By Mary Macedo
Neighb News Correspondent
At its meeting on Wednesday, 4/22 the Fairhaven Board of Public Works discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and how it affects recycling center hours and closing the town parks and beaches. The board also discussed voting for a Marine Resources Representative, and discussed a Grease Trap Policy Checklist. Before the meeting, began board member Frank Coelho announced that he would be recording the meeting.
The board opened the discussion with the approval of the minutes for the previous meeting. The vote passed 4-1 with Mr. Coelho opposing the April 6th meeting minutes.
Board member Robert Hobson asked Mr. Coelho why he opposed the minutes.
Mr. Coelho said that he opposed the minutes because they were incomplete. He explained that he spent at least five minutes at the last meeting discussing other issues that were not included in the minutes.
BPW Chairperson Brian Wotton asked Mr. Coelho if there was a certain section of the minutes he wanted to discuss.
Mr. Coelho said that there is no sense in discussing it now because it will not be included in the minutes anyway. He said he did not know what gets included in the minutes or who decides what is included. He said that at the April 6th meeting he discussed the minutes from the March 25th meeting and his discussion was not included.
“That’s the reason I object,” Mr. Coelho said.
“What’s the point,” asked board member Robert “Hoppy” Hobson.
Mr. Coelho said that the point is that he objects because the minutes are incomplete.
Mr. Hobson asked if Mr. Coelho wanted to discuss what is not included in the minutes, that it could be recorded on this week’s meeting minutes.
Mr. Coelho explained that he spoke about his issues with the Pasta House grease trap, as well as that he thought that Mr. Wotton had a conflict of interest regarding voting on the recycling center because of Mr. Wotton’s private clean out business.
Mr. Wotton banged the gavel.
“If you speak about my name one more time we are going to have a problem,” Mr. Wotton said.
“That’s why I didn’t want to bring it up,” Mr. Coelho said.
“Ok I’m good,” Mr. Hobson said.
In another matter, the board reopened their discussion on closing beach parking due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
Public Works Superintendent Vinnie Furtado told the board he has received many concerns from residents about keeping the Fort Phoenix parking lot open. He said many residents have voiced their concerns that there are a lot of people hanging out and walking around the fort.
Mr. Hobson, however, said that he had received a lot of calls from residents saying that they were glad that the gate of the town’s lot for Fort Phoenix is still open. He said that senior citizens just want to get out of the house and get fresh air. He said that they stay in their cars, read the paper and watch the ocean and the seagulls.
Mr. Furtado explained that the issue is that the Governor of Massachusetts closed all beaches and park parking lots that are owned by the state and recommended that all cities and towns close their beach/ park parking lots too.
Mr. Furtado said quite a few residents want the gates to be closed at Fort Phoenix so he wanted to bring it up to the board.
Mr. Hobson said he is against closing the gates.
Resident Rodney Immerman had a comment via Zoom, saying that if the board closes the parking lots it helps send the message that people need to stay home.
Mr. Immerman added that people are in their vehicles at the beach, but there are people standing one foot from each other outside the vehicle talking to each other through the window with no masks on. He said that the board needs to send the message that people should not be out. Mr. Immerman said that he understands people are bored, but they need to practice self control.
Resident Karen Vilandry also commented via Zoom, saying that said she has gone by Fort Phoenix and it was packed. She said that the governor gave strict direction to close the parks and beaches. It may seem innocent to go out for a walk, but people need to stay home, she said, adding that Massachusetts is a hotspot for COVID-19 right now.
Mr. Coelho said that he also went to Fort Phoenix and that the Board of Health opened the gate. Mr. Coelho said that opening the gate is the Board of Health’s responsibility.
Mr. Furtado said that it is the BPW’s decision, as park commissioners, to open or close the beaches and parks, but the Board of Health can overrule the BPW’s decision if they feel the situation is too dangerous.
Mr. Coelho said that there was trash all over the fort and a police officer approached him and asked him why the gates are opened. Mr. Coelho said that the officer said the gates should be closed.
Mr. Hobson explained that he can go to Walmart, the grocery store, Cumberland Farms, and even the package store.
“A lockdown is a lockdown,” Mr. Hobson said. “But enough is enough already.”
He said that people need to go out and get fresh air and be able to walk their dogs.
“I’m 80 years old,” Mr. Hobson said. “I’m one of the ones that would catch this thing if it’s that bad.”
Mr. Hobson explained that the state parking lot is closed so people are parking in the small town lot, which is why it is so packed with cars. He said in New Bedford residents can walk the hurricane barrier; he understands the concerns but enough restrictions are enough.
Mr. Hobson said he served in the military for his rights to do whatever he wants. He said he does not interact with people; he goes to the store, gets some scratch tickets, walks his dog, and works in his yard.
“I’m done with this subject,” Mr. Hobson said.
Board member Cameron Durant said that in a perfect world everyone would stay in their cars, but it is not perfect. He said they cannot force people to stay in their cars, and he thinks the gates should be closed, as well as Town Beach and similar properties.
“It’s a bitter pill,” Mr. Durant said “I don’t like it.”
Board member Keith Silvia said that he thinks people are still going to go and they will just park on side streets.
Mr. Hobson made a motion to keep both the town side of Fort Phoenix and the Town Beach lots open.
No one seconded the motion.
Mr. Durant made a motion to temporarily close the two lots.
Mr. Coelho seconded the motion. The motion did not pass with a 2-3 vote. Mr. Coelho and Mr. Durant voted to close the lots, and Mr. Hobson, Mr. Wotton, and Mr. Silvia voted against.
With neither motion passing both the Town Beach and town side of Fort Phoenix will remain open.
In another matter Mr. Hobson asked Mr. Furtado how long town employees will be working only half the time. He said he sees lots of landscapers and contractors working. He asked why all the town employees cannot work, just in smaller groups.
Mr. Furtado said he would love for all the town employees to be working normal hours, but they need to keep their employees safe. He said they are making plans to integrate employees back, but it might require them to wear masks and do mandatory temperature checks.
Mr. Wotton said that only half the employees work each week because if one employee tests positive for COVID-19 in group A then that whole group will need to quarantine for two weeks. Because only half would be affected the town would still have group B able to work.
Mr. Durant suggested that they look into making it mandatory for employees in town to wear masks. Mr. Furtado said he could discuss it with the health agent.
In another matter the board discussed voting for a BPW representative for the Marine Resources Committee. Mr. Coelho is the current representative.
Mr. Coelho reminded Mr. Wotton that the Selectboard postponed the election, so people in office now are in office for longer, including Mr. Wotton.
Mr. Coelho said that maybe they should check with the Selectboard because they said to postpone electing and appointing people to boards or committees.
Mr. Hobson said he would like to be the representative on the MRC, but he is fine waiting until the election.
The board voted to table to matter.
In other business the board discussed the recycling center hours.
Mr. Furtado asked the board if they would like to continue with the Wednesday/Saturday hours as they move into the month of May. Mr. Furtado recommended that they stick to the limited hours and continue to take only yard waste.
Mr. Durant asked how much money it costs to have ABC Disposal do curbside pickup monthly instead of spending millions building a new recycling center.
Mr. Furtado said that currently the town has a contract with ABC to pickup curbside yard waste for all four weeks of November for the excess amount of fall leaves and that costs around $18,000.
Mr. Wotton said for weekly pick-up the price was somewhere around $275,000-$300,000, but currently because of COVID-19 ABC is not picking up yard waste anyway.
Mr. Wotton said that he is not a recycling center sticker holder, so he is glad to give his opinion on it.
Mr. Hobson said people are cleaning their houses and yards, and they might want to get rid of TVs, mattresses and bigger items as they are cleaning. He said he does not think just the two days are enough.
Mr. Silvia said the center is only taking yard waste now because the employee needs to stay in the truck.
Mr. Furtado said that the recycling center is being lenient and allowing people with last year’s stickers in because it is hard to get this year’s stickers in the current situation.
Administrative Assistant Becky Vento said that people can put it in a drop box and then the registration can be sent back to them.
Mr. Furtado said they are getting a drop box from New Bedford next week that they are going to paint white and put the town seal on.
Mr. Wotton said that maybe people can email car registrations or send in a photo.
Mr. Furtado noted that email would be tough for people without technology or senior citizens.
Mr. Wotton suggested putting a picture of a blank registration on the back of the forms so people can just fill out their car registration.
Mr. Wotton suggested that residents can call in if they need help with getting a recycling sticker for this year and the board can leave residents names at the recycling center gate.
In the end, the board voted 4-1, which Mr. Durant abstaining, to add hours to the Recycling Center. It will be open Mondays and Wednesdays, 8:15 a.m.–3:30 p.m., and 8 a.m.–2 p.m. on Saturdays for yard waste only.
The board also discussed the grease trap policy checklist.
Mr. Furtado said the current checklist says that the grease trap has to separate bathroom waste from kitchen waste; the Board of Health most approve of the size of the grease trap based on 15 gallons per seat, the engineer plan has to show the location of the trap, size, waste separation and have a stamp of approval, the plans have to be approved by the Board of Health and plumbing inspector.
The owner must make sure the grease trap is cleaned every six months and a copy of documentation of the grease trap cleaned has to be sent to the BPW and Board of Health yearly.
The board passed the checklist unanimously.
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