Interviews Turn Confrontational
By: Christopher Kazarian
Selectmen were rebuked on Monday evening by an incumbent up for reappointment, Courtney F. Bird of Sippewissett Road, who chastised the board for how the town notified him that he was to be interviewed and urging them to improve their appointment process.
Over the past week, he said, he has had close to 40 family and friends visiting, which is why it was upsetting when he received a letter from the board this weekend regarding Monday’s interview. “I would rather be home than here,” he said, but he understood his obligation to the town and that not showing up could paralyze the conservation commission.
So he went to Falmouth Town Hall, as instructed in the letter, only to realize that the interviews had been moved to the Falmouth High School auditorium. That same error had been made on a letter sent to Maureen Harlow-Hawkes of Old Dock Road, West Falmouth, who was also up for reappointment to the conservation commission.
Mr. Bird called on selectmen to have an operational manual, listing a time line for when tasks, such as this, need to be done. He suggested these interviews should have been scheduled for April and May so there would be no interruptions to municipal government. “Some of you have been distracted by the election and reelection and blowing up the town manager,” he said.
He also suggested the board was distracted by other issues, referencing the tale of Don Quixote in which he and his sidekick, Sancho Panza, see 30 to 40 “giants” on the horizon. Don Quixote’s reaction, he said, was that they must slay those giants, telling Sancho “we can do good and God will be proud.” Sancho tells Don Quixote, “Those aren’t giants; those are windmills.”
In telling the story, Mr. Bird said, “I hope this board gives serious consideration to improving the mundane process of government,” which may not be fun, but is “as important as windmills and all the other stuff you do.”
Following his remarks, Mr. Bird focused on the reason he was there, to return to the conservation commission after having served two full terms and part of a third. He said it was a good working board, consisting of board members who understand their job is to enforce wetlands bylaws, which sometimes conflict with personal property rights. “We all try to strike a balance” between the two, he said, stressing the goal is to ensure applicants “get a fair hearing.”
He also used the moment to endorse the reappointments of both Ms. Hawkes and Elizabeth H. Gladfelter of Hidden Village Road, West Falmouth, praising them for the dedication they bring to the commission.
Selectman Brent V.W. Putnam was highly critical of the conservation commission’s decision last month to pursue an enforcement order against Gerald M. and Dorothy V. Nearman, who purchased a property on North Falmouth Highway from Robert E. Caron in October 2009. The enforcement order was issued in 1987 against Mr. Caron after it was found he built unpermitted sheds and a deck too close to a wetland and a buffer.
“If you could explain to me the Nearman decision. I’m having a hard time coming to grips with it,” Mr. Putnam said. “It really was a disturbing decision the more I think about it.”
“I would love to help you out, but I won’t because it is a pending decision of the commission,” Mr. Bird replied.
The board appointed Mr. Bird with only Mr. Putnam abstaining from the vote. Mr. Putnam did the same with Ms. Gladfelter and Ms. Hawkes.
With Ms. Gladfelter, he posed the same question concerning the commission’s action against the Nearman family.
Ms. Gladfelter opted to answer the query, pointing out that the Nearmans knew about the enforcement order when they purchased the property. “When people purchase a property there are legal documents that go with the property,” she said. “That is the reason you hire the lawyer.”
She suggested if Mr. Putnam had further questions he look at the file or speak with conservation Administrator Jennifer L. McKay.
Prior to his questions, Ms. Gladfelter explained her reason for reapplying to the commission. “I’d like to continue my work on the ConCom because I really enjoy working with my fellow commissioners. It has been a really rewarding experience.”
Both she and Ms. Hawkes were reappointed this week. Of the three conservation commission members, Ms. Hawkes’s interview was the shortest as she noted it was her father’s 87th birthday. She said she has served on the commission, off and on, since 1993 and she has enjoyed the experience although she wished that others had applied to the commission.
Other contentious interviews surrounded the reappointments of those to the Falmouth Board of Health.
Jared V. Goldstone of Vidal Avenue, East Falmouth, was the first to kick off the round of interviews on Monday. A research specialist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, he said that despite his work obligations he has been able to attend all of the board’s meetings since first appointed three years ago.
Until this past year, he said, 90 percent of the board’s work was focused on septic tanks. It has since shifted, he said, to include everything from drinking water, as a result of last year’s boil water order, wind turbines and solid waste.
With regard to solid waste, Mr. Putnam asked Mr. Goldstone about the board of health’s decision to not enforce the town’s flow control regulations at the Upper Cape Regional Transfer Station in Bourne. He asked Mr. Goldstone why the board chose to ignore the bylaw as opposed to enforcing it.
Mr. Goldstone focused primarily on the financial aspects, stressing that the board of health does not regulate the finances of solid waste. “We regulate waste haulers and require them to be licensed by the town,” he said, adding that the Falmouth Solid Waste Advisory Committee and selectmen are responsible for determining items such as flow control.
Mr. Putnam was the only one to vote against Mr. Goldstone, later explaining to board of health incumbent George R. Heufelder of Oakwood Avenue, Falmouth, that he was not satisfied with the justification for not enforcing flow control.
Mr. Heufelder attempted to explain that the board of health is only responsible for ensuring that trash is collected.
He said he voted against the idea of forcing haulers to bring trash to the transfer station because “I didn’t think it was fair.” The board of health, he said, came up with a compromise that not everyone was happy with, but “we did what was best.”
Selectmen voted unanimously to reappoint Mr. Heufelder.
Also reappointed this week was Kenneth H. Foreman to the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals, during which Mr. Putnam questioned how the openings on this board were advertised. He noted there were three vacancies open on the board: Mr. Foreman’s seat, Patricia P. Johnson’s seat, and a third, vacated by Michael Freeman, although only one was publicly listed as an open seat. “How many didn’t apply because this was not done well, or right?” Mr. Putnam asked. “Perhaps we could do a better job.”
Following his comments, Mr. Foreman was appointed by a 4-1 vote as a full voting member with Mr. Putnam abstaining.
Returning with him onto the board is Ms. Johnson, who urged the town look at its zoning bylaws to address inconsistencies in the regulations. She also expressed some concerns that “friendly 40B” projects are being approved and in the process have violated the zoning bylaws of Falmouth. She called on selectmen to look at this more closely before throwing their blanket approval behind such projects.
The board unanimously appointed her to the board.
Although scheduled to be interviewed on Monday for reappointment to the Falmouth Historical Commission, Richard J. Sacchetti of Central Avenue, East Falmouth, did not attend the meeting. Historical commission member Nancy A. Hayward explained that his absence may have been caused by the fact that the letter Mr. Sacchetti received said the date of his interview was July 6. She said she left a message for Mr. Sacchetti, notifying him of the actual date but was unsure whether he knew if it had been scheduled for this week.
Chairman of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen Mary (Pat) Flynn said they would be in touch with Mr. Sacchetti to reschedule his interview.