By Mary Chasse, Neighb News Correspondent
At its meeting on Monday 10/4/21 the Fairhaven Board of Public Works met with the Tree Warden about multiple issues.
BPW Chairperson Brian Wotton started the meeting with an announcement that board member Frank Coelho sent in his letter of resignation due to health reasons. Mr. Coelho was on the board for the last two and a half years but has served the town on various boards and committees for many years.
Mr. Wotton said in Mr. Coelho’s letter he said he was grateful to have served on the BPW and sends his best wishes for continued success. He also thanked the BPW staff, employees, and union workers, as well as all the voters.
BPW Vice-Chairperson Robert “Hoppy” Hobson said that everything Mr. Coelho has done was beneficial to the town.
“He never gave up on anything he pursued,” Mr. Hobson said. “I wish him luck!”
The board also met with Tree Warden Don Collasius via Zoom. Mr. Collasius said there were three trees at Livesey Park that are dead from the inside and are at risk of falling. He asked for a letter giving him permission to take down the trees.
After a bit of discussion, the topic switched to Mr. Collasius’s change of heart on moving the tree department to the BPW.
Mr. Collasius said he did not mean to hurt any feelings when he changed his mind. He said he likes the idea of the Tree Warden and BPW merging and working together, but the article at Town Meeting was not about that, it was about making the Tree Warden an appointed position.
He said BPW Superintendent Vinnie Furtado told him that the article was step one in merging the departments, but no one explained the other steps. He said he was not going to agree to something when he did know the whole plan.
“If you were confused and didn’t know all the information why not go back to Vinnie and ask,” board member Marcus Ferro asked.
Mr. Collasius said it is the board’s job to inform the general public of the details of an article in Town Meeting and especially to inform the person in the Tree Warden position.
Mr. Ferro said if Mr. Collasius was running on the key issue of joining the BPW then he has a similar obligation to work with the BPW.
Mr. Collasius said he did not see that article as making the Tree Warden a position through the BPW. He saw it as being a non-elected position and an appointed position through the BPW instead.
Mr. Furtado explained that it was the first step towards forming a Tree Department, adding there was no way they could make the unelected positon and then create a whole Tree Department with an arborist and their salary. That would be a $200,000 article. He said he thought he explained that to Mr. Collasius.
Mr. Collasius said he is learning things on a daily basis and is networking with people at Tree Warden school. He said in a lot of towns, the head of the BPW is the Tree Warden.
Mr. Furtado agreed that is how it is in New Bedford, but New Bedford has a whole Forestry Department.
Board member Cameron Durant said they need full time employees cutting trees, and he hoped the Tree Warden and BPW can work together.
Mr. Ferro asked Mr. Collasius where he would stand on a new article for Town Meeting.
Mr. Collasius said he did not know if he could support it. He is networking with 50 other towns and is seeing how it is done in other places. He noted he has never been involved in politics. He would like to wait until spring to do more research.
He also said he would present an idea of how they can work together in the spring and get something on the warrant that will work.
Mr. Wotton said that he appreciated what Mr. Collasius has been doing and that he is doing a good job and they were not there to debate that. They were there to discuss moving the Tree Department to the department that gets things done.
Mr. Wotton said he will personally run and campaign on why the Tree Department should be merged with the BPW.
“It has nothing to do with you, sir,” Mr. Wotton said. “And don’t take it offensively, it has to do with Fairhaven residents and they deserve more. Park Department has one employee and Tree Department has two part time employees. Tell me how merging those two departments to get two full-time employees does not make sense.”
Mr. Wotton said hopefully they could get more money, so they could have a third employee. They could cut grass a few days for the Park Department and then do tree projects a few days a week. In the winter there is no grass maintenance so there would be more time for tree projects.
Mr. Wotton also noted that the problem has been going on for 50 years and no previous Tree Wardens have been able to fix it.
“Everything I’ve heard from you is you don’t have the money or resources and you’re not responsible,” Mr. Wotton said.
“That is untrue, sir,” Mr. Collasius said. “I never said I wasn’t responsible… that’s an outright false statement.”
Mr. Wotton said they have been told multiple time that Mr. Collasius is not responsible and it is all over his Facebook posts.
“You did, we all read and saw your statement in the Neighborhood News,” Mr. Wotton said, telling Mr. Collasius not to take it personally and that he is not the issue…the issue is the role of the Tree Warden and it has been an issue for years.
“We wholeheartedly support you,” Mr. Wotton told Mr. Collasius. “You can be a big part of this… don’t leave… stay involved and support us and let us do better for the town and come join us.”
Mr. Wotton told Mr. Collasius to work together with the BPW and that the BPW will support him if he supports them.
“We can help move the town forward in a better way,” Mr. Wotton said. “You cannot do it on your own.”
Mr. Collasius thanked the board for having him.
“I respect your opinions and look forward to working together in the future with issues regarding this,” Mr. Collasius said.
In another matter, the board hired Kyle Winderlick as a Heavy Motor Equipment Operator.
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