By Pattie Pacella, Neighb News Correspondent
The Acushnet Selectboard met on Monday, 7/25, mostly to discuss the LNG project and related negotiations with Eversource. Selectboard chair Garry Rawcliffe said he had begun to write up a few negotiations that he would like to see with Eversource.
He stated he would like the board to give him leeway to review the negotiations with town counsel.
He said it was actually “phase one,” and included $250,000 in non refundable pre-permitting fees to hire independent consultants as the LNG Advisory Committee recommended, to review the peer reports.
He did advise the board that Eversource was supposed to have additional reports filed by the end of July with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and that they have asked for an extension to mid August.
Mr. Rawcliffe stated that if they had to then extend that date, then the November due date for the application may be pushed to February. He said he was hoping they could then push that to after April, so they could put the question on the town ballot.
Selectboard member Kevin Gaspar said that he has been asking about putting the LNG project to a ballot question for some time and he did not want to act prematurely in making any decisions to negotiate with Eversource prior to the question being voted on by residents.
“I want to know which way my constituents are going to vote,” said Mr. Gaspar. “I want to know if I, myself, am going to support this project or deny it,” he said.
Mr. Rawcliffe stated that as it stood the ballot question as discussed previously would be on the ballot in April, “as we left it,” he said.
Mr. Gaspar said he thought they should hold a Special Town Election in September to ask the question.
“If it costs $5,000 to put on a Special Town Election, I say we just do it,” he said, adding that he was tasked to look for alternative locations and did not know why he should be doing that if he did not know which way his constituents are going.
Mr. Gaspar then asked the board to give him permission to speak to the town clerk and the Commonwealth’s board of elections to see what they can do as far as holding a special town election for the ballot question.
Town Clerk Pamela Labonte joined the meeting, saying she was watching it in her office. She told board members that she did research on the special ballot question and was told that the town cannot put the question on a special town election or on the November ballot.
She said the non-binding question can only be put on a ballot in an April, local election.
Mr. Rawcliffe asked if they had a binding question on a special town election, could they then add a non-binding question as well.
Ms. Labonte said she did not know, but would look into it.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
Mr. Gaspar asked if the board of elections had given a reason why they cannot do a special town election to ask the question.
Ms. Labonte said, “No. I think because of politics.”
From the back of the room, the voice from behind the government access door said, “what politics,” which brought laughter from the board.
“I think I just heard the guy in the closet ask exactly what I was going to, what politics,” Mr. Gaspar said. “What constitutes as a special town election?”
Ms. Labonte said she believed it was used if an elected position was vacant due to a death or a resignation. She said it has to be in the town charter and it is not.
Mr. Gaspar said he would work with Ms. Labonte to try and get an answer to why and report back to the board.
In another matter, Selectboard member Michael Cioper asked if the board could ask the town administrator screening committee to expedite the process.
“I feel like it’s been a long time already,” he said
Mr. Gaspar agreed saying he was “somewhat dissatisfied at how things were going.”
Administrative Assistant Lisa Leonard, who has been filling in where possible after the departure of Town Administrator Al Coutinho, said the screening committee was holding interviews with seven candidates sometime in the next two weeks.
In other business the board:
• Announced an opening on the Zoning Board of Appeals due to the resignation of Alan Perry. Those interested should send letters to the Selectboard’s office at Town Hall, 122 Main Street, Acushnet, MA 02743.
• Reviewed the safety committee’s recommendations for Pope Street to be a one-way in an easterly direction.
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