By Mary Chasse, Neighb News Correspondent
At its meeting on Monday, 1/24, the Fairhaven Board of Public Works briefly discussed the FY23 budgets with the Superintendents of each department. The board also met with the Tree Warden and discussed options for Pickleball court locations.
The board first met with Sewer Superintendent Rene Robillard, who said there were only a few budget increases for things like training, chemicals, and salaries. The biggest budget increases would be for plant upgrade which is in the Capital Plan.
The board also met with Water Superintendent Jeff Furtado. Mr. Furtado said there would be budget increases for purchases because there is some new equipment that they need. He said the cost of water testing has also increased, as well as utilities. They will be repainting one of the water towers, as well as replacing a water main on Bay Street. The department also needs a new vehicle.
BPW Superintendent Vinnie Furtado announced the budget changes for the Park Department and the Highway Department because Highway Superintendent John Charbonneau could not make it to the meeting.
Mr. Furtado said for the Park Department there would be budget increases for equipment repairs, playground expenses/new equipment, and materials.
For the Highway Department there would be budget increases for building maintenance for new doors; increases for office supplies, signs, frontloaders, and roads.
Mr. Furtado said all department budgets for FY23 still have to be approved by the Finance Committee.
In another matter the board met with Tree Warden Don Collasius about a Town Meeting article to merge the Tree Department and BPW.
Mr. Furtado said that the board wanted to hear Mr. Collasius’s thoughts about putting the Tree Department under the BPW’s jurisdiction.
Mr. Collasius said he appreciated the opportunity to talk about it.
Vice Chairperson Robert “Hoppy” Hobson said he thought Mr. Collasius wanted to make the Tree Department better. The question he had for Mr. Collasius was whether or not he was in favor of the BPW taking over the Tree Department.
Mr. Hobson explained that when Mr. Collasius ran for Tree Warden he said he wanted to make the Tree Department part of the Park Department. Mr. Hobson said that Mr. Collasius is doing a good job, but during every storm they call BPW for help. Mr. Hobson said he thinks the departments belong together.
Mr. Collasius said he had not made up his mind yet on whether or not he thinks the departments belong together. He said he wanted to make an informed decision, and felt like the BPW having jurisdiction over the Tree Department is a conflict of interest.
Board member Marcus Ferro said that did not make any sense and asked Mr. Collasius to explain.
Mr. Collasius said that last October he told the board about trees at Livesey Park that needed to be taken down. The BPW wanted to ask for other opinions before taking the trees down and one of those trees ended up falling and damaging someone’s property.
“That doesn’t seem like a conflict of interest,” Mr. Ferro said. “It seems more like maybe an issue of departmental resources.
“No, I think it has to do with competency,” Mr. Collasius said.
Mr. Ferro noted that Mr. Collasius said that the Tree Warden does not have authority during storms and the BPW ends up doing the job and cleaning all the storm mess .
“To say the BPW is incompetent is an offense to me, the board, and the entire department, who worked really hard during storms,” Mr. Ferro said. “It’s an insult to all of us for you to call us incompetent.
Mr. Ferro said he thought Mr. Collasius has worked hard and tried to make the Tree Department better, but to say the BPW is not competent enough to take on the Tree Department is offensive.
Mr. Collasius said he was not referring to the whole department. He said the department does a great job. Mr. Collasius said the competency issue lies with the board. He went to the board about some problem trees and the board was supposed to get back to him, but never did and the tree fell and damaged property.
BPW Chairperson Brian Wotton said the tree he was speaking of fell less than a week after Mr. Collasius mentioned it to the board.
Mr. Collasius said the tree fell three weeks later, adding that another reason the BPW has a conflict of interest is because trees cause problems for BPW with sidewalks, streets, and curbs etc.
He said it makes the BPW’s job much easier if there are no trees.
“It appears to me that you guys are kind of on an agenda to get rid of street trees,” Mr. Collasius said.
Mr. Wotton and Mr. Hobson both said they thought they hadheard enough.
“Can I speak,” Mr. Collasius asked,
“You can speak, but I am fully insulted that you just said the BPW wants to clear every tree in town from every street side,” Mr. Wotton said. “That is ridiculous, Don.”
Mr. Wotton told Mr. Collasius that he needs to think before he speaks because he is really aggravating everyone here.
“And if you are going to ask us for help in the future, which you do on a daily basis, the answer is going to be ‘no’ because we’re incompetent and have a conflict of interest,” Mr. Wotton said.
“Okay, is now when I’m supposed to talk,” Mr. Collasius said.
He told the board that on Bellvue and Brown Street numerous trees were removed to pave sidewalks and new curbs were placed in a way to make it impossible to plant new trees.
Mr. Wotton said he is not denying that some trees had to be removed to make sidewalks ADA compliant.
Mr. Furtado said whenever the BPW can save a tree they do.
Mr. Wotton said had nothing more to say, adding that the BPW endorsed Mr. Collasius because he said he wanted to work with the BPW to make the Tree Department better to help get more funding for the department and better more qualified personnel.
Board member Steve Riley asked about the budget Mr. Collasius is proposing for the Tree Department.
Mr. Collasius said it is not a proposed budget it is just to start a conversation. Mr. Collasius said he would propose a full-time tree warden, an arborist, and a laborer.
Mr. Riley said suppose that all goes through, would the Tree Department be able to handle every tree problem in Fairhaven? He asked if a Tree Department with that personnel would be fully operational with no need for help from the BPW.
Mr. Collasius said he did not know that and if there was a storm or a hurricane they may still need the BPW. He said he believed the BPW and Tree Department would always have to work together. Mr. Collasius said that he and Mr. Furtado work together almost on a daily basis.
Mr. Riley said if he was talking daily, the departments should be one department.
Mr. Collasius said he would advocate to make the Tree Warden an appointed position, but not to combine the department with the BPW.
Mr. Wotton said the board will move forward without Mr. Collasius’s support to continue the process of trying to merge the departments.
In another matter the board met with Al Valle about the location of new Pickleball courts at Livesey Park.
Mr. Valle said the Community Preservation Committee is asking that they look at the roller hockey rink at Livesey to see if it is usable for the courts instead of taking up more green space at the park.
Mr. Riley said he felt that may cause problems for people who still use the roller rink.
Mr. Ferro agreed that he would rather not take away the rink from people who are using it.
They both said they support the new Pickleball courts, but the CPC should allow them to choose a free space in the park to build them, not take away the rink.
Mr. Valle said the CPC does not want to fund the project if it is going to take away more green space.
Mr. Wotton said the BPW will write a letter in support of putting the Pickleball court in green space and not use the rink. He said if the board members are available they will also attend the next CPC meeting with Mr. Valle in support.
In another matter Mr. Furtado said the board would vote on articles for town meeting at the next BPW meeting.
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