By Beth David, Editor
At its meeting on 11/7, the Fairhaven Selectboard voted to increase the amount that aquaculture farms will have to pay to use Fairhaven waters.
The Marine Resources Committee has been working on increasing the fee for at least a couple of years. First, Town Meeting had to approve it, then the state legislature had to approve special legislation for it.
The maximum the town can charge, by state law, is $200 per acre. Currently, the charge is $25 per acre.
The town has three aquaculture farms. One is an oyster farm run by the town and the state. The other is an oyster farm run by Matthew Loo, and is about one acre. The largest, and oldest, is Taylor Cultured Seafood, with about 44 acres, that harvests both scallops and oysters.
All three are located on the north side of West Island, with Taylor’s stretching east towards Mattapoisett.
Taylor’s, which has been operating since the 1980s, has been in the news in recent years for a host of problems, including confusion with the size of the farm; problems with debris on the ocean floor; issues with a dilapidated building on Goulart Memorial Drive that was finally demolished.
Rodman Taylor, the founder and former president of the company, has recently been pushed out by new investors.
The new owners have been attending Marine Resources Committee (MRC) meetings more regularly, and seem more willing to work with the town, according to Harbormaster Tim Cox and MRC chairperson Frank Coelho.
Part of the formula for calculating the rate includes figuring out how much it actually costs the town to manage the farms.
Officials went back and forth over whether that was $185 per acre, or could be $200. But then there is the loss of use by taxpayers who not only lose the right to fish where the farms are, but have to navigate around the them.
“The people of the town are giving up a lot,” said Mr. Coelho, adding that the town should be able to get $200 per acre.
Selectboard member Daniel Freitas expressed some resistance to the jump in the rate, saying that the town was trying to be business friendly. He also questioned whether the whole idea was simply a vendetta against one person, saying he wanted it to be “for all the right reasons,” and not “just personalities.”
Selectboard member Bob Espindola noted that the board had talked about the rate increase for a long time and said it was “absolutely warranted.”
He said a lot of people have questioned why the town was giving up public property for private use at all.
“Our waterways are a big part of who we are as a community,” said Mr. Espindola, adding that it should not be compared to ending up with an empty storefront if the company does decide to pull out of Fairhaven.
After the discussion revealed that the town has been talking about raising the rate to $200 for at least a couple of years, that the Taylor Seafood owners were at the public meetings, and that the increase would not take effect until the end of the current contract next year, Mr. Freitas agreed with the increase.
The board unanimously passed the $185 per acre lease and $15 user fee for a total of $200 per acre per year.
In another matter, the board heard from Board of Health members about a proposed ban on synthetic drugs in the town of Fairhaven. The BOH was set to hold a public hearing on Wednesday, 11/9.
The synthetic drugs are packaged like candy, have no controls on sale, and are often laced with hallucinogens. They do not look like anything that parents would be suspicious of, and there is no age limit on who can buy them.
BOH chairperson Jeannine Lopes told the Selectboard that at least two middle school students got sick or had to go to the doctors because of the drugs.
“It’s not good, it’s not good,” she said.
New Bedford and Wareham have already banned sale of the drugs.
Ms. Lopes said the drugs can caused seizures, paranoia, anxiety, and hallucinations.
Health agent Patricia Fowle told the Selectboard that the BOH looked at other regulations to get the wording right. She said the measure is carefully written to ban the sale of mood altering substances.
“It’s reasonable, it’s enforceable, it protects the public health,” said Ms. Fowle.
Mr. Freitas said he wanted the fines to be hefty enough to be a deterrent to stores.
Penalties for the third offense include shutting down an entire store for 72 months.
Although the Selectboard has no real jurisdiction over the ban, BOH members said they wanted to let the Selectboard know what was happening.
Town Administrator Mark Rees said it fit well into the Selectboard’s stated goal of working together with other boards.
The Selectboard voted to support the ban unanimously.
The new rule will need to be voted on by the BOH after the public hearing, and will be regulated by them.
Steve Bouley of the Serv-A-Thon also addressed the board on Monday night to update members on what the event did and plans to do in the future.
The Serv-A-Thon was created, he said, “to bring a positive value to the community.”
Volunteers raise money by spending time on community projects, such as park beautification.
This year, volunteers did work at Cooke Park and at the Veterans Memorial Park in Fairhaven. Volunteers also raised money on a ride from Fairhaven to Plymouth.
Mr. Bouley said that the Serv-A-Thon strives to let people turn their passions into donations.
One woman jumped out of a plane, and raised $3,000 doing it.
Last year the event raised $21,000 for the Salvation Army; this year they double that.
Mr. Bouley also made a pitch for the board to donate their time next year. He said halving local politicians and well known people raises awareness and funds.
Selectboard members said they would be open to helping out, but said they definitely needed to know more about the project details first.
The board also briefly discussed the proposed projects from Community Preservation Act funds.
This year the CP Committee will recommend replacing the brick sidewalk around the Millicent Library. Bill Roth, Director of Planning and Economic Development told the board that the quotes are for the full width of the sidewalk, and also include laying conduit down in case the town wants to install lighting in the future. A controversy erupted over the replacement of sidewalks around Town Hall, when it was revealed that they would be narrowed by one to two feet.
In other business, the board also approved an exemption, as required by Mass. law, for Peter DeTerra to cut the grass at the landfill. Mr. DeTerra is on the Board of Health, making him a “special employee.” Town Administrator Mark Rees said that Mr. DeTerra is the only local person with the right equipment to do the work. Mr. Rees said the town will look for bids on the job, but, meanwhile, they needed to approve the exemption to be ready for the spring.
In other business, the board:
- •Approved the transfer of a Package Store license to JCIR Fairhaven Corp. The store is at the site of the former Premium Liquors. Sarah Gustafson will be the new manager.
- Voted to accept an old barge from Taylor Seafood. Harbormaster Tim Cox said that New Bedford Vocational Students will help to restore it. He plans to use it for the annual shellfish relays.
- Reconvened in executive session to discuss: collective bargaining with clerical, police, dispatchers and fire unions; Lee Miguel v. Town of Fairhaven; ambulance waiver request; bankruptcy filings.
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