By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Select Board had a full agenda on Monday, 8/1/22, when they reviewed the annual audit report, approved appointment of a new town counsel firm, and approved a change of license for the Seaport Inn, which has new owners, and the liquor license for Ocean State Job Lot.
Zack Fentross, CPA with accounting firm Melanson, told the board that the “town is in a good financial position,” citing the good fund balance, and the town’s regular contributions to the OPEB liability (Other Post Employment Benefits, for retirees).
Finance Director/Treasurer/ Collector Wendy Graves told the board that during the pandemic, the meals and room tax revenue was higher than anticipated, adding to the town’s strong finances.
The management letter will be available on the town’s website.
The board also approved a change of inn and liquor license for the Seaport Inn, which has new ownership, after a public hearing. The new owner is Fairhaven Seaport Hospitality (formerly Seaport Inn LLC). Jami Calvao is still the manager.
There was no public comment and the board voted unanimously to approve the change.
Ocean State Job Lot also received a change in the liquor license management agreement.
Town Administrator Angie Lopes Ellison updated the board on the use allowed uses of ARPA Funds (American Rescue Plan Act).
She said that because there were so many hands before she came on board, she felt it was better to start “anew.” The federal government has set guidelines for how the money can be spent. Those uses include: public health and negative economic impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic; premium pay to essential workers; revenue loss, to help provide for government services if there was a reduction in revenue due to the pandemic; water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
Fairhaven’s allocation is set at $1,602,861 in state funding, and $2,744,669 from Bristol County.
Ms. Ellison recommended that the town use the funds to hire a third-party administrator; use the funds for water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure; and invest in capital projects to include upkeep of occupied town buildings. The TA would administer, review, and allocate the funds, with Select Board approving or modifying the TA’s recommendation. No public hearings are required for the expenditure of ARPA funds.
So far, the town has only allocated $50,000 of the funds for a study of the Bridge Street property to see if it is suitable for a safety complex.
Ms. Ellison said the premium pay provision for essential workers is supposed to go to low level workers, not the higher paid employees. She said she did not recommend using the funds that way because it is a “judgment call” on who gets the pay, and then the collective bargaining agreements will complicate matters for the future.
Ms. Ellison also noted that the town has received half the funds, with the second half due next year. She said the town needs to at least earmark the money it has received. She is afraid, she said, that if the town looks like it does not need the money by not allocating it, then the state may pull back the second round of funding.
Fairhaven Firefighters Union president Kevin Gonsalves made plea for some of the funds to be used for premium pay for firefighters.
“We were on the front lines,” said Mr. Gonsalve.
The board voted to accept Ms. Ellison’s recommendation, and also recommended that Mr. Gonsalves speak directly to Ms. Ellison.
The board also voted to accept Ms. Ellison’s choice of Petrini & Associates to be Fairhaven’s town counsel. Founding principal Christopher Petrini, and principal Heather White attended the meeting by Zoom. Mr. Petrini said that Ms. White would be the primary town counsel for Fairhaven, and he would be backup counsel and primary labor counsel.
The firm has a wide variety of experience in all aspects of municipal law and has worked with a variety of municipalities of all sizes.
Ms. Ellison also announced that the Mass. Historical approved her proposed changes to the former Collector’s office. The Select Board/ TA office has switched places within town hall with the Collector’s office.
Ms. Ellison’s proposal includes removing the counter in the former Collector’s office and moving it to where the collector is now.
Changes include inserting a new low “half-door” with a top shelf ; and adding a locked extension to the inside of the drop box people use to drop payments after hours; removal of a decorative metal half door.
Ms. Ellison told the board that she was not intending to make the structural changes immediately. She said she wanted everyone to settle in so they could see how the space works before making changes.
The existing counter takes up a lot of room in the office. Its removal and replacement with the half-door would free up space for office workers.
During the public comment period Kathy Isaaksen spoke against the change, saying that simply because Mass. Historical approved it, does not mean it has to be done. She said the town hall has been working for “many, many years” as it is, and she feels strongly that the changes should not be made.
“If she can’t work within the walls of what we have, maybe she shouldn’t work here,” said Ms. Isaaksen, adding that Ms. Ellison was there to “do her job,” not decorate.
“We can’t really help her with her job, but we can take care of town hall,” said Ms. Isaaksen, who waited more than two hours for the public comment period which limits comments to two minutes.
The board did not respond to Ms. Isaaksen’s comment, but simply moved on to the next public comment.
The also board heard from Town Planner and Economic Development Director Paul Foley on a proposed 40R overlay district in Fairhaven. See article this page for details.
In other business, the board:
• Approved free parking at Hoppy’s Landing for the West Island Regatta participants on 8/13.
Click here to download the entire 8/4/22 issue: 08-04-22 QuahogRelay
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