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Selectmen Honor Odabashian, Discuss Raising Fees at July 8th Meeting

Aug 01, 2019 06:00AM ● By Amy Bartelloni
written by Amy Bartelloni, Bulletin Reporter

The Bellingham Board of Selectmen discussed a wide range of topics at their July 8th meeting. First on the agenda was an acknowledgment of former town clerk Ann Odabashian. “Ms. Odabashian is retired after several years of service to the town,” Chairman Dan Spencer opened, “and we’d like to present [her] with a proclamation.”

The proclamation read as follows: In recognition of your unwavering commitment to the town, we the members of the Board of Selectmen, on behalf of the citizens of Bellingham extend our sincere appreciation to Ann Odabashian for the outstanding service you have provided the residents of Bellingham over the past three decades. Serving as a member of the School Committee, Board of Selectmen, and Town Clerk you have touched the lives of countless families providing guidance, leadership and compassion to those seeking assistance. We are all very much aware of the dedication necessary to succeed as you have. At this time we wish to extend a well-deserved ‘Thank you’ for the many contributions and sacrifices made to the town.

Town Administrator Denis Fraine then updated the Board on the liquor license application for Old Home Days (which was held July 19-21). “The Old Home Days committee…recommended a hospitality tent be set up on the library grounds.The fenced-in area will serve food and drinks and provide entertainment throughout Old Home Days.” The Millerville Men’s Club will serve, and Bob DuBois spoke about their qualifications and the ticketing process. One dollar from every drink served will be donated back to the Friends of the Library, and the Millerville Men’s Club will provide a police detail. The Board unanimously approved the event’s three one-day liquor licenses. 

Three one-day beer and wine licenses were also granted to Jennifer Scannell of 140 Pub & Club for specific fundraising dates. The Olivia Cancer Fund Cook-off fundraiser will take place on Aug. 3rd, with seven smokers participating. The Justin Bernard bike run benefit will be held on Aug. 24; all money raised will go to the Bernard family. The 3rd annual Tony Karakeian ride will be held on Sept. 7th, with all funds going to the Olivia Cancer Fund as well. While the facility already has a full liquor license, these licenses were granted for special outdoor events, and in light of the charities involved the Board voted to waive the fee and approved all three dates.

CAPTION: Shown (L-R) are Selectmen Bob Biagi, Cynthia McNulty, and Dan Spencer, former Town Clerk Ann Odabashian, Selectmen Michael Connor and Don Martinis, and Town Administrator Denis Fraine

Selectmen then discussed the possibility of raising certain town fees. They haven’t been raised in a long time, and the Board would like to see the fee schedule more in line with what other local towns charge. “It’s obviously a business-friendly thing to try to manage the fees and keep them down,” Town Administrator Denis Fraine said, “but I think clearly we’re well below the average, and I think at a minimum we need to look at getting up to at least the average.” They decided not to make any decisions that night, but to gather more information and discuss the issue at a future meeting. Fees in consideration include restaurant all alcohol, restaurant wine & malt, package store all alcohol, package store wine & malt, seasonal all alcohol, club all alcohol, common victualler, Class I, II, and III, weekday entertainment, Sunday entertainment (town & state), automatic amusement, bulk storage, and second-hand dealer licenses.

In his Town Administrator’s Report, Denis Fraine updated the Board on paving going on in the Wethersfield area and addressed concerns about Center Street, admitting it’s been a mess for a long time. “The trenches settled over the winter, so the contractor had to dig those up and repave them,”he reported. “They’ve done that, and that road will be getting paved this summer, along with quite a few other roads.”The list of pavement improvement projects can be found on the DPW website at Addressing Selectman Don Martinis’s concerns about Mechanic and Maple streets, he said, “It’s basically paving; the bulk of the work is done.”

The meeting ended with some concerns being brought up by Selectman Michael Connor over recent social media posts by the Bellingham Firefighters Local 2071. He mentioned a Facebook post regarding the July 4th weekend, which hundreds of people commented on and shared; it referenced the decision to close the south fire station over the July 4 holiday weekend, reading in part, “Sorry we’re closed. Unfortunately this entire holiday weekend, including Monday, there will be no fire or EMS coverage in the south end of Bellingham. The town and chief are claiming budgetary restrictions. The safety of this town has been in jeopardy for too long. Help us help you. Contact your selectmen and ask them why!!!”

“I think it’s a little disingenuous for anyone to be suggesting that we don’t provide coverage when the central station covers both north and south,”Connor said. He cautioned people not to respond on social media, but said he’d like to see a policy available to which they could refer people with questions. “For anyone to suggest that we’re not covering parts of this town, and letting one comment run rampant, is doing a disservice.”

Fraine responded by explaining the reasons the fire station may be closed at certain times, including the fact that some firefighters are in training or in the academy so they don’t fill regular shifts, and one is out on disability. “We’ve had some absences,” he explained, “and add to that it’s July and people take vacations. We don’t have the ability to replace 1:1 on an overtime basis.” He told the Board that the Chief is trying to stick to a maximum overtime limit per week, which will allow him to make it through the year with the overtime budget, and it was a tight budget year for every town department.

In this specific situation, Spencer had stepped in to discuss with the Chief the opening of the south station on the July 4th weekend, and they decided to keep it open, but the Board agreed they can’t confer every time this situation arises. “The town of Bellingham has adopted the strong chief law,” Fraine said, “which basically means that the fire chief has the final say in all matters.”

“He made the decision to close it based on his knowledge, based on staffing, based on financial reasons,” Selectman Martinis added. “It’s a number of reasons, and we give him the authority to make that decision.”

Selectmen had concerns about the Facebook post pitting officials against residents, or each other. Connor asked that the town have a statement ready as to why and when that station is open so that no one has to respond on Facebook like that again.
“The bottom line is that we’re all on the same team, and we want to do the right thing for the town,” Spencer said. They decided to ask the chief to put something together to explain his policy and the rationale he’s using to make those decisions so that they can have that information on hand.

The meeting adjourned so that the Board could go into executive session regarding contract negotiations. Their next scheduled meeting is Thursday, August 15, at 4:30 p.m., at the Bellingham Senior Center.






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