By Pattie Pacella, Neighb News Correspondent
Although the Acushnet Selectboard previously announced Ron San Angelo as their choice for Town Administrator, he has withdrawn from consideration for the job. The board offered the position to interim TA Julie Hebert, who is also the town’s Finance Director/Town Accountant. The announcement was made publicly two weeks ago. In a phone interview, Selectboard chairperson Roger Cabral confirmed that the town is having continuing conversations with Ms. Hebert about her contract. He confirmed the town could not agree on a contract for Mr. San Angelo.
At the Acushnet Selectboard meeting on Tuesday, 1/21/20, the board began discussions on the budget process for FY21. Ms. Hebert presented the first draft of the FY21 budget with a tentative meeting schedule. The Selectboard reviewed the budget calendar making minor tweaks to it and discussed the COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment).
Mr. Cabral stated last year they rounded the COLA up to 2%, and this year the national average was 2.3%. Selectboard member Kevin Gaspar stated he was comfortable leaving it at 2%. The Selectboard motioned to set the COLA for 2% for FY21.
Ms. Hebert also discussed the goal process for the wage classification document that the Selectboard voted on last year with a discussion from Board members. Mr. Gaspar stated they did not approve the document last year and felt there was a lot of problems with it. He said that he did not agree with more than 46% of the document and made that clear. Mr. Gaspar said he would be happy rescinding the vote that approved the working document.
Mr. Cabral was of the opposite opinion, that in fact the Selectboard discussed the Wage Classification document in full and that it was much needed in their Town to support the employees and be comparable to other communities.
Board member David Desroches asked that the Board actually research if the board voted to adopt the Wage Classification study by researching the minutes. He said he remembered the conversation, but he did not remember what the actual vote was to accept the working document.
Related to the budget, the board also discussed indirect costs. Mr. Gaspar stated he felt that the board would be “fracturing the community” once they allowed indirect costs to go into effect. He said he did not like to add debt to the taxpayers.
Mr. Cabral stated in the same thought process, he did not like to see residents who do not have, and never will play golf, for example, have a golf tax fee on their tax bills. Mr. Cabral stated he would like to see the departments absorb a part of their indirect cost, so they could unburden the taxpayer.
“Putting the cost where it belongs,” Mr. Cabral stated, adding that he would like to see a decision made on the topic, whether It be a certain allocation or percentage of the indirect cost, or if the Board saw fit to allocate zero indirect cost. Mr. Cabral asked the Board members to think about it and at their next meeting they would vote on how to handle indirect costs.
The Selectboard also heard from Wendy Graca and Tracy Wallace of the Southcoast Neighbors United Group regarding the expansion of Parallel Products in New Bedford, a half-mile from the Acushnet line. Parallel Products is currently on Shawmut Avenue, where it processes plastic and glass. Ms. Graca stated that the move would be a negative impact for surrounding communities, stating that the facility is moving from the Shawmut Street address to the Industrial Park area. They explained that the company solidifies solid waste to sell as fertilizer.
“In essence, it is human waste,” Ms. Wallace said.
They asked that the Acushnet Selectboard submit a letter in writing by January 23, 2020 to express their concerns, which the Board agreed to do. Both Mr. Gaspar and Mr. Cabral attended a community meeting in December and were concerned at the traffic and trucks that would be generated on Braley Road. Ms. Wallace stated that the company stated there would be approximately 400 trucks a day utilizing Rte. 140 and Braley Road exit to reach the plant daily from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
On another topic, Building Commissioner James Marot spoke to the board about the temporary permitting of storage containers. Mr. Marot reminded the board that the town had adopted a by-law at the last Town Meeting to have residents permit their temporary storage containers and/or get a license under the Selectboard to have such containers for a year. He said although some residents have permitted their containers, there are at least 41 or more that have never come in to get that permit.
Mr. Cabral stated he was under the assumption that the storage container by-law was only for new storage containers, not property owners that had them on their property for years. He thought they would be grandfathered.
Mr. Marot said the intent was to have fair equity to all. He said sheds are permitted and have to conform to zoning regulations. Mr. Marot said a lot of people are using a storage container in place of a shed and there is no way to regulate it.
In a follow-up interview, Mr. Marot confirmed that the Selectboard agreed to the $50 licensing fee through them for a storage container up to a year, and $80 for a permit fee through the Building Department for a temporary storage fee.
The board also announced a change of venue for the PJ Keating Public Hearing. It will be held at Ford Middle School, not the Council on Aging, and is still scheduled for February 11 at 6 p.m. The Selectboard will hold their regularly scheduled meeting that night as well, at an earlier time to be announced.
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Cabral announced that he will not be seeking re-election. In a follow-up interview, Mr. Cabral stated his current career obligations have become more demanding and if he cannot give his all to the Selectboard position than he does not want to do it half way.
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