By Beth David, Editor
The Acushnet Selectboard chose Nicholas Gomes over former town moderator Robert Francis to be moderator from now until voters vote again in April of 2018.
At their meeting on Tuesday, 5/9, board members heard from both interested parties, then voted to choose Mr. Francis. At first the vote was 2-1, with board member Roger Cabral voting to support Mr. Gomes. But Mr. Cabral asked to change his vote to make it unanimous, saying he supported Mr. Gomes.
The situation arose because no one was on the April 3 ballot. The two men ran as write-in candidate and received 32 votes each, requiring the Selectboard to make an appointment.
Mr. Francis had said previously that he would step down after 36 years as moderator, but never really gave a reason.
At Monday’s meeting, however, Mr. Francis told the board that he had gotten some dire medical news in the fall.
“They said I was going to die,” said Mr. Francis.
But then, after some treatment and new medication in January, he said his health has improved.
“I actually feel better than I before,” he said.
He was still vague on exactly what his medical condition is.
“You know I love the job,” said Mr. Francis.
Lifetime Acushnet resident Nicholas Gomes, who was formerly on the Housing Authority, but stepped down as part of lawsuit settlement involving James Madruga, told the boart that he was new to politics.
An attorney, he said, and also wrote in his letter of interest, that his legal background would make him an ideal candidate for the position.
He also said, and wrote, however, that he held Mr. Francis in “high regard,” and remembers Mr. Francis running the meetings when Mr. Gomes was a teenager.
He said he wanted to be involved in politics to make Acushnet a better place to live. He promised to find another way to get involved if not appointed.
Mr. Cabral was the first to speak and said that if Mr. Francis wanted the job he felt that he should be allowed to continue as moderator. He cited Mr. Francis’s history in the job.
When Mr. Cabral made a motion to appoint Mr. Francis, no one seconded it.
Board member Michael Cioper spoke words of support for both men, but made a motion to appoint Mr. Gomes. Chairperson Kevin Gaspar seconded the motion.
Mr. Gaspar wished Mr. Francis the best of luck, but said it was time for a “new generation.”
He said he hoped that Mr. Gomes’s appointment and visibility in the job would inspire young people to get involved in town politics.
At Mr. Cabral noted that he did not have an express objection to Mr. Gomes and asked to amend his vote to make the support unanimous.
In another matter, the board delayed a vote on granting an easement for a property on Perry Hill Road, near the corner of Mendall.
The property has a failing well, but there is a five-year moratorium on digging up a newly surfaced road, so the owners cannot get to town water on Perry Hill Road. They want to hook up on Mendall, but it requires crossing a piece of town owned land. The owners asked for a permanent easement, but the board was not supportive of that.
Board members agreed that maybe a temporary easement would work better, then when the five years is up, they owners can hook up on Perry Hill Road.
Mr. Gaspar, however, also questioned why the town even owns that property and said he had repeatedly asked for more information on how many parcels the town owns and why.
“Water is something no one should be deprived of,” said Mr. Gaspar, but also cited possible legal repercussions in the future with a permanent easement, or maybe even a temporary one.
The owners would be forced to do the hook-up twice if it is temporary.
In the course of the discussion about possibly selling the land in the future, Town Administrator Brian Noble said he got a text from Dan Menard, Highway Department Superintendent, who said the town’s radio towers are on that land.
The board and Mr. Noble agreed that the land is unlikely to be sold.
The board voted to support the temporary easement if town counsel agrees it is something the town can legally do.
Mr. Cioper noted that unless it is an emergency, the town cannot tear up the road. He questioned if the owners knew they had trouble with the well before Perry Hill was paved.
“Everyone has trouble with wells,” said Mr. Cabral.
Board members worried about setting a bad precedent.
The board also discussed the ownership of the parcel itself, with Mr. Noble saying he was unable to find the deed.
“I don’t know when the town [acquired] this property,” said Mr. Noble.
Mr. Gaspar then turned the discussion to all the other parcels the town owns and said he would like a list of where they are, when the town got them and why they did. He said the board should consider maybe selling some of them.
Mr. Noble noted that many of them are very small. Mr. Gaspar said that abutters might be interested in buying them.
The board voted to have Mr. Noble research the town owned properties.
The board also got an update from Tom Decosta on the progress of the Veterans Memorial that will be built at Pope Park. He said that progress has been steady and the project will go forward with no town funds being used, although they are still fund-raising.
“It’s [going to] happen, it is happening,” said Mr. Decosta.
He said he is proud of what his group did and what the town did.
He said the park is “really like the center of town,” because everyone goes there at some point.
“One way or another, if I have to go out myself with a shovel and start, I will,” said Mr. Decosta.
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