By Beth David, Editor
The Acushnet Selectboard voted unanimously to accept the contract negotiated with new Town Administrator Julie Hebert at its meeting on Tuesday. 2/11/20. Ms. Hebert, who served as the town’s finance director for three years, has been serving as acting TA since September first. Ms. Hebert will make $122,000 per year as TA, plus benefits. She will also receive an annual stipend of $4300 until the town hires a new Town Accountant, a process the town will start immediately. They will hold off on hiring a new finance director.
Selectboard member Kevin Gaspar said he had his “reservations” about Ms. Hebert, but after discussing it, he was “fine with supporting Ms. Hebert as Town Administrator.”
He also said that he will be chairmain in the “not to distant future,” and she will have more responsibilities when that happens.
Chairperson Roger Cabral noted that, no, it will be a different chairperson, but “the responsibilities won’t change.”
“Something’s gotta change,” said Mr. Gaspar.
The board also met with Christopher Clark, to consider hiring him as a consultant to help Ms. Hebert as she adjusts to her new role.
In an interview after the meeting, Mr. Cabral said that Kevin Paicos, who helped the town choose the last two TAs and also filled in as TA for the town for a time, recommended Mr. Clark
Mr. Cabral said they wanted to support Ms. Hebert, who has never been a Town Administrator.
He said they will discuss compensation for Mr. Clark in executive session.
The board also discussed the state’s response to their request to put no parking signs on South Main Street near the Dunkin. South Main is a state road, so the town does not have jurisdiction on signage.
Mr. Cabral said that trucks are unable to navigate through the small parking lot, so they are parking on the street, causing traffic problems. The board has asked DOT to replace existing signs and add new “no parking” signs.
In its letter Mass. DOT stated that District 5 personnel will “inspect and replace existing signage in this area as needed and will install additional ‘no parking’ signs where appropriate.”
The board also set the budget hearing schedule, which sets the budget season into full swing. The board agreed it was helpful to meet with departments, especially the school department, to understand the details of their requests.
DPW Director Dan Menard was on hand to explain a few capital items in his proposed budget, all of which were approved.
He will ask Town Meeting to approve his budget, which includes a new sign board. Mr. Menard said the current one has bulbs missing, and no longer “communicates with the computer.”
He said the new one will has a keypad on the sign itself to punch in the information, so no interfacing with a computer or program is necessary.
He said it also has bulbs missing and they cannot be replaced individually. The whole sign would need replacing.
The sign is used by many departments, and to promote a variety of events, including town elections, the road race, road construction, etc.
“He’s picking up the expense,” said Mr Gaspar, but it’s used by all the departments.”
He said it was “sad” that he had to stop to read the sign because so many bulbs were missing it was hard to understand.
Board member David Desroches noted that the Rabies Clinic said “babies” clinic.
Mr. Cabral said he was under the impression that the town had another sign they could use, but Mr. Menard assured him there was none that he knew about.
Mr. Menard also discussed the water meter reading devices that the department replaces every year. Instead of replacing all 3,000, the department replaces 300 per year, so the town will not incur a huge expense every 10 years when they begin to fail.
“That’s what we’ve been doing,” said Mr. Menard. “So it’s not such a burden on the water users.”
That $21,000 will come from the water enterprise fund.
Mr. Menard is also asking for $5800 for a plate compactor. The gadget attaches to the Bobcat so that nobody is in the trench. He said it is a safety item. The town has a lot more water and sewer projects coming up. He said the currently have hand compactors. The money will come from DPW budget and not the enterprise funds because it will be used for more than one department.
Mr. Menard is also asking for $10,500 for a pump valve for the main sewer pump. That money will come out of the sewer enterprise fund. He said the valve will allow the workers to shut the pump down so they can work on it.
Mr. Cabral noted that there was nothing wrong with Mr. Menard’s budget and said he was not sure where to “draw the line” on what is a capital item or a routine budget item.
He said he felt the Selectboard should know what the departments are buying.
“The best practice is to send a memo to us that this is what we’re buying,” said Mr. Cabral.
The board also approved the union wage and classification RFP, with some minor changes. The RFP asks for consultant bids to study union wages and classifications, as the town did for non-union jobs.
In other business, the board approved a soil permit for 588 Middle Road. Mr. Cabral said he believed the property was not being used to remove soil at any significant rate, but that it was easier for the business to renew their permit than to apply for a new one if it allowed he permit to expire.
Mr. Hebert informed the board tht the town had $1,039,191 in certified free cash in the general fund for next year’s budget; $276,184 in the sewer enterprise fund; and $399,921 in the golf enterprise fund.
In closing, Ms. Hebert thanked the board for hiring her as TA.
“I appreciate the opportunity you guys have given me,” said Ms. Hebert. “I look forward to working with you.”
Mr. Cabral asked board members if they had any closing items to discuss.
“I do, but not on camera,” said Mr. Gaspar, without giving any clue as to the subject matter he was alluding to.
“You shouldn’t be saying it like that,” said Mr. Cabral.
Instead of adjourning, board recessed until the start of the PJ Keating hearing, which started about a half hour after the Selectboard meeting ended. Both were held at Ford Middle School.
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