Jean Perry, Neighb News Correspondent
Fairhaven Selectboard Chairperson Daniel Freitas was expected to arrive late to the meeting on March 22 but never did make it after nearly two hours when Vice-Chairperson Bob Espindola and board member Keith Silvia ran out of agenda items that did not need to be tabled in Mr. Freitas’s absence.
As a result of his absence, the board had to table a review of Community Paradigm Associate’s termination letter and the future of the town administrator search process.
Bernie Lynch of Community Paradigm Associates, the board’s contracted hiring consultant, sent a letter on March 15 stating that he had fulfilled his contract requirements for the town and terminated any further engagement with the board. That same day, Mr. Lynch sent another letter stating that two of the three finalists, Jennifer Callahan and Ari Sky, had withdrawn from consideration. After Mr. Freitas and Mr. Silvia voted to prolong the process by interviewing Interim TA Wendy Graves, but before the interview took place, Mr. Silvia had to recuse himself due to a conflict of interest that had previously been overlooked, that his wife is the Council on Aging Director.
So, even if the board had been inclined to discuss the agenda items, without Mr. Freitas there and with Mr. Silvia recusing himself, that would leave only one Mr. Espindola left, and, hence, not a quorum.
Mr. Espindola motioned to hold a special meeting on Thursday, 3/25, to take up the tabled agenda item as a matter of urgency, as the next regularly scheduled meeting is on 4/12. Mr. Silvia was hesitant to second the motion for another meeting, citing the requirement that he must recuse himself from anything related to the TA hiring process. He did second it after Mr. Espindola explained that a vote to schedule a meeting is not within the scope of Mr. Silvia’s conflict of interest.
On Tuesday, Mr. Espindola announced on Facebook that there would be no 3/25 meeting because Mr. Freitas told him his schedule was full this week. The agenda for the 4/12 meeting is not yet available, and the annual election will be held before then on 4/5*. Mr. Espindola is up for re-election and faces a challenger.
In other business, the board discussed a recent Capital Planning Committee meeting that Ms. Graves attended to consider where the Rogers School building might fall on the priority list should the town maintain ownership. She said that when the town underwent the 2017 facilities improvement assessment, the Rogers School was not included. Without knowing the costs involved, the CPC cannot move forward with including Rogers School in any capital plan. She said Planning & Economic Development Director Paul Foley was researching two possible grants that could be used for the old school.
Mr. Espindola said the town must look for a use for the property if the town does not receive any viable proposals from developers, and suggested the town might amend the original facility study to include Rogers School to preserve the historical building, which he said seems to be what the town and residents want. He said he hopes the Rogers School Re-Use Committee can come up with ideas for use.
Mr. Silvia, who is the board’s representative on the Re-Use Committee, commented that there are already “a lot of ideas,” including demolishing the newer addition and placing a dog park over the existing parking lot.
Doug Brady from the Re-Use Committee asked what the status was for any further proposals from Lanagan & Associates and Arch Communities and a possible deadline for accepting any further proposals. He did not want the committee to be “running around in circles,” coming up with new options only to have the process interrupted by another proposal.
Mr. Espindola reiterated that the Selectboard voted to reject the last proposal as submitted but left the door open for the developers to return with a scaled-down plan.
Mr. Brady said others had expressed an interest in developing a use for the site but did not specify who.
“The only thing we can control is when someone comes with something,” said Mr. Espindola. “Right now, it’s all speculation.”
Multiple times the town has pursued potentially viable proposals, he said, adding that the town must be prepared with a plan for the old school when proposals fail.
Resident Leon Correy pointed out that previous project failures include one agreement in which the town “violated the terms” and rescinded. “Already one doesn’t want to do business (with the town),” he said and questioned whether Fairhaven was violating its own RFP (request for proposals) process.
“This is not the way to do business,” continued Mr. Correy, adding that Fairhaven was developing a reputation of being “[unable] to follow rules it sets forth.”
Mr. Espindola suggested waiting until the full board to be present to continue the discussion.
The board also discussed the use of town counsel, with Ms. Graves reminding other boards and committees that they need to seek authorization from the Selectboard before seeking assistance from Town Counsel Tom Crotty as legal costs exceed the amount budgeted.
“Every time you ask him a question, they’re charging us,” said Ms. Graves.
Mr. Espindola asked Ms. Graves to prepare a summary of incurred legal costs, ask for a report from the town’s insurance provider, and look for any patterns in the use of town counsel. He asked Ms. Graves to prepare a memorandum to staff for review at the next meeting.
Also in the meeting, Ms. Graves read a section of the town’s social networking policy as it relates to the way town employees and elected or appointed officials are expected to behave on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in light of “a lot of stuff written on social media lately,” she said.
The town has more stringent criteria for social media use by elected and appointed officials and town-operated social media sites featured in the Employee Handbook and the Boards and Committees Handbook.
Mr. Silvia shared that he “doesn’t do Facebook,” which he said is full of a lot of people who have no life.
*Fixes error from previous versions. Election is on Monday, 4/5/21.
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