By Beth David, Editor
Fairhven Town Meeting members passed all articles, including bylaws changes, at the Special Town Meeting on Tuesday, 11/12/19. TM members.
The article, that would have funded preliminary design/ engineering work for a public safety facility at the G. Bourne Knowles property, was passed over, so it did get discussed or voted on. All other articles made it to the floor
TM approved all funding articles for bills from prior years, amendments to the last budget to fund pay reclassifications and union contracts, and funding for several capital projects.
Funding articles included $68,591 to fund police department labor contracts for FY20; $62,648 for Fire Department salaries; $54, 163 for Sewer Department salaries.
Town meeting approved $340,606 to amend last year’s budget to add $1000 to the town clerk’s salaries to allow more hours for poll workers; $2,000 for Marine Resources for equipment repairs; $10,000 for the fire department for equipment repairs; $220,000 for the school department due to underfunding of the Special Education budget, some of which will be offset by the state; $7,606 for the public works department due to reclassification of some jobs; $100,000 to the Wind Turbine Electric Expense, all of which will be offset by savings from the project.
Town Meeting also amended the Capital Budget article from the May 2019 annual TM by adding $26K from surplus revenue for police department weapons storage lockers; $38,416 from the ambulance fund for patient transport stretchers; $17K from surplus revenue for handicap access at the fire station polling station; and up to $140K for town hall handicap access.
Article 9, which asks for $65K to pay for a consultant to study municipal broadband feasibility, garnered some discussion.
Selectboard member Bob Espindola said the concept came about in response to complaints about the town’s current internet and cable TV provider, Comcast.
He said after some research he found that possible competitors do not want to come into Fairhaven because Comcast owns all the infrastructure. Competitors would have to build their own networks, the cost of which would put them at a “significant disadvantage.”
The consultant would help the town “develop an approach” to creating municipal broadband in Fairhaven, which means the town would own the network. The project could cost up to $15 million.
Mr. Espindola said there are “many operating models” from completely town owned and controlled, to no control by the town. The consultant would research the pros and cons.
Jeffrey Lucas asked how the trend to drop cable would affect the bottom line of any project.
“We hear a lot of people saying they’re looking for something else. This is something else,” said Mr. Espindola, adding that when people “cut the cord,” they stop cable TV and the phone. “But very few people are cutting the cord on internet.”
Jim Anderson asked if the new company would be competition for Comcast, or simply replace them
Mr. Espindola noted that Comcast and the town have a 10 year contract. The town will continue to get 5% of subscription rates to run the cable access, government access and education TV channels.
There is also a possibility of some regionalization that could save money.
TM passed the funding article to hire a consultant to study the issue.
TM also approved article 11 to convey a town-owned lot near Cushman Park to be designated as parkland as a swap for a sliver of Livesey Park that the Oxford school residences project requires.
Article 14 to amend the bylaws to keep town hall closed on Saturdays, got some discussion before it passed.
Several members said they did not like wording. It made it sound as if town hall could never be open on a weekend.
Mr. Crotty said the Town Administrator could order town hall open, as it says in the first part. The second part, he said, was a result of the state elections commission trying to help out town clerks. It makes sure that no deadlines will fall on weekend days by treating those days as legal holidays.
The Demolition Delay bylaw got the most discussion of the evening, with members worried that it would restrict property owners to much. The bylaw would delay for 12 months the demolition of any building built before 1921, or those built later that have been determined by the Historic Commission to be potentially historically or architecturally significant.
Wayne Oliveira, HC chairperson told members that the article only pertained to demolition, and would allow the town some time to work with homeowners to come up with a solution other than demolition.
Sometimes owners want to renovate a property but are restricted by zoning or building codes. Some relief from those regulations might be appropriate, and could help the town save some of the buildings that give it its character said Mr. Oliveira.
Michael Hevey said he believed it would restrict him from being able to sell a property.
Ann Richard said that there are groups that will help with grants to save historic homes, so the delay law would give them time to get the funds for renovations.
Rich Griffiths said he felt 12 months was too long and suggested an amendment, making the delay 6 months.
The amendment failed and the bylaw passed as written in the warrant.
Planning Board member Wayne Hayward said the bylaw simply delays the demolition, it does not stop it. He said it gives the town time to help the homeowner not demolish the house.
“Once these are town down,” said Mr. Hayward. “They’re gone forever.”
TM also approved a new zoning bylaw that would designate the Benoit Square area as “mixed use,” which is, pretty much how it is being used now.
It would allow businesses and residences to be in the same building, and make the existing nonconforming structures conforming.
The current zoning discourages investment in the area.
Mr. Hayward said that “traditional mixed use” is growing in demand because baby boomers and millennials want walkable neighborhoods.
The area is accessible to Route 195, and the Boston bus.
Town Meeting also approved articles to amend the ambulance stabilization fund ($65,000); amend social day care budget receipts from $160K to $170K; approved $50K for storm water management compliance; $50K for Pilgrim Avenue Force Main repairs; PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) agreements for four solar projects.
The meeting is available at https://www.fairhaventv.com/townmeeting •••
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