By Mary Macedo, Neighb News Correspondent
At its meeting on Monday 12/14 the Fairhaven Board of Public Works discussed changes in town beach regulations for the 2021 season, and continued their discussion about the BPW independent study.
The board met with Gary Lavalette and Brett Silva who worked at the town beach last summer, to discuss changes for the 2021 season that will, hopefully, help make everything run more smoothly.
BPW Superintendent Vinnie Furtado said he invited them so the board could get a head start on what needs to be done for the 2021 season.
Mr. Lavalette explained that two issues they had last year were with residents bringing their dogs and floatation devices into the water. He said that no other public beaches in the area allow dogs or floatation devices, both can be a liability.
If a dog bites someone that is a liability. They also have a lot of issues with people leaving dog poop on the ground.
Mr. Lavalette said that they also noticed issues with floatation devices such as rafts, tubes, floaties, and even life vests. The big floatation devices get blown away by the wind; as for floaties and life vests, parents put them on the children and let them go into the ocean by themselves, which is still very dangerous.
He suggested they install signs banning dogs and flotation devices on the lifeguarded section of the beach. He said if people want to bring their dogs and floatation devices they can go on the other side of the beach.
Mr. Lavalette also informed the board that most residents at the beach was between 750-800 people at a time. The beach can hold around 1200 people with distancing limits. He said the beach would probably never reach capacity because people are in and out all day. He suggested that they allow non-residents to purchase passes again, specifically Acushnet residents.
Board member Cameron Durant suggested that they wait until spring to look at the COVID numbers and then decide about beach passes.
Mr. Lavalette also said the board should consider raising the prices of the beach passes. He said many residents told him that $30 for a season pass was a bargain. Even the senior citizens said that $10 for a senior season pass was a great deal. He said he felt like it costs more money to pay the employees and maintain the cleanliness of the beach.
Vice-Chairperson Robert “Hoppy” Hobson also suggested that they start hiring employees and lifeguards earlier this year.
Mr. Furtado said the problem with the lifeguards is that every year they are asked to work until Labor Day and they agree, but then in mid-august they often have to take time off to go to college orientations or they start college before Labor Day.
Chairperson Brian Wotton suggested that they reach out to the YMCA earlier this year.
Mr. Silva said this year he had issues with the lifeguards not wanting to swim or get in the water. He said he also had issues with the lifeguards not wanting to wear their bathing suit uniform. They would sit in a sweatshirt and sweatpants all day and no one could tell they were a lifeguard.
Mr. Furtado said at their kickoff meeting he will go over the rules and uniform policy.
Mr. Lavalette said that the biggest problem they had in the 2020 beach season was residents refusing to put their beach pass sticker on their vehicles. The attendants were constantly being yelled at by residents who refused to put their stickers on their cars. The police had to be call 2–3 times because of it. Mr. Lavalette said most residents who did not want to put their beach stickers on theirs car said they wanted to use the sticker on multiple cars.
Mr. Furtado said that will not happen next year and that they are looking into getting different stickers.
Mr. Lavalette said they also had a problem with parasailers getting too close to the shore, and over people’s heads, which can be dangerous.
Mr. Hobson said he really likes the parasailers and people like to watch them. He asked if they could designate a section of the beach for them.
Mr. Lavalette’s last suggestion was that the town hire a police detail for the 4th of July. He said the trash left behind from the holiday was overwhelming, with fireworks debris and liquor bottles all over the beach. Mr. Hobson agreed that they should have police monitoring the area for the holiday.
In another matter the board reopened their discussion regarding an independent study of BPW spending to see if there are any areas were the BPW can save money.
At the last meeting Mr. Furtado presented the board with an example of a study Tighe and Bond that would cost around $20,000. Mr. Furtado said he had no problem with a study being done, but it needs to be on specific areas because there are no problems regarding the BPW finances because all financial items go through a lengthy process of approval.
Mr. Wotton agreed, saying that the BPW does not make a lot of financial decisions; most go through the Town Administrator or Town Meeting or the Finance Committee.
Board member Frank Coelho agreed that most things in the study are not necessary, but added that he would like the company to look at things that are wasting money such as the digester they do not use and the lack of planning for the recycling center. He said maybe the company would know better ways to use them.
Mr. Furtado said they cannot do anything with the recycling center until they approve of an area to build a new facility. He said the problem with the digester is that the town of Fairhaven does not make enough waste for it to work properly. The digester requires live microbes that eat the solid waste; the critters burp methane gas that is used to make electricity or generate renewable energy credits. The process does not work because the town just does not make enough waste.
He said he was hoping when the new nitrogen plant is built they may be able to resurrect the digester.
Mr. Coelho said maybe the engineering company can give the board ideas on what to do with the digester.
Mr. Furtado said the digester should have never been a project for this town.
Mr. Durant said he is only okay with the engineering company doing a study if the company just comes in and suggests ways they can save time or money or make things more efficient.
Mr. Hobson said he is against the whole study, there is no need to spend thousands on a study to save very little.
Mr. Furtado suggested having Tighe and Bond interview staff in each BPW department to see if there are any indications that certain departments can save time or money or make things more efficient. He said he can ask the company to give the board a proposal and costs.
The board tabled the proposal until Mr. Furtado receives the costs.
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