By Jean Perry, Neighb News Correspondent
At its meeting on 8/17, the Fairhaven Selectboard received an update on the situation with the Rogers School building.
Town Administrator Mark Rees reported that after the previous meeting when the Selectboard considered giving the developer one last chance to fulfill its contractual obligations, he met with Selectboard member Keith Silvia and Susan Loo from the Rogers School Building Committee to discuss the proposed mothballing efforts to mitigate further deterioration of the building.
Mr. Rees said $230,000 of Town Meeting-approved funding is available to shore up the exterior of the building “as they entertain future interest in the building.”
According to Director of Planning & Economic Development Paul Foley during a follow-up, he was informed that the proposed project was no longer moving forward, and commented that he has already heard from a tentatively interested real estate developer.
Also on the agenda, Louis Baptiste of RRR Auto voiced his concern over a complaint he submitted more than eight months ago that was never filed stemming from an appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals to enforce licensing conditions at Fairhaven Getty that was also never filed.
Mr. Baptiste said the filing fee to appeal was $309 and months later the check was never cashed and the appeal never heard. His later complaint he filed with former Building Commissioner Wayne Fostin was a complaint about Mr. Fostin. Mr Baptiste claimed several phone calls and emails to ZBA members and the town administrator went mostly unreturned.
He alleged that Mr. Fostin made the decision not to file the appeal of the license, but that he did not have the right to deny his right to appeal.
Selectboard Chairperson Daniel Freitas said he was just given the suggestion to have Mr. Baptiste meet with him and Mr. Rees to work out a solution.
Mr. Baptiste had accused Mr. Rees of ignoring him, mentioned Mr. Rees’s salary, and called him “disrespectful.”
Mr. Rees requested that the discussion be terminated that evening because he was unprepared for what he considered a public attack on his performance.
Mr. Freitas confirmed that when Mr. Baptiste recently asked him to inspect Fairhaven Getty for a licensing violation, Mr. Freitas said he went and did witness a violation.
In another matter, discussion arose about a proposed update to the social media policy, and Mr. Freitas asked to wait until the next meeting to take a vote so that town counsel can review it.
Board member Bob Espindola pointed out that the matter was brought up during a prior meeting and tabled until this one so board members could have time to review it and take a vote.
The amendment would include a caution to town and elected officials about how material posted on personal social media or private emails can sometimes be construed as them speaking in their official capacity.
“I just want to make sure we’re not putting anything in here that doesn’t belong in here; that we’re not stopping anybody’s First Amendment rights,” said Mr. Freitas. He said the change “doesn’t sound right” to him.
Representatives from the Greater New Bedford Educators Union on behalf of the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School educators and students presented their “S.O.S. Save Our Shops” campaign to try to keep the Fashion Design and Environmental Science programs from being cut.
They urged the board and any supporters to contact the GNBRVTHS School Committee to ask them to reconsider.
Also during the meeting, as a result of a Marine Resources Committee discussion, violations of diving, jumping, and swimming off the West Island Causeway bridge will be enforced. An increase in activity at the bridge led to some complaints, which Mr. Espindola brought to Police Chief Michael Meyers.
Police patrols of the area have been increased, and will be followed by the installation of a sign stating the bylaw with a fence on the south side of the bridge similar to the one on the north side. Enforcement will be by verbal and written warning followed by a non-criminal bylaw ticket.
In other business, Building Commissioner Kris White tendered his resignation effective August 21, and will be replaced by an interim building commissioner, James Marot, who currently serves as the Acushnet building commissioner.
An update on the Community Electrical Aggregate led to a heated debate over the opt-out option of a tentative 10% renewable energy increase to Fairhaven residents’ electricity consumption. A survey offered to residents to gauge their willingness to adopt a 10% increase in sourcing renewable energy in addition to the existing 8% showed that 62.5% of the 128 people who responded were in favor of the increase.
An additional 10% clean energy increase would mean about a $2-$3 average increase for a home.
Resident John Methia spoke against the idea and against the need for consumers to opt-out rather than opt-in. He said he would be opting out and suggested that too many residents and business owners in Fairhaven are unaware of the tentative increase and probably rarely inspect their own electric bills.
There was no vote taken that night, and Mr. Freitas suggested increasing awareness by noting the proposed 10% increase in a flyer to be sent out with property tax bills.
The Fall Special Town Meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, October 20.
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