by Pattie Pacella, Neighb News Correspondent
The Acushnet Selectboard met with newly elected State Representative Chris Hendricks at their 11/13/18 meeting to discuss a few of their concerns with the state policies and regulations and brief him on he town’s priorities.
Town Admiinistrator Brian noble stated that the top priority was Chapter 90 funds, which help municipalities repair roads. He said that Acushnet is made up of over 86 miles of roadway and all but 7% needs maintenance. He said they project $15-$45 million over 10 years dedicated to the streets.
“It seems like we’re always behind and always trying to catch up,” he said.
Mr. Noble also touched upon areas where the state needs to live up to its bargain. He stated that the state has said it would reimburse 100% on things like Special Education and Regionalizing Vocational Transportation and then they changed the rules to only giving 70% or less.
The Board also shared its concerns with South Main Street, being a state road, and PJ Keating costing the Town more money with dust, odor, traffic, and noise.
Mr. Gaspar stated those things were all for Mr. Hendricks to start on in January.
“There’s a total lack of funding,” said Mr. Gaspar.
Mr. Hendricks told the board he was looking forward to working with the Town and learning more about how they could work together.
In a five-page letter to Rep. Hendricks, the board outlined in detail its priorities.
Number One is Chapter 90 authorization and asks for multi-year funding.
“The proposed level funding of the Chapter 90 program for Fiscal 2019 does not provide Acushnet with an amount adequate to maintain roads in a state of good repair, the industry standard,” reads the letter, adding that the town needs $15 million to bring roads to that standard. “Actual spending is far less than the amount necessary to even maintain our current road conditions.”
The letter also asks for the state to stick with the April 1 deadline for announcing Chapter 90 funds. Delays may cause a year-long delay in road work for the town.
The letter notes that a road study the town would require $1.7 million annually just to maintain current road conditions. The town relies solely on Chapter 90 funds for road construction projects. Acushnet received about $317,000 in Chapter 90 funds for this Fiscal Year.
Other legislative priorities laid out in the letter include an increase in circuit-breaker funding, and a action to ensure sustainable OPEB costs.
The circuit breaker provides reimbursments to school districts for high-cost programs for special edcuation students. The state’s current target is 70% reimbursement. As costs increase for special ed programs, the burden on the district is growing. The town has asked fro 100% reimbursement.
OPEB, or “Other Post-Employment Benefits,” refers to non-pension benefits to retired town employees, primarily health insurance, that the town must fund. With more employees retiring at age 55, more are eligible for the benefits for decades.
“This model, adopted during a different era, is no longer sustainable,” reads the letter. “Reform is necessary to protect not only the financial well-being of municipalities but to also protect retiree benefits in both the long and short term.”
In addition to those top three priorities, the town listed nine other issues and iniatives that they asked Rep. Hendicks to support.
The letter is available on the Neighb News website, www.NeighbNews.com, and will be available on the town’s website at www.acushnet.ma.us
In other business, the board set the date of the annual Town Meeting in the spring for May 13, 2019.
Chairperson Michael Cioper thanked everyone who attended the Veterans Memorial on Sunday. He said there were more than 300 people in attendance.
“It was a nice turnout,” he said.
The Board also approved the appointment of Catherine Muller as Treasurer/Collector.
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Click here to download the entire 11/15/18 issue: 11-15-18 VeteransParade