With an invasive weed suffocating the ponds off Lake Street, the town searches for a plan forward that may involve the City of New Bedford

ACUSHNET — Plans for the removal of some invasive weeds from the “Acushnet Ponds” along Lake Street remain on hold while town officials deal with authority and ownership issues.

The main issue is that three of the four ponds along the road are actually “owned by New Bedford,” noted Town Administrator Brian Noble.

The town has been given permission for public access to the ponds owned by the city, and to do chemical treatments or mechanical harvesting to thin out the invasive weeds “choking the Lake Street ponds,” Noble reported. The city still has to approve the town’s finalized plans for long-term weed control, and be indemnified for any liabilities associated with the project, he indicated.

The town administrator wondered aloud if it wasn’t a good time to ask the new administration in City Hall if the town could buy the ponds – technically reserve reservoir capacity for the municipal water system – for a token dollar.

Selectman Kevin Gaspar liked the idea, noting that if the town owned the ponds, it would qualify for state conservation grants for multi-year invasive weed removal programs which other area towns are getting.

Gaspar said he would like to see a proposal for expenses likely to be generated by a long-term management program. The ponds are important not just for recreation -- several neighborhood farmers still depend on the ponds for irrigation, he noted.

Chairman of Selectmen Michael Cioper was OK with delaying the weed control project, especially if a long-range plan was to be developed. “First, I think we have to own the ponds,” then make a plan, he suggested.

Selectman Roger Cabral also supported an approach to the new mayor to open possible talks. Noble was given the assignment, and the task of developing costs for a typical management plan for some or all of the ponds.

On the other hand, it is still possible that a small-scale effort could be proposed for de-weeding the Acushnet pond only, the worst-clogged of the four, he mentioned.

 

NEW IT POLICIES APPROVED

After hearing a brief review of proposed new information technology policies and procedures being recommended by an IT study group, selectmen voted to adopt all five recommendations.

The move was aimed at tightening security protocols and access to municipal networks, developing a town-wide inventory of hardware and software, and setting some rules for the use of the Internet and social media by public employees.

The recommendations came from a small working group of town employees headed up by Acushnet Public Schools Director of Information Technology Chris Oliver.

He told selectmen that the town had to start from scratch in terms of official policy. “There are no IT or social media policies on the books right now,” he said.

There is also no comprehensive list of all the computer technology and software being used by various town departments. A complete inventory of all hardware and software, and an estimated replacement time for all that equipment, has to be undertaken, Oliver suggested.

Right off the bat, Oliver said the working group visiting different departments found a lot of older computers with various “little” issues at both Town Hall and the Parting Ways Annex that probably should be high on the upgrade/replacement list.

Among the new security protocols approved by selectmen was a prohibition against using town computers for personal business, including accessing the Internet for private purposes while at work. “The bottom line is... no personal use. It really spells it out,” he said of the acceptable use policy being recommended.

“In the schools, we have an acceptable use policy in place for municipal computers and the internet,” Oliver noted. “It’s going to take some time to roll these policies out, and get everyone acclimated to the new guidelines,” he suggested.

In the school system, the rule for email and internet access in school buildings “is no personal use... the computers are for school business only, not personal use,” he explained.

Helping keep everyone following the rules at school and work is an automatic archive system that stores all incoming and outgoing emails from school computers and other town accounts. That is part of the public records requirements now in place, Oliver noted.

Access to payroll, human resources, and accounting functions on the town’s computer network will be considerably tightened under the new protocols approved by selectmen; frequent password changes and other more stringent security requirements can be expected by employees moving forward.

Since the recent upgrade of the municipal servers, there are now nightly back-ups of each day’s business communications, ensuring against the loss of any data in the town computer system. Details on other security measures were withheld, since the meeting was being broadcast on community cable television, and several newspaper reporters were present.

“In my industry, we do this all the time... always changing passwords, adding new security,” said Selectman Roger Cabral, a banking executive.

“They’re all good ideas,” he said of the five policy recommendations on the table, motioning the unanimous vote to approve them all.