square foot for new dwelling; roofing, $50; siding, $50; windows, $50.
“I’m in favor of the higher fees,” said Mr. Noble.
Mr. Marot said that using Mr. Cioper’s numbers would make the department self-sufficient. He said he went a little lower because he did not want to “squash” building in town. He said it has been steady in the past few years.
Selectboard member Kevin Gaspar said that Mr. Cioper’s changes were not that far off from Mr. Marot’s suggestions.
Mr. Gaspar asked Mr. Marot to “stay on top of it,” to try to make sure the building department is self-sufficient.
His own changes, said Mr. Marot, “would be pretty much in line with what our budget is now.”
He added that Mr. Cioper’s changes would probably keep it “in line” for four to five years.
In other business the board appointed Richard Miranda to the Agricultural Commission, which now has a full board for the first time in years, according to Selectboard members.
The Selectboard also announced vacancies on two boards.
Richard Forand sent a letter of resignation from the Planning Commission, saying that after 50 years of public service, he was stepping aside to give others a chance to serve.
Board members praised Mr. Forand’s long history of public service, starting with his military service.
The Fairhaven Housing Authority also has a vacancy, with the resignation of James Madruga. Nick Gomes also resigned, but his position is the Governor’s appointee slot.
The vacancies are the result of a lawsuit filed by Mr. Madruga.
Both positions require a joint meeting of, and vote by, the Selectboard and the board with the vacancy.
The Selectboard will try to get the FHA and the PB in at the next meeting.
Those appointed will have to run for the unexpired terms in the April election to finish out the time left on those terms.
The board set a date of January 16, for residents to submit letters of interest for both boards to the Selectboard, 122 Main Street, Acushnet, MA 02743-1548.
The board also discussed the proposed ballot question on the proposal to expand the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility on Peckham Street.
Selectboard chairperson Garry Rawcliffe explained that the process for the facility had stalled for various reasons and there would not be sufficient details to put a question on the ballot.
“We’re asking people to vote on something we have absolutely no information on,” said Mr. Rawcliffe.
As for the progress of the project: “I can tell you nothing has happened,” said Mr. Rawcliffe.
The only certainty is that the project will change.
Mr. Rawcliffe said he believed the project will have to be scaled back due to “environmental issues” at the property. He also said that the project received a setback when the courts ruled that the companies could not pass on the cost of the expansion to customers. He said that Access Northeast has been pursuing investors.
Bonville’s Market notified the board that it is passing the torch to the next generation.
In a letter to the Selectboard, attorneys for Bonville’s Market told the board that a new LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) had been set up by Alfred Bonville’s two children, Richard and Ann, who are taking over the business.
The board needed to approve transfer of the all liquor license to the LLC.
No members of the public attended the public hearing to comment and the board voted unanimously to approve the transfer.
The board praised Mr. Bonville, the market, and the Bonville family.
Mr. Gaspar wished Mr. Bonville a “happy retirement,” and said the family had done a “phenomenal job with that store,” and had provided a valuable service to the town for decades.
The state will have to approve the transfer.
The board also addressed an open meeting law complaint brought by Patrick Higgins, who has been filing similar complaints against communities across the Commonwealth.
The town has added more detail to its agendas, as a result of the complaint, said Mr. Rawcliffe.
He did, however, take issue with one of the complaints on a specific agenda item. Mr. Rawcliffe said that the board did not know what the group was going to talk about at the meeting, that is why they were invited to a meeting in the first place.
“I had no idea what they [were coming] in front of us for,” said Mr. Rawcliffe. “I didn’t even know.”
Mr. Noble said the end result was a good thing because some of the issues that Mr. Higgins brought up were “legitimate.”
He said it is important to write the agendas in a way that is clear to everyone, not just people who know the issus in town.
He said it was good for someone to hold their “feet to the fire.”
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