By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Selectboard postponed the local election for the second time at its meeting on Tuesday, 4/28/20. Town Clerk Carolyn Hurley told the board that she was having trouble getting poll workers. She asked the board to postpone the election from 5/18, but not to pick a date until their 5/11 meeting so she could get more information.
The board, however, voted to change the date to 6/8, noting that they could always change it on 5/11 if necessary.
Selectboard Chairperson Charles K. Murphy, Sr., who is up for re-election and has a challenger, did not vote on the item. Board members Bob Espindola and Daniel Freitas both voted for the 6/8 date.
Town Administrator Mark Rees said that the governor’s extension of the closures and other restrictions do not affect the town election process. The polling places would not be able to allow more than 10 people in the room, however, at the same time.
He also noted that voters can also use the absentee ballot process.
Ms. Hurley told the board that the problem was getting workers. She said that she had a plan in place to disinfect the polling places, and to use plexiglass shields to protect poll workers.
Mr. Freitas suggested that the town put a public call out for workers in the local papers.
Ms. Hurley said it was the wardens that she was concerned about. She said she only had three wardens who agreed to work the polls, for six precincts.
She said she has 60 poll workers, based on four locations.
Mr. Freitas said there were plenty of people out of work who could potentially do it.
“My concern is the wardens,” said Ms. Hurley, stressing that they needed to be experienced.
She asked that the board wait until May 11, hoping that the virus numbers would be on the decline by then.
The board, however, set the date for 6/8, and it will be on the agenda for their 5/11 meeting.
The board also received a COVID-19 update from Mr. Rees and health agent Mary Freire-Kellogg.
Mr. Rees said that the town has enough equipment thanks to Ms. Freire-Kellogg. He also praised her for getting out every day encouraging social distancing.
Mr. Rees told the board that the community nurses have gone “above and beyond” to help residents who have been exposed to the virus.
The school department has given 100 iPads to SouthCoast Hospitals for patients to use; the Council on Aging is working with Market Basket for the new breakfast program; Meals on Wheels is still operating through teh COA.
Ms. Freire-Kellogg said there has been an influx of cases in at the Fairhaven Housing Authority properties. She said she worked with FHA director Krisanne Sheedy to create signs and to speak directly with residents.
Ms. Freire-Kellogg said the residents did not understand that they were not supposed to visit each other, even in the same facility.
“They took it as not going out,” said Ms. Freire-Kellogg, and they did not understand that the stay at home order meant that they should also not go door to door visiting each other. “We have some who tested positive.”
She said they will initiate a robocall to all the FHA residents.
“It’s just that the more testing we do, the more positives we get,” said Ms. Freire-Kellogg. “So in one respect, I’m happy.”
She stressed that people still need to stay on their properties and only go out if they have to.
Some of the bigger stores in town have had trouble getting people to maintain the six feet apart, she said, despite the markings on the floor, signage, etc.
“People are just not doing it,” said Ms. Freire-Kellogg. “They just don’t realize they’re putting their lives at risk.”
She said she is trying to find some masks so she can hand them out to people.
“So if you don’t have one, I’ll give you one,” she said. “So maybe that will help alleviate the problem.”
Ms. Freire-Kellogg also said the town has four nurses working to keep track of cases in town.
“They really stepped up to the plate,” she said of the community nurses.
The board also discussed possibly cancelling Memorial Day event and the July 4 parade.
All three board members said they were pretty sure they would have to cancel the Memorial Day parade, but were reluctant to vote on it on Monday. The board decided to wait until the May 11 meeting, although they acknowledged that it does not give organizers much time to work with if they decide to go ahead with the parade.
Veterans Agent Brad Fish sent the board a letter with some alternatives to the parade, but the board did not discuss the details, deciding to wait until the 5/11 meeting.
Mr. Espindola said he did not see how they could support going ahead with the parade when they were not okay with having the election in May.
“I think we’re going to have to consider cancelling,” said Mr. Espindola, adding that he was curious to see what alternatives Mr. Fish had in mind. “I just feel we don’t have a choice on this one.”
Mr. Freitas agreed, saying the July 4 parade could wait for a decision, but he felt they had to decide on Memorial Day.
Mr. Murphy said he spoke with Mr. Fish and he had some “very good ideas” working with Cable Access Director Derek Frates.
Mr. Rees asked if the motion was to cancel the traditional parade and consider alternatives, but the board decided to hold off until 5/11.
“I personally think it won’t happen,” said Mr. Freitas, but agreed to put it off until 5/11.
Mr. Murphy said things could change in two weeks.
“I’m okay with holding out hope,” said Mr. Espindola.
They agree that Mr. Fish would need to be at the next meeting to discuss alternatives.
The board also discussed a request by the proposed developer of the Rogers School property to have the next meeting without the financial backer present. But the board decided the issue has been getting dragged out too long.
The board will ask for the developer and his financer to join in at the 5/11 meeting.
In another matter, the board voted to support a request by the Board of Public Works to increase a request for funds to replace water meters in town.
Public works superintendent Vinnie Furtado explained that the original plan was to replace the current old system with a drive-by system, and then upgrade a few years later to a fixed system. The reason for the two phases was that the fixed system was double the cost of the drive-by system. However, costs have come down, and a couple of hundred thousand dollars more, the town can skip right to the better system.
The current system takes four to five months for each meter to be read. The drive-by system would allow an equipped vehicle to drive by and record water usage. The fixed system uses towers on town buildings and the data can be downloaded daily.s
“The current way we do it is just archaic,” said Mr. Furtado, it takes months and it bogs down the clerical staff.
The current “Flintstone” system, he said, does not alert residents to leaks until months have passed. With the new system, the town can spot problems immediately.
The board voted to support the $1.8 million request.
The board also again refused to add a Town Meeting warrant article requested by G. Bourne Knowles to have the property rezoned. The article missed the deadline and the board refused the request at a previous meeting. The owners sent a letter requesting that the board reconsider.
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