Jean Perry, Neighb News Correspondent
The Fairhaven Select Board adjusted the composition of the Town Administrator Search Committee on August 9, increasing the membership from seven to nine.
Chair Bob Espindola said feedback he received from the public prompted him to consider adding a representative from the Board of Public Works to the screening committee. To avoid the possibility of a stalemate, the board added another at-large committee member to form an odd-numbered nine-member committee.
Mr. Espindola argued that, because the BPW has such a substantial budget, they should have a seat at the table to select the next town administrator.
Mary Flanders Aicardi, who leads the human resources practice for the Collins Center, will be facilitating the screening committee. She said having a nine-member committee is acceptable, adding that the largest screening committee she facilitated was 13 members.
Ms. Flanders Aicardi commented that the end of the summer is a good time for a TA search and gave a rough timeline for the process, beginning with advertising the position before Labor Day, holding the search committee’s first meeting the first full week of September, and reviewing resumes by the end of September. She said she wants to have the questions for candidates finalized before reviewing resumes and holding interviews to avoid bias, and said she discourages committee members from Googling applicants to screen out potential candidates.
She also recommended a shorter advertisement period of no more than four weeks instead of the typical five-week window, saying, “…People either apply on the first day or the last day…” Ms. Aicardi said she would also be directly recruiting candidates.
After the board voted to increase the committee size (with Select Board member Keith Silvia recused), resident Ann Richard asked whether the chairs of the three participating committees, the Planning Board, School Committee, and Finance Committee, have to appoint a different member than the one that sat on the first screening committee, to which Mr. Espindola replied no.
Ms. Graves left the room during the TA search discussion back on 8/4 but remained in the room throughout the discussion that night.
Also during the meeting, the board voted in favor of moving ahead with the high school turf project restrooms after a discussion that included Building Commissioner Chris Carmichael, Director of Planning & Economic Development Paul Foley, members of the public, and which referenced letters from Historical Commission Chair Wayne Oliveira and Superintendent of Schools Tara Kohler.
In a letter to Mr. Espindola dated 8/4, Mr. Oliveira said the commission objected to the proposed southwest location of the restrooms and said his earlier letter to former Superintendent Robert Baldwin expressing that concern went unanswered. Mr. Oliveira said that since the school is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the restrooms should be situated in a less prominent location away from the building and the view from Route 6.
“I realize some may find this to be an incidental subject but, we feel it is our responsibility to watch over the smaller details that make this property so outstanding,” Mr. Oliveira wrote. “If a different, suitable location cannot be achieved we would at least ask that we be consulted on ways that we may be able to screen the new structure and make it blend into the field. We are willing to work with the School Department to achieve this goal.”
In his 6/4 letter to Dr. Baldwin, Mr. Oliveira wrote, “… [We] want this letter to serve as notice that we will oppose the location of this structure when and if the time comes for it to be built.”
The commission asked to move the restrooms to the northeast corner of the field near the flagpole.
In her letter to Mr. Espindola dated 8/6, Ms. Kohler stated that moving the restrooms is not a reasonable option. While she agreed that the high school is an “historic treasure,” she added, “[The] view of the high school building will not be obstructed by the proposed restroom as the trees that currently exist in the same sightline are much taller than the height of the proposed restroom building.”
She then wrote, “[As] discussed and agreed to at the meeting and legal guidance provided by … legal counsel, the historic commission has no legal authority to block the issuing of a building permit.”
She closed by stating, “Please note that we all care about preserving this treasure of a building and will work collaboratively as we move forward through the completion of this project.”
Mr. Espindola said he attended a site visit and agreed that moving the restrooms was not practical. He disagreed with Mr. Carmichael’s opinion that the Historical Commission has the right to weigh in on the issuance of the permit because the commission is only an advisory committee to the Select Board.
Mr. Espindola did, however, call for a motion to ask the School Committee to consult with the commission about screening the restrooms from public view.
“I would hate to see this stalled any longer,” said Select Board member Stasia Powers, who previously served on the School Committee that supported the project. “I support the project, and I want to see it move forward.”
Mr. Espindola observed that Fairhaven does not have an historic overlay district, which would have been useful when construction is proposed at a historic property.
Mr. Foley agreed, then remarked that although there is no adopted historic overlay district, the historic properties are mapped, further commenting: “And it’s on the National Register. I mean, come on, they should have known that.”
School Committee Chair Brian Munroe commented that the School Committee would collaborate with the Historic Commission on the screening.
In another matter, Ms. Powers reported that during a meeting she attended with Tree Warden Don Collasius, Public works representatives, and public safety officials, Mr. Collasius agreed to respond to tree-related emergencies.
“And everybody’s going to work together,” said Ms. Powers.
For example, she said, when a tree falls in the roadway, the police will evaluate the scene and determine if it can be easily moved. If not, then the tree warden would be called. If he or his laborers cannot remove it, then the DPW would come with its equipment and the funding deducted from the tree warden budget.
Later in the meeting, Mr. Collasius met with the board to announce that he would be appointing his two tree laborers as deputy tree wardens, which Town Counsel Tom Crotty said Mr. Collasius is allowed to do by statute without any approval from the Select Board.
The deputies’ salaries would not change, and the workers would still be classified as laborers; however, deputy tree wardens would be granted additional authority, such as imposing fines on people who damage public shade trees.
Mr. Collasius was asked to draft a memorandum to the board announcing the deputy appointments for the record.
In other business:
• The board approved an increase in Zoning Board of Appeals filing fees from $155 to $300 for a residential filing and from $309 to $400 for a commercial filing.
• Mr. Foley led a public hearing for the Fiscal Year 2021 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application requesting $686,236 in funding for Phase 3 of the Hedge Street redevelopment project.
• After approving a 250-kilowatt solar canopy project for the Senior Center/Recreation Center parking lot, the board determined that it would need to consider the possibility of a fall special town meeting and will add the matter to its next meeting agenda. The project will require Town Meeting approval to allow the Select Board to enter into a lease agreement and payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with Solect Energy.
• After a brief discussion, the board approved the formation of a new Belonging Committee after receiving Leon Correy’s draft of a press release announcing the formation of the committee. Its first meeting is scheduled for September 8.
• The board approved the creation of a gift account for the new police K9 unit (see page 19) to accept donations to be used to offset the costs of veterinary care, food, equipment, and training.
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