By Beth David, Editor
The Acushnet Selectboard heard an update on the proposed expansion of the Liquefied Natural Gas facility on Peckham Road, at its meeting on Monday, 3/6.
Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher gave the board a history of the project, including a review of court cases that seem to have slowed down the project. He told the board that as far as he could tell, the project was on hold. He said no action has been taken on 11 reports that still need to be filed.
Chief Gallagher also said that his contacts tell him that the process, including public hearings, will have to start all over again. But Eversource and Access Northeast are not saying the project has been scrapped.
For his part, the chief said the project is “not dead,” but “not active,” either.
“I would say it’s in a state of suspended animation,” said the chief. “It simply is not moving.”
He added that no one on either side seems to know what is happening, but that personnel have been reassigned.
“There’s all kinds of shrugging and looking at each other,” said Chief Gallagher. “We simply do not know.”
Roger Cabral, however, was on hand to tell the board to take any information from regulators or developers with a “grain of salt.”
Joe and Christine Tarini, whose property abuts the site, were also there to tell the board that they have seen stakes on their property, marking the wetlands. They said it was only three or four weeks ago that the stakes were placed there.
Mr. Tarini told the board he was not happy to find the stakes on his property.
“We all signed something so this would not happen,” said Mr. Tarini, meaning that the developers are prohibited from going on private property. “They’re doing this against the law. I own that property.”
Selectboard member Kevin Gaspar suggested that Mr. Tarini simply remove them. Selectboard chairperson Garry Rawcliffe suggested that Mr. Tarini use a wildlife camera to catch the trespassers in the act.
In any case, the project has no hearings scheduled, or any new filings to consider. Chief Gallagher, who is the LNG ombudsman, will keep the board informed.
The board also heard from the Historical Commission on conditions at the Perry Hill Church. The HC was not able to install the sheetrock because the bids came in too high. The building also needs electrical work. In a letter to the board, HC Chairperson Pauline Teixeira said that the in-house maintenance workers could not get to the job for more than a year.
The town acquired the building by eminent domain in 2012. The ownership of the building was not clear, so $40,000 was set aside in case anyone claims the building. In 2018, those funds will be returned to the Community Preservation fund if no one comes forward.
Ms. Teixeira told the board that $66,795 has been appropriated for the the building.
Robert Gilmore told the board that the old wooden windows are in bad shape, and require special expertise to fix them.
“Other than the windows, the building is weather-tight,” said Mr. Gilmore, adding that they would not get any better with time. “They’re in rough shape.”
He noted that they cannot put vinyl replacement windows in the historic building. They need to be restored and be “period correct.”
Mr. Rawcliffe said he wondered if it would be better just to rebuild the windows completely, and asked if the Old Colony students could do it. He also said the sheetrock “blew estimates” and he felt they were inflated.
“There’s no way it should cost that much,” he said.
One bid was $84,000 and one was for $56,000. Mr. Gilmore said they would ask for a new round of bids.
Selectboard member Kevin Gaspar said he agreed the windows needed to be fixed, since the town has already put so much into the building.
Ms. Teixeira said that the town should finish the job so the building can be used to generate income.
The board will probably support additional funds for the building at Town Meeting, but is waiting for the window estimates and new sheetrock bids before voting.
In another Historical Commission matter, the Selectboard discussed the HC’s request to place a deed restriction on the Russell Memorial Library building before selling it. The public library moved to Middle Road, and the Main Street building is empty.
The HC wants to preserve the historic facade, with its old and impressive stone work. A veterans monument is also on the site, and the HC wants that to remain. Mr. Rawcliff raised the possibility of moving the monument to Pope Park.
Town Administrator Brian Noble reminded the board and commission members that too many restrictions will make the property hard to sell.
Mr. Gaspar said he agreed that the stone work should be preserved.
“There’s only so much you can do with that rock,” he said.
Town Meeting will have to vote on any change.
The board also presented Jordan St. Onge with a citation congratulating her for being selected “Miss New Bedford Outstanding Teen.”
“It’s been a crazy ride so far, and I can’t wait to see what happens,” said Ms. St. Onge, adding that she will be in the Miss Massachusetts pageant in April. “Yeah, if that happens, that’s a wild ride. Hopefully, more crazy, wonderful things to happen, so thank you very much.”
Ms. St. Onge told the board she has worked to raise money for the American Lung Association, joining in the “Climb for Air” events, which feature people running up many flights of stairs in skycrapers. The events have raised more than $100,000 this year.
The board reviewed a letter and feedback from other town boards on the Chapter 61 property on Mattapoisett Road. The property is being sold and the town has the right of first refusal. Most of the 30-acre parcel is in Acushnet, but a few acres are in Fairhaven. Both the Planning Board and the Assessors informed the Selectboard that they do not see a reason for the town to buy the property.
The Buzzards Bay Coalition has expressed an interest in the parcel and has asked the towns of Acushnet and Fairhaven to help it acquire the property. The town can assign its right of first refusal to the BBC.
In a letter to Acushnet, the BBC expressed “strong interest helping the Town figure out a strategy to enable acquisition of the property.”
The parcel is in the Mattapoisett River Valley and a “high priority for conservation,” reads the letter.
If acquired, the property would be open to the public for passive recreation and would be protected from development, which would protect drinking water and wildlife habitat.
The board has 120 days to act, from the 1/30/17 notice date. The owners have an offer of $376,000.
The board decided to table the matter as requested by the BBC while they try to line up funding sources.
In other business, the board announced openings on the School Committee. Chris Green and Erin Ptaszenski have notified the town clerk that they have resigned. The board is accepting letters of interest immediately and will schedule a meeting at the end of the month with the SC to fill the openings.
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