By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Selectboard pretty much decided that it stuck to its goals this past year and agreed to stay on the same path, with a few small changes.
At its annual goal-setting meeting on 10/14, the board reviewed the goals they decided on last year and the progress made on them, and discussed new areas of possible focus.
One suggestion was to change the status of the Town Clerk position from an elected to an appointed position. Long-time clerk Eileen Lowney has announced that she will not run for re-election when her current term expires in 2019, making it a good time to consider the change, said Town Administrator Mark Rees. Town Meeting would have to approve that change.
Mr. Rees also suggested that the town pursue installing a dog park, develop a strategy to address the Atlas Tack property, consider joining the state’s Green Program, and consider regionalizing veteran services and emergency dispatch.
The board also discussed the importance of a succession plan for the departments. With so many senior people retiring, the town is losing out on a wealth of knowledge.
Selectboard member Dan Freitas suggested “cross-training,” to make sure someone in each department knows how to do the job if someone leaves or is out sick.
The board also discussed making the Conservation Agent a separate position. That position is now an additional duty for Building Inspector Wayne Fostin, who gets paid a stipend for it.
Mr. Rees said that the Building Inspector job is plenty busy on its own, and the Conservation Agent job is probably more than part time.
Selectboard chairperson Bob Espindola said he would like to see a position in town government that would concentrate on getting grants. To that end, he said he would like to see the town implement the “Complete Streets” program, which would make Fairhaven eligible for a variety of grants.
An avid cyclist, Mr. Espindola noted that the Complete Streets program includes walk-ability and bike-ability aspects of town planning.
Town Meeting rejected the Green Community designation in the past, but Mr. Rees told the board that because of changes in building practices and the program over the last few years, he believes it is worth another try at Town Meeting.
The board also discussed use of the town’s hotel and meals tax, which is put into the general fund to be used for general operating expenses. Mr. Espindola reminded the board that the tax was initially instituted to fund the Tourism Office. The tax generates abut $600,000 per year, which is way beyond anything the Office of Tourism costs to run, so the town promptly started taking that money for the general fund.
Although Mr. Rees cautioned against using hard earmarks for any town receipts, he and Mr. Espindola did acknowledge that more of that tax could be used for tourism related expenses.
As for last year’s successes, Mr. Rees presented the board with a status update that went through each goal and how it was implemented over the past year. He noted improvements in Human Resources management; collaboration among committees; more cooperation and collaboration between the School Department and Town Hall; improved financial sustainability; development of an interdepartmental approach to the opioid crisis, under the goal of health and welfare of town residents; increased social media presence to foster more civic engagement by residents; and the progress of the Master Plan to reach other long term planning goals.
The board the goals and implementation strategies identified and being used for the town’s Master Plan, to get specific about goals and strategies.
The board went through a 17-page list of items under the categories of Land Use; Housing; Economic Development; Public Facilities and Services; Transportation; Open Space, Recreation, and Natural Resources; Historic and Cultural; and Sustainability.
Mr. Rees will consolidate their comments and responses and prepare a report that will be discussed at a Selectboard’s meeting.
Mr. Freitas and Mr. Espindola both asked Mr. Rees for regular updates on the various departments and what they are up to. Even if the Selectboard is not directly involved in the decision-making, board members need to know what is going on in town.
“We’re the first one they ask,” said Mr. Freitas.
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