By Beth David, Editor
The third time is the charm, they say. And so it seems for the attempt to change the Fairhaven Town Clerk position from elected to appointed. Town Meeting voted on Tuesday, 11/14/23 to have the change go to a townwide vote in April. The measure failed a the annual TM in May of this year and in 2018. It passed easily on Tuesday, although not without a bit of discussion on both sides.
In 2017 a town clerk study committee recommended the change.
Select Board member Stasia Powers read a statement from former Town Clerk Linda Fredette in favor of the change, arguing it is like any other department head position. But, the Town Clerk has to run for the position every three years.
“We have been very fortunate to be able to elect a qualified person, but our luck will run out some day,” said Cathy Melanson. “It’s time to leave the past in the past.”
Barbara Acksen spoke against the change, saying intelligent voters can ask for the qualifications of those running for the position.
Jessica Fidalgo said it was the responsibility of Town Meeting to forward the matter to voters. Anything that TM is asked about that should go to voters, should be forwarded to a vote, she said.
“If we trust our voters,” she said, TM members should allow them to vote.
Cathy Delano said it was important to have an independent professional in the position. She said there was no reason the person had to live in Fairhaven, and that Town Clerks of all the towns get together to develop best practices.
The current acting/interim town clerk, Elisabeth Horan, does not live in Fairhaven. She is serving out the term of the former clerk. If the change does not go to a vote in April, Ms. Horan will have to step down or move to Fairhaven. The Assistant Town Clerk is also not a Fairhaven resident.
“I think this is a no-brainer,” said Phil Washko, saying it should go to the voters and it is a professional position.
Kathy Carter said it should remain an elected position because it is a “critical role, especially in this day and time.’”
“If you really believe the town voters should have a say, then let them vote in April,” said Ann Richard, who was on the study committee in 2017.
“I would also like to call the vote [question,” she said.
“You can’t do both, but I appreciate the try,” said Town Moderator Mark Sylvia.
Eleanor Chew said that TM members were elected by voters in their precincts to represent them, not their personal opinions.
“Let the people decide,” said Ms. Chew. “It’s their right. Let the voters have their right to vote. Let’s keep our personal opinions out of this.”
The vote passed easily. The voters will have to approve the change in a townwide vote.
Article 13 also got a lot of discussion, but also passed in the end with no amendments. It changes some language in the bylaw for the Capital Planning Committee.
Town Accountant Anne Carreiro said the changes were recommended by bond counsel because of conflicts in language with the Town Administrator Act.
Town Counsel Healther White said there was an issue getting a bond approved because of the bylaw wording.
Amy Desalvatore recommended an amendment, but it failed.
Cathy Melanson, who has been on the Capital Planning Committee for a few years, said the changes were just clearing up some language that should have been cleared up before. She said there were a lot of gray areas.
“This clears up all the gray areas,” said Ms. Melanson.
The changes passed as presented in the warrant.
TM made quick work of the other 14 articles, adjourning at about 8:12 p.m., for a total of about an hour of deliberation.
The additional $20 million in borrowing for upgrades to the Wastewater Treatment Plant passed with very little discussion.
Public Works superintendent Vinnie Furtado’s video presentation included an explanation of the bids, the funding, and the amount of money that will be covered by other sources.
The WWTP needs to be upgraded to include removal of nitrogen, a new requirement by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Mr. Furtado said they are pursuing a 0% loan, loan forgiveness, and other avenues to ease the burden on ratepayers.
Unfortunately, he said, there are no grants.
“It’s an unfunded mandate,” he said.
Ms. Desalvatore asked if the cost of a new recycling center is included in the cost estimates, because it will have to be moved to make room for the new/expanded plant.
Mr. Furtado said the costs do not include anything for recycling.
Town Meeting also approved $75,000 in funding for easements for the Safe Routes to Schools program. Some utility easements are permanent, and some property easements are temporary to allow the work to go on.
The project will cost between $1.5 and $2 million, and the town has received a grant to cover the costs. The project will narrow Sconticut Neck Road and add other improvements from David Drown Boulevard to the Wood School.
Town Meeting also authorized the Select Board to enter into an agreement with Solect Energy to build a solar array in the parking lot at the Recreation/Senior Center building.
Town Meeting did not vote on article 15, a citizens petition to reconsider adoption of the nips ban.
Town Moderator Mark Sylvia said he ruled the article out of order because it asks for the Sustainability Committee to reconsider its support of the ban. Mr. Sylvia said it was more appropriate for the measure to be taken to the Sustainability Committee, not Town Meeting because it asked for no action from TM. The contract would be for 25–30 years.
Town Meeting also
• Approved $75,000 to fund the Sewer Labor contract;
• Approved a transfer of $395,959.45 from sewer retained earnings to sewer capital improvements stabilization fund;
• Authorized a contract for water storage tank maintenance;
• Approved $70,000 from free cash to replace the fire alarm panel in Town Hall;
• Approved $12,700 to purchase eight poll pads for the elections and Town Meeting;
• Amended the FY23 Whitfield Manjiro Cultural Center project to include exterior renovations, with no additional funding;
• Accepted Alves Way as a town public road.
The meeting is available on demand at www.FairhavenTV.com
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