By Pattie Pacella, Neighb News Correspondent
Following a contentious Selectboard meeting on 4/2, which was the first after the election, the Acushnet Selectboard continued discussion on Town Meeting articles, and the disagreements, too, at an extra meeting on Monday, 4/8. The board reviewed quite a few articles that had been held out of deference to new member Dave Desroches, who won in an upset, ousting incumbent Mike Cioper in the 4/1 election.
Newly chosen Chairperson Roger Cabral and Selectboard member Kevin Gaspar agreed that it was only fair to give Mr. Desroches a chance to review the articles in depth.
A brief discussion on the wage and classification study at the 4/2 meeting produced a contentious moment between Mr. Gaspar and Mr. Cabral, with Mr. Gaspar stating he did not feel like he was included in the wage and classification study proceedings. Mr. Cabral countered that Mr. Gaspar was given every opportunity to be a part of the study but chose not to be involved.
Mr. Gaspar stated that he was not going to put up with “back-door deals.”
Mr. Cabral stated there were clearly no back-door deals, and he wanted Mr. Gaspar to be more involved with the wage and classification study than Mr. Gaspar wanted to be.
The two bickered a bit back and forth before Mr. Desroches brought to their attention that the point of the discussion was in fact, to allow him more time to review the articles. The other members agreed, and they continued the meeting with a review of so-called “housekeeping” articles, then continued the rest of the items to 4/8.
At that meeting, the Selectboard reviewed the remaining TM articles. Mr. Desroches stated he had fully read the articles and was prepared to move forward in voting on them.
One of the first articles the board discussed was the Golf Committee article. Golf Advisory Secretary Edward Issac was present and reviewed his budget in detail.
He explained that they had $100,000 in reserves, but were putting an article forth for up to $150,000 in spending, if they needed it, without touching the reserves.
Mr. Issac said they would like to make the golf course a bit more user friendly for junior golfers by building additional tees and making capital improvements. He said they were currently working on a capital plan to grow the grounds, which in turn would help it continue to be profitable.
The Selectboard approved the $150,000 with the intention that the Selectboard will approve use of the funds when the committee asks for the money.
The Selectboard also approved the FY20 summary budgets, with Mr. Gaspar pointing out that the salary part of the budgets was based on 52.4 weeks, where as next year is a leap year, so the budgets showed that increase slightly.
For the articles which had a salary rate increase due to the wage and classification study, Mr. Gaspar abstained from the votes.
First, Mr. Gaspar stated that the Conservation Commissioner’s new salary was “Too much for me to move forward on. I am going to abstain.”
Mr. Cabral stated that the new wage was a result from the wage and classification study that the Town paid for, and it aligned with other communities in the state. He also said that they had been underfunding the position for years considering the skills and education that are clearly needed for it.
Mr. Desroches stated because he was not on the board when the W&C study was done, and he did not take part in any discussion about the increased wages, he too was going to abstain.
Town Administrator Brian Noble stated that with Mr. Cabral making the motion, as long as there was a second, then one vote could be the majority, if the other two Selectboard members were abstaining, and not actually voting “no.”
Mr. Cabral made a motion to approve the Conservation Commission budget with the increased salary, and Mr. Desroches seconded the motion. It passed with Mr. Cabral’s vote in the affirmative and Mr. Gaspar and Mr. Desroches abstaining.
Mr. Cabral went on to say that the W&C study was a “very comprehensive” study and that they were just looking to pay to keep good employees. He said there are often times that good people get an offer from another community and the Town of Acushnet hated to see people go, but they just could not justify the same pay increase.
“We want to keep our good employees, and be comparative to other towns,” said Mr. Cabral.
Mr. Desroches stated that he did not believe Acushnet could keep up with Towns like Mattapoisett and Marion. Mr. Cabral stated that the study had compared more than 20 towns.
In another review, the Selectboard discussed the Building Commissioner’s salary increase, where again Mr. Gaspar stated he was abstaining from the budget vote because of the increased raise.
Mr. Desroches stated he understood a position was eliminated and in essence the Building Commissioner was doing the work of two different positions for an increase of $20,000.
Mr. Cabral said the position in question is much bigger than just Building Commissioner, even bigger than the wage and classification study confirmed it was.
Mr. Desroches stated he was not opposed to the individual getting the raise, he just felt that with everyone getting a raise it would be hard to support through the years.
“We only have so much money,” said Mr. Desroches.
The Building Department’s budget was also approved with Mr. Gaspar abstaining.
The Veterans Agent position was also another budget that Mr. Gaspar challenged. He made a motion to reduce the 5% raise for the Veteran’s Agent to 2%, and clarified that the Veteran’s Agent was not part of the W&C study.
Mr. Cabral stated that Acushnet has the second lowest paid Veteran’s Agent position in Massachusetts.
Mr. Gaspar stated he wanted Mr. Noble to inquire about merging with Fairhaven’s new Veteran’s Agent, stating there is a “good agent there.”
Mr. Noble said he believed that was no longer an option but he would inquire.
Mr. Cabral agreed to the 2% raise, but added that he would like to explore the matter again in the near future.
Mr. Gaspar abstained from the Library Budget, again because of the salary increase. Both Mr. Gaspar and Mr. Desroches approved the library budget.
The Board continued to review the remainder of the budget articles approving them all.
In other business, the Selectboard agreed to request the Civil Service internal promotional exam for the Chief of Police position. Police Chief Michael Alves has announced his retirement for November of this year. Mr. Cabral said he thought the Board should broaden to look outside of the Acushnet Police Department, but agreed to the internal promotional exam for now.
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