By Jean Perry, Neighb News Correspondent
The Fairhaven Selectboard on 7/13 expressed its frustration over the inability to appoint a new Board of Health member because the BOH has still not taken action to begin the process.
According to Town Administrator Mark Rees, the BOH must address a letter to the Selectboard declaring a vacancy before a joint meeting can be held for the two boards to make the appointment.
BOH member Michael Sylvia abruptly announced his resignation during a BOH meeting on June 16.
Selectboard member Bob Espindola pointed out that now the two-member Board of Health, Peter DeTerra and newly-elected Michael Ristuccia, has even met three times since Sylvia’s resignation but has not taken the required action to fill the vacant seat.
“My point,” said Mr. Espindola, “[is] they have known since very shortly after June 16 … and I don’t understand why, in a 15-minute meeting, they couldn’t afford the time to vote and make this request to the [Selectboard].”
The matter of appointing a BOH member appeared on the Selectboard’s July 7 meeting agenda, but no action or proposal was made during that meeting.
Mr. Espindola said he has received numerous concerns from the community.
“Why hasn’t this been done?” said Mr. Espindola. “The town deserves a three-member board.”
Just then, Selectboard Chairman Daniel Freitas got a text from an unidentified person stating that the BOH would vote to send the Selectboard the letter on July 16, the date of the BOH’s next meeting, which Mr. Espindola had pointed out earlier would be exactly 30 days.
Mr. Freitas said the problem with this is that the Selectboard would then have to wait to take action until its next meeting on August 17. Mr. Espindola suggested the Selectboard should be proactive and immediately present the Board of Health some possible dates for a joint meeting.
In another matter, Police Chief Michael Meyers and Lieutenant David Sobral addressed residents’ concerns about vehicle speed enforcement and briefly described the Police Department’s speed control measures.
The Police Department has been “making strides,” said Chief Meyers, through increased traffic patrols and portable radars that monitor speed.
Through a grant, the Town was able to purchase two portable radar signs that affix to utility poles that display vehicle speed and also collect data. These signs, Chief Meyers said, are regularly moved to different locations often dictated by speeding complaints lodged by residents. The department then uses the data collected from the portable radars to determine which areas actually do have a speeding issue.
“We try to emphasize our patrols … in those areas that we can determine are significant,” said Chief Meyers.
Lt. Sobral said sometimes the data collected from areas with high numbers of complaints actually indicate that speeding is not that frequent, saying that “99 percent of the time” drivers are operating at or under the speed limit.
Mr. Freitas suggested the Town should purchase more portable radar signs, and Chief Meyers suggested an additional six to eight more, possibly through grants. The average is $2,500.
Residents can lodge speeding complaints or request that a portable radar be moved to a specific location at fairhavenpolice.org/speed-enforcement/.
“We just ask that people be patient,” said Chief Meyers. “We will get to you; and if we don’t then just keep notifying us. We’ll get there. That’s what we want to do.”
Further down on the agenda, Town Counsel Thomas Crotty said he reviewed the final draft of a new policy on displaying flags at Town Hall and suggested it was comprehensive enough for the board to approve.
Mr. Freitas introduced a new concern, however, over a possible law that might forbid the display of banners or flags at Town Hall because of its historical status. Mr. Crotty said he was not familiar with that law and that he would look into it on behalf of the board.
Mr. Freitas said he was otherwise fine with the policy as written, but does not want to inadvertently break any rules.
Planning Board Chairperson John Farrell, attending the meeting remotely via Zoom, asked why the board chose this point in time to create and adopt a flag policy, which Mr. Freitas said came about at the suggestion of Mr. Crotty as the Selectboard was discussing a request to display the rainbow LGBTQ Pride flag with a petitioner.
Mr. Freitas said the concern was that once the town approved the display of one flag, “Someone come in and say we want to fly the Nazi flag.”
Mr. Freitas said it could get controversial if the town were to say yes to one petitioner and no to another.
Mr. Farrell said he found the timing of the creation of a new flag policy “a little suspicious” and “a little disturbing to me” as the matter arises just after displaying the rainbow flag at town hall during June, traditionally LGBTQ Pride month.
Mr. Rees reported that an Employment Engagement/Work Culture Study could be pursued under a grant from the Community Compact, but the state has not yet released a Fiscal Year 2021 budget allocating grant funds. A Request for Proposals (RFP) has been drafted and is awaiting submission, but the board took no further action on the matter.
The Conservation Commission stated its support for a proposed 10-percent increase in sourcing clean, renewable energy under the community electricity aggregation (CEA) program in a letter addressed to the Selectboard that Mr. Freitas read aloud.
Under the current contract that will soon be under renegotiation, all Fairhaven energy consumers that did not opt out of the CEA source a minimum of 18% of their electricity from a renewable energy source as mandated by the state, with increasing increments over the years to reach 35% clean energy by 2030. Individual consumers have the further option to increase that amount up to 100% clean energy.
The ConCom urged the town to be an example to other South Coast towns and adopt the 10-percent increase, as Fairhaven is a designated Green Community and the clean energy increase would further decrease Fairhaven’s carbon footprint.
Mr. Espindola stated that he was not in favor of the increase because although the average consumer would only see a roughly $2 increase in their monthly bill, commercial consumers could see a more considerable impact.
“And that’s my concern,” said Mr. Espindola. “I feel for them….”
Residents can find out more and participate in an online survey until July 20 by visiting www.fairhaven-ma.gov/home/pages/community-electricity-aggregation.
In other matters, the board pledged to assist Cathy Melanson and her attorney, John Markey, as they seek a solution to the sticky situation surrounding the transfer of a liquor license caught in red tape.
Ms. Melanson owns 111 Huttleston Avenue, the location of the defunct Cleary’s Pub that is now slated for a new restaurant.
According to Mr. Markey, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) has halted the transfer of the liquor license because the owner of Cleary’s Pub has unpaid state taxes and has indicated that they do not have the means to pay it off. Mr. Markey said this is a state regulation and does not involve the town, but the town could assist in one of numerous ways, including drafting special legislation for Town Meeting to vote to approve an additional liquor license in town.
Selectboard members expressed their desire to see the new business up and running, giving Mr. Markey the go-ahead to research possible solutions and work with the state before proposing any action from the Town.
“Whatever we can do to help, I’m 100% behind it,” Mr. Freitas said.
As discussed at the last meeting, the board approved redistributing the board’s committee liaison positions more evenly across the three Selectboard members. Mr. Silvia acquired Historical Commission and Millicent Library Board of Trustees, from Mr. Freitas, and Cable Advisory Committee from Mr. Espindola.
The board approved and signed a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan and Management Plan as required by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to address stormwater runoff.
The board agreed to explore adopting new zoning appeal procedures, guidelines, and record-keeping policies to mitigate potential future litigation that could be avoided through better communication among the Zoning Board of Appeals, building commissioner, planning & economic development director, and town administrator. The board will seek assistance from the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District (SRPEDD).
The board voted unanimously to approve a 2-percent cost of living increase for all elected official salaries, except for the Selectboard, which will see no increase.
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