By Beth David, Editor
The Acushnet Selectboard and the Acushnet Housing Authority voted for Andrew Gomes to fill the seat vacated by James Madruga on the AHA. Sandra Bettencourt also sent a letter of interest for the position.
At the Selectboard meeting on Monday, 2/6, both boards voted to appoint Mr. Gomes. He will have to run for the position in the upcoming election April 4.
AHA Chairperson Rene Racine told the Selectboard that his board preferred Mr. Gomes for the position. AHA members Isabel Sousa and Lawrence Mulvey agreed with the choice.
Selectboard chairperson Garry Rawcliffe indicated that he wanted to defer to the AHA, but then abstained from the vote without explanation.
Selectboard member Mike Cioper, who works for the AHA, recused himself and left the room during the proceedings, leaving Selectboard member Kevin Gaspar as the only Selectboard vote for Mr. Gomes.
Neither candidate was at the meeting on Monday.
The board also voted to support an article at Town Meeting that would put a moratorium on marijuana facilities in Acushnet.
In November, voters in Massachusetts passed by referendum that legalizes recreational marijuana, with limits.
The state, however, has not set up the rules to regulate any facilities that might pop up to sell pot for recreational use. As a result, towns across the state are putting moratoriums in place to give themselves time to figure out zoning and other regulations.
Towns need to create zoning that would allow the facilities, and need to consider if they will allow cafes, or places where marijuana can be consumed on-site. Towns are also allowed to assess a 2% local tax on sales of marijuana.
Mr. Gaspar, however, noted that in Acushnet the law passed by only 5%, about 140 votes. He said he would like to see ballot question to let the public weigh in on the matter.
Town Administrator Brian Noble said it was “premature” for the town to create regulations when the state has not created its guidelines yet.
He said the town should move forward with zoning, though.
The town’s legal firm Koppelman and Paige has written an article for the warrant.
The board voted to support the article.
In another matter, the board tabled a discussion on a parcel of land that the town has a right of first refusal on. The land is in Chapter 61A, which gives a break in the tax rate for agricultural use. But requires that the town get a first shot at it if it goes up for sale.
There was some confusion as to the size of the parcel and where it was located, so the board decided to wait until it had more information. The parcels are on Map 10, Lots 30, 34 & 35, and are on the Fairhaven line. An offer of $376,000 has been made for the property.
The board voted to adopt the new Public Records Compliance Policy and named five Records Access Officers (RAO). The new law requires municipalities to have a person in charge of fulfilling public records requests for each department.
Town Clerk Pam Labonte will be the RAO for the town and for the smaller departments that do not have a specified RAO. The other RAOs appointed were: Town Administrator Brian Noble; Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher for the Fire Department; Police Chief Michael Alves for the Police Department; Mary Carter for the School Department.
The new law changes the amount that local governments can charge for records, lowering them significantly, and specifying five cents per page for copies; sets limits on how long a government body can take to fulfill requests; requires governments to provide electronic records where available; and allows requestors to ask for attorney’s fees if they prevail in court.
For more information on the new law, visit https://www.sec.state.ma. us/pre/prenotice.htm. It went into effect on 1/1/17.
In a follow-up from the last meeting, the board briefly discussed the pump at the school’s pumping station.
The dire situation is a little less dire, since they got one pump working. The plan is to keep the pumps patched up enough to get through to the summer, when students are not in the building. The whole pumping system needs to be replaced or significantly upgraded. The board will probably have an article on the next Town Meeting warrant.
Mr. Noble also told the board that the school department is working with the town on a plan to use school departments for voting.
He said the plan calls for additional parking and other improvements. The plan will be discussed at a future meeting.
In other business, the board amended the appointment of Richard Miranda to the Agricultural Commission. He should have been appointed as an alternate member.
The Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by Patrick Higgins was resolved. The board said the state ethics commission “found no violations,” and resolved the matter. Mr. Higgins has 30 days to appeal.
Mr. Noble reported that the town had received a grant for the town to buy three electric cars with three charging stations.
The cars have a limited range, 80 miles, but “will be extraordinarily economical,” said Mr. Noble.
The town has at least one aging vehicle, a Crown Victoria, that needs to be retired and is also not very good on gas.
Mr. Noble also told the board that the town is seeking regionalization possibilities for the school department with the town of Fairhaven, in response to a request by the School Committee.
The two towns will explore ways that regionalization may be mutually beneficial to them.
The concept is still at the “study stage,” said Selectboard member Mike Cioper, adding that they had applied for a grant to study the issue.
“It could be beneficial to us,” said Mr. Cioper. “It’s something that should be looked at.”
Click here to download the entire 2/9/17 issue: 02-09-17 HollyTree