Westport Board of Selectmen notes ...

Chromebooks for Westport HS students; car shop in a bind

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 12/12/19

Westport selectmen voted unanimously at their December 2 meeting to support placing an article on the Town Meeting warrant that seeks approval for the purchase of Chromebook computers for Westport …

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Westport Board of Selectmen notes ...

Chromebooks for Westport HS students; car shop in a bind


Westport selectmen voted unanimously at their December 2 meeting to support placing an article on the Town Meeting warrant that seeks approval for the purchase of Chromebook computers for Westport High School students.

The plan is to pay for those computers with money from the town’s Cable TV fund, a move that selectmen first want checked by their attorney to make sure such a purchase is a legal use for the money. If not, selectman Brian Valcourt’s motion calls for identifying another source of money for the purchase.

Nancy Stanton-Cross, a member of both the School Committee and Cable Advisory Committee, brought the matter to selectmen.

The Cable Advisory Committee hopes, she said, for a Town Meeting warrant item to provide Chromebooks to grade 9-12 students at an anticipated cost of $119,000 over three years. The move would kick off next year by providing Chromebooks to incoming students in grades 9, 10 and 11.

They have determined, she said, that nearly three quarters of students don’t have access to cable TV at home so have no way to watch community-produced television programs. 

The plan would be to provide each Chrome Book with a direct link to PEG (Public, Educational and Government access) programming, educational access that would justify, they believe, using money from the cable fund.

Selectman Steven Ouellette said he thinks that is an appropriate use for the cable fund. “We’ve used it for technology before,” he said, adding that the account presently holds over $700,000.

“Whatever we can do to keep our students in our schools,” rather than losing them to other schools, is worth the effort, Mr. Ouellette said. “It will be another feather in our cap.”

Car shop in a bind

After 13 years in business at 1016 State Road, S&K Auto Sales’ time there may be short unless the landlord comes up with town tax payments soon.

The business owners were back before selectmen last week in hope of obtaining their annual license, a process that had been postponed back in September due to taxes owed by the landowner.

Business co-owner Tina Medeiros told selectmen that shortly after the license and tax non-payment issues came up, the landlord notified them that she did not intend to renew the leas and, “in fact, has issued an eviction notice … we believe she got upset by the situation. There is no other reason — 13 years we’ve never had an issue, always paid rent on time.”

Ms. Medeiros pleaded with selectmen for more time to enable them to reach an agreement with the landlord or find someplace else to operate.

“This has nothing to do with us … this is our sole income.”

Council Chairwoman Shana Shufelt said holding up licenses is one mechanism the town has “to make sure these taxes get paid … I appreciate that it is not you.”  She added that she is “uncomfortable granting a license knowing that you have an eviction notice.”

Selectman Steven Ouellette moved to hold off on a decision until the next meeting, a motion that won unanimous approval.

“I really feel for them,” selectman Brian Valcourt said. “This seems like retaliatory action against them.”

In other car lot action, selectmen approved a request from Nu Way Auto, 837 State Road, to increase the number of cars on its lot from 44 to 71.

Ag Com changes

The board accepted “with extreme regret” the resignation of Leet Tripp from the town Agricultural Commission. “She’s been a valuable part of that committee for many years,” a board member said. 

The board then appointed Seth Lewis to serve as a full voting member (up from alternate member) on the commission.

Jet skis, waterskiing — new rules

Selectmen voted unanimous approval to rule changes proposed by the Harbor Advisory Committee that will impact jet skis, water skiers and those who keep their boats on moorings over the winter. Nobody at the meeting voiced any objections.

Chris Leonard, director of marine services, explained the proposal to selectmen last month.

As things stand now, Mr. Leonard said, personal watercraft and water skiing are lumped together in the rules, yet the state views personal watercraft as vessels.

A problem, he said, is that jet skis are not allowed under the present rules to operate in the river channels yet the channel is the only way in and out, especially at low tide. 

The rule change would allow personal watercraft to operate in the channel at no-wake speed.

Water skiing and tubing, however, would be prohibited in the channel (they are presently allowed at no-wake speed, something Mr. Leonard says makes about as much sense as allowing someone to be towed up Main Road behind a pickup truck).

“We don’t want people water skiing in the channel” — anyone falling off would be a sitting duck, he said.

Another change would prohibit keeping boats on moorings from December 21 to March 21 within harbor Area B — from Fontaine Bridge to the mouth of the harbor.

The problem, Mr. Leonard said, is that some boat owners have been keeping large boats, both sail and power, on moorings year-round.

These boats and moorings are vulnerable to ice floes moving about in the river, he said. By prohibiting that practice, “If an ice flow cuts off a large boat, we won’t have to deal with it.” A boat that breaks loose becomes a projectile, he said, that can damage other boats and docks.

Flooding issues

Cindy Anderson of Gifford Road again called on the board to take action to deal with flooding onto her property and others, a problem she said has been made worse by digging and clearing for the new school and future tennis courts.

She said one recent weekend storm sent muddy water downhill from the construction site onto her land and on toward the Head of Westport.

Ms. Shufelt said town officials, herself included, were made aware of the situation that weekend, visited the area, and are working to resolve the problem.

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