By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Selectboard held its 6/17/19 meeting at the West Island Improvement Association, for the annual discussion of the emergency preparedness plan. The board also heard from a resident about two hazardous trees, and voted to allow the gay pride flag to be hung at town hall for two hours.
Department heads attended the meeting to answer any questions about the emergency plan.
Town Administrator Mark Rees said the town had made “significant improvements” on the plan over the last few years but it was still a work in progress. He said every year the town will work to improve the plan.
Deputy Fire Chief Todd Correia told the board that the plan is no longer just for hurricanes, but addresses different kinds of emergencies, including storms, active shooters, civil unrest, etc. He said each department was asked for input.
First responders also participated in a drill at the high school that highlighted some things they would change, he said.
He reiterated that it is a “work in progress.”
The town will be using a different kind of reverse-911 system that will allow residents to choose which kinds of messages they want to receive. The new system will be able to pinpoint areas of town instead of always sending to the whole town. That system is not in place, yet.
Robert “Hoppy” Hobson took the opportunity to make his annual pitch to have a fire truck on West Island during storms. He said there used to be a truck on the island. Now, he said, the properties are all built up and worth a lot of money. Mr. Hobson also noted that the houses are very close together. If a fire starts, it will spread to other properties quickly. And, he said, he town shuts the water off.
“Half the island could burn down,” said Mr. Hobson.
Fire Chief Timothy Francis noted that the same argument comes up every year. He said he will not put a truck on the island.
“In a hurricane, nobody belongs on an island,” said Chief Francis, adding that the winds would knock the fire truck over.
“Nobody belongs on an island in a hurricane,” he repeated. “You need to evacuate the island.”
He said the fire department’s website has a checklist and instructions on what to do when evacuating a home, such as how to shut off the propane tank.
Chief Francis said the emergency preparedness plan would be uploaded to the website, but as of press time only the 2017 plan was available.
The board also heard from Kyle Bueno, a Fairhaven resident, and an openly gay man who asked to have the Gay Pride rainbow flag flown on the flagpole outside of town hall. Mr. Bueno said that other towns in Massachusetts fly the flag.
Mr. Rees noted that the town does not have a policy for flying flags from individuals or groups.
Mr. Bueno noted that gay teenagers have a high rate of suicide, and living in a welcoming community is important. He said he felt very lucky growing up in Fairhaven, where he has always felt supported.
“Fairhaven has always been an inclusive community,” said Mr. Bueno.
Selectboard members all voiced support for the LGBTQ community, but said they were worried about the next group that might want to fly a flag, such as the KKK.
Town Counsel Thomas Crotty was present and told the board that if they allowed one group to fly the flag, they would have to let all groups fly their flags.
“It’s a slippery slope,” said Selectboard member Dan Freitas.
Adding a complication to the discussion was the fact that the flag pole was under repair and not able to fly any flag presently, anyway.
Selectboard member Bob Espindola noted that the town allows the National Day of Prayer group to use the town hall steps for a Christian prayer session every year.
In the end the board agreed to let Mr. Bueno fly the flag in the archway of the town hall for two hours on a date to be determined by him and Mr. Rees.* The time matches the National Day of Prayer group’s time. Mr. Rees will also prepare a draft policy for the board to review.
In another matter, the board approved plans by Carricorp Industries, seeking to build a convenience store with a gas station at the intersection of Bridge Street and Route 240. Selectboard member Bob Espindola recused himself from the discussion and left the room because his employer, Acushnet Company, had appealed the Conservation Commission’s approval and a special permit from the Planning Board. Acushnet Company lost the appeal.
Representatives of Carricorp outlined the safety features of the tanks and the project, which has received approval from MassDOT and other state agencies. William Baird told the board they had to receive approvals from 13 different state agencies.
The Selectboard approved the project.
The board also heard from Don Collasius, who submitted a letter for the record about two town-owned trees he said create a hazard at 33 & 34 William Street.
Mr. Collasius said he has tried to work with Tree Warden G. Bourne Knowles, but has been unsuccessful in getting him to trim the trees.
The larger tree has “significant decay,” wrote Mr. Collasius in his letter. He said Mr. Knowles is capable of performing a level 3 tree risk assessment, and Mr. Collasius said he wanted it done by August 1.
“I think the town should do this,” reads the letter. “But if myself and my neighbor have to foot the bill so be it. I can’t have this done without town permission.”
Board members said they would reach out to the tree warden, but noted that he is an elected official and independent of the board.
In other business the board approved an altered premise application for the Acushnet River Safe Boating Club, so they may serve alcohol on the first floor.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: The Gay Pride rainbow flag will be flown in the archway of town hall on Friday, 6/28, at noon. See page 5 for listing.
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