By Beth David, Editor
A short, but untimely series of power outages threw a bit of a wrench into the workings of the Fairhaven Select Board’s meeting on Monday, 8/15/22, but did not interfere with their appointment of Travis Rapoza to the Board of Public Works.
The power had gone out about a half hour before the meeting started (see page 13), causing delays and a shortage of certain documents that needed to be copied.
But, the board continued with its full agenda. The meeting started out cablecasting on channel 18 and livestreaming, but, due to two short outages during the meeting, ended up being available only by Zoom as a live option, or in person at town hall.
In a bit of a twist on the usual procedure, the SB has sole authority to fill a vacancy on the BPW, according to the special act that created the BPW. Cameron Durant resigned his position to take a job as Human Resources Director with the town.
Two people expressed interest in the open seat: Daniel Lopes and Travis Rapoza.
The five-person board was split in what to do, with Chairperson Stasia Powers casting the tie breaker in Mr. Rapoza’s favor.
Mr. Lopes noted his professional background as a Laboratory Safety Officer and Safety and Health Officer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He has Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management.
“As a lifelong Fairhaven resident and homeowner, I feel very fortunate to have grown up here in town,” wrote Mr. Lopes in his letter of interest. “I feel I have a responsibility to give back to the place I’ve called home all my life.”
Mr. Rapoza, who graduated from Fairhaven High School in 2009, said his background working as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with a New Bedford Police Department program working with people struggling with substance use disorder.
In his letter of interest, he said he believed his “ability to quickly understand information, solve problems, and grasp how different agencies and stakeholders intersect with policies and procedures, make me an ideal candidate for the Board of Public Works.”
Members of the BPW weighed in, with Robert “Hoppy” Hobson saying both candidates are good, he would not want to have to choose, but he was hoping they would choose Mr. Lopes.
BPW chairperson Brian Wotton also emailed his preference for Mr. Lopes; BPW member Marcus Ferro sent a statement expressing his choice as Mr. Lopes.
BPW member Anne Morton Smith was noncommittal in her statements, expressing praise for both candidates.
“It’s on you guys,” she said.
When it came time to vote, SB member Charlie Murphy nominated Travis, with a second from Bob Espindola; Keith Sylvia nominated Mr. Lopes, with a second from Leon Correy.
Ms. Powers squirmed in her chair and noted that she would, therefore, be the tie breaker.
Mr. Murphy said he agreed with Mr. Hobson and wished there were two seats available.
“Each brings something different to the table,” said Mr. Murphy.
Mr. Silvia, who served on the BPW in the past, said he would go with Mr. Lopes because members of the BPW supported him.
Mr. Correy said he really appreciated Mr. Lopes’s presentation, resume, etc., call it “more formal.”
“First impressions,” said Mr. Correy. “His resume just speaks right to the role.”
Mr. Espindola noted that he has known Mr. Rapoza for many years, and that he went to school with Mr. Espindola’s daughter. He said Mr. Rapoza was hardworking and intelligent and has been getting involved in the community for the last couple of years.
“I, once again, am in the hot seat,” said Mr. Powers, adding this was “another tough one.”
She decided to support Mr. Rapoza, saying he “brings a certain passion for public service.
She also noted his advocacy for people in his professional positions. As much as a member has to know the “nuts and bolts” of a position, she said, the board member is there to represent the people of the town.
Mr. Furtado expressed his dismay at the way the vote was clearly going to go.
He said he understood it was up the SB, and explained why some BPW members were not physically present at the meeting. He said he was surprised they had three elected members who voiced an opinion for Mr. Lopes, and he was “a little taken aback” that they would go in another direction.
“It bothers me to some degree, quite honestly,” said Mr. Furtado.
Mr. Espindola responded saying he did not know why the responsibility was on the SB and not BPW, but…
“It is our responsibility,” said Mr. Espindola, even if it seems “awkward or not appropriate.”
“The decision is given to us,” he continued, and said he would vote based on how strongly he felt.
Mr. Silvia reiterated that they should give the BPW the candidate they want.
Mr. Murphy said he appreciated the BPW weighing in, but the policy is clear that it is the SB’s decision.
“We’re here to make this decision, so I will make it,” said Mr. Murphy, adding he wished it fell on the BPW, but, “it comes to us.
The first motion was for Mr. Lopes, but that failed in a 2-3 vote, with Mr. Silvia and Mr. Correy in Favor.
Mr. Espindola then made the motion for Mr. Travis, and it carried 3–2, with Mr. Murphy and Ms. Powers joining him.
“I’m not happy, but I’m not disappointed,” said Mr. Hobson after the vote, adding that he hopes they both run in April and “maybe I’ll retire.”
At the end of the meeting, during the public comment period, Mr. Rapoza asked to speak, and addressed Mr. Correy’s concern about the format of his letter of interest.
Mr. Rapoza said he did not realize the format would matter, as the town has adopted an online form to use to express interest in board vacancies.
He said he used the same manner he used to apply to the Economic Development Committee, to which he was appointed.
He said he did not think at all about if the method he chose would look “ugly,” and recommended the board standardize the process so no one is “unfairly biased” because of format.
In another matter, the board heard from Town Clerk Linda Fredette about a change in polling locations for the September 6 primary elections.
Ms. Fredette said that due to construction in the Hastings Middle School gym, the precincts that usually vote there needed to be moved. She said it was less complicated to simply move all precincts to the Recreation Center, instead of trying to shuffle people around, and the board of registrars voted to use the one location.
Because it is a primary, she said, she did not expect a huge turnout, so she did not anticipate any logistical problems. Ms. Fredette also said she and the board of registrars had been contemplating moving all precincts, or most of them, to the Rec Center, so this would be a good test.
If about 20% of voters show up, that is about 1,000 voters, noted Ms. Powers, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Ms. Fredette said it would be a “good test to see if it will in fact work.”
If it’s crazy, she said, they know it will not work for the general election. There are definitely some “upsides” to it, she said. Meanwhile, she has a lot of work to do to notify people.
“It’s gonna be a party,” said Ms. Fredette, noting they are in a rush to get it all done.
“That’s the way we roll,” said Ms. Powers.
In related items, the board voted to change the number of police officers needed for election day, since there is only one location. There will be an officer outside in case of traffic issues.
During the public comment period, Eleanor Chew said she was concerned that it would be too confusing and that there would not e enough parking at the Rec Center.
She said the parking lot is confusing to get into, as it abuts the Stop & Shop parking lot and there is Route 6 traffic in and out. She also said there is not a lot of parking in the lot.
“I hope this is a one-time thing,” said Ms. Chew and added she hoped there would be a police officer directing traffic.
In another matter, Harbormaster Tim Cox told the board that the town received a “Gold Star” audit for the shellfish areas. The Division of Marine Fisheries and the Mass. Department of Public Health audited two of the town’s six shellfish growing areas on August 10. The town passed all criteria and received a “gold star” on both areas.
“I was kind of nervous,” Mr. Cox told the board.
He said there was a lot of paperwork, and he also had to take them out on the water to see the areas first hand.
Click here to download the entire 8/8/22 issue: 08-18-22 TeddyBear
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