Lakeside Water Petition Shot Down
By: Brian Kehrl
The petition to force the Mashpee Water District to hook up to Lakeside Estates seemed ill-fated from the start at the special meeting on the measure last night.
Just seconds after the meeting convened, a motion to indefinitely postpone the article was made by former water district commissioner F. Thomas Fudala and quickly seconded by another former water district commissioner, Edward A. Baker.
Amidst a murmur of confusion from the 235 voters in the audience, and Lakeside Estates attorney Richard L. Terry even made the case for the article, water district Moderator Robert F. Mills called for a vote.
It was shot down by a wide margin, but the sentiment behind the motion, to dismiss the article without pretense, won the night.
So after about 30 minutes of debate, dominated by voices speaking against the petition, it was voted down.
The definitive vote at the special meeting—the independent water district's equivalent of a Town Meeting—however, will likely not be the end of the issue.
Following the vote, William R. Haney Sr., the principal behind MEZ Realty Inc., which owns the trailer park, said his next move may be a law suit against the water district board for running advertisements that he said contained false information.
He referred specific questions to Stephen A. Greenbaum, a Boston-based attorney who Mr. Haney said is the corporate counsel for MEZ Realty. Mr. Greenbaum said ads run by the water district board in The Mashpee Enterprise and other media outlets falsely claimed that the water district would be responsible for replacing the pipes at Lakeside should there be a problem with the old water delivery system.
Mr. Greenbaum said he informed the water district board that he believed the advertisements were misleading.
Water district staff, commissioners, and legal counsel, in interviews with the Enterprise and other public statements, have held since the petition was first filed last month that they did not want to provide service to Lakeside Estates under the terms laid out in the petition because state regulations would make the district liable to fix the pipes, even if Mr. Haney would sign an agreement pledging to maintain the legal responsibility.
Water district counsel William C. Henchy reiterated the argument at the meeting last night, adding that the district would be willing to provide water service to Lakeside Estates, but only if the pipes in the trailer park were proven to be up to the district's code and if they are not, then have them replaced.
It was that argument that seemed to seal the fortune of the petition, largely due to a brief statement by resident and Assistant Town Moderator Edward H. Larkin.
Mr. Larkin asked, in what seemed to be a rhetorical question, whether the water district would be willing to provide service to the trailer park if Mr. Haney replaced the pipes. When district board members obligingly said they would, Mr. Larkin went on to say, “So I think tonight, if I read it correctly, we are putting the cart before the horse...This is like asking a building inspector to issue an occupancy permit for a building before he sees the building.”
Mr. Larkin said the district meeting should therefore vote down the measure, and he would look forward to returning in a year to approve a new article to connect to the district and its new pipes. His comment was received with hearty applause.
Off to the side, Mr. Haney prodded Mr. Terry to rebut the claims made by Mr. Henchy, Mr. Larkin, and others. The rebuttal never came, though, and Mr. Mills closed debate and soon called for a vote.
The meeting was marked by hectoring from the audience, who on several occasions spoke out of turn and interrupted Mr. Terry, pressing him to declare whether he was speaking as a representative of the landlord.
Of the voices at the meeting, the only unrepresented party was the Lakeside residents. One man, who did not identify himself, spoke out during the meeting to say that his daughter lives at the park and he wanted to hear the different sides to the story before the vote was taken. No residents, however, addressed the meeting. Two residents approached after the meeting declined to comment.
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