By Pattie Pacella, Neighb News Correspondent
The Acushnet Selectboard continued with their weekly meetings on Tuesday, 5/27/20 using Zoom Conference Video.
Town Administrator Julie Hebert advised the Board that she has been discussing with Board of Health agent Joe Correia a change of date for the Annual Town Meeting. The original postponement date was Monday, June 22; however, they discussed holding it on Saturday, June 20, 2020.
Mr. Correia was present on the Zoom call and stated that he and Building Commissioner Jim Marot had been reviewing and analyzing the protocols they needed to put in place, due to COVID-19 at both the elementary and middle schools and felt it was best the Annual Town Meeting was set up for a Saturday meeting at the Ford Middle School.
Mr. Correia said that once the gymnasium is set up per the social distancing requirements, it would be easier to clean and disinfect after the meeting.
“I’m thinking the maximum capacity with social distancing would be approximately eighty people,” Mr. Correia said. “That includes finance committee, Selectboard, and a camera man.”
“We’d be hard pressed to get eighty at a regular Town Meeting,” Selectboard member Kevin Gaspar said.
The Selectboard voted to hold the Annual Town Meeting on June 20, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. at FMS.
The Selectboard also voted to allow any board or committee that needed to hold a public hearing to use the same venue, practicing the same social distancing if needed. The vote will allow the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on June 9, and a Planning Board meeting on June 18, to be held at FMS.
The board also had a brief discussion on the upcoming PJ Keating Hearing, scheduled for June 9. Selectboard chairperson Roger Cabral stated he felt they have exhausted public hearing comments at previous meetings and did not think additional conversation for public comment was warranted.
He said he was satisfied moving forward with a virtual meeting.
The board agreed, and the meeting will take place via Zoom on 6/9.
Mr. Cabral stated he still wanted to see a valid decommissioning plan from PJ Keating and that the Selectboard needs to think about adding additional conditions to the Soil Board Permit. He stated they informed PJ Keating of a few of the conditions they were contemplating, especially to the noise and operating hours and have not heard anything back.
In other business, the board discussed the reopening of Town Hall.
Mr. Cabral stated that they have been paying people to stay home for the last eight weeks and
“If we have to move it back another four, or five weeks then we may want to look at furloughs,” said Mr. Cabral. “I don’t want to do that, but it looks like it might be the reality.”
“That’s a change of heart, Mr. Chairman,” Mr. Gaspar said. “I think I’m having a heart attack right now.”
“It’s a lovely segue into the reopening plan,” Mr. Cabral said.
Board member David Desroches stated he would like to see a re-opening plan from the Department of Public Works.
Mr. Gaspar stated he was getting “dizzy and nauseous” over Governor Baker’s reopening plans.
“I just can’t make heads or tails of it,” he said.
The Selectboard received a reopening plan from the Acushnet Library and the Council on Aging and Mr. Gaspar said he felt those two, being the most “vulnerable” venues, should defer to the June 8, 2020 opening date.
“The plans are good ones, so I thank the two ladies for their pre-opening plan, but I’m not in a rush to open either venue at this time.”
Mr. Cabral said: “We need to figure out opening Town Hall and providing services to our residents.”
Ms. Hebert stated she has been working with department heads to put a definitive plan together to open up town hall.
Mr. Gaspar agreed that Town Hall needs to reopen sooner than later: “Our residents need to know they can come into the Town Hall safely instead of playing peek-a-boo through a drive-through window.”
Mr. Desroches agreed saying he would like to see what Department heads come up with.
Mr. Cabral agreed that Department of Public Works needs to be a part of that reopening. He said they need to get back to a regular shift as there is a lot of work that can be done around Acushnet with small crews. The board agreed to work with the Board of Health and the Town Administrator to come up with a reopening plan.
In other business, the board continued to review Town Meeting Articles and the FY21 budget. Building Inspector/Town Planner Henry Young was on the conference call and briefly spoke about the Floodplain and Stormwater Amendment articles that had been on the warrant He said they had removed a few “non-controversial” by-law amendments.
Mr. Gaspar noted that Mr. Young is the part-time Town Planner as well as the Building Inspector and he receives an $11,000 stipend for a Special Project Manager.
“With possible cuts looming over us,” Mr. Gaspar said. “Why is it important for us to keep that money in the budget for you?”
Mr. Young said that he was hired as the part-time Planner years ago and then as the “Special Projects Manager” through the Selectboard. He said that in his mind he does not distinguish one from the other.
“I do a lot of overlap,” Mr. Young said, adding that the Special Projects Manager was part of his job to pursue and write grants on behalf of the Town.
He said he has been doing a lot of “overlap work for the last two decades.”
Mr. Gaspar said he thought the Selectboard should always be asking what services are being rendered for the salary that Acushnet is paying for. He said he is not stating that Mr. Young is not doing anything additional for the money, but he wanted a better idea of what he was doing.
“I just think we need to stay on top of what we are paying extra for and find out what people are doing to earn that salary. I hate to see someone getting paid for a job and not doing it, ” Mr. Gaspar said.
The Selectboard will meet at 5 p.m. on 6/9, just prior to the PJK meeting, scheduled for 6 that day.
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