Southwick Select Board discusses Airbnb regulations, fiber internet

July 28, 2020 | Dennis Hackett

SOUTHWICK – The Southwick Select Board met on July 21 to discuss an update to the town’s Airbnb regulations, fiber-optic internet, and promote firefighters to new ranks along with its regular business.

The first order of business at the meeting was a discussion around updating the town’s Airbnb policies after receiving new legislation. David Berson, an attorney with Bacon Wilson said that the new legislation allows the town to collect a small percent of taxes on Airbnb rentals in Southwick.

“The passing of this law really does give the Town a lot more of an ability to start regulating these types of uses. This allows us to allow short-term rentals but give some control over how we allow them,” Berson said.

He added that he created a set of bylaws based on Salem and Plymouth’s Airbnb regulations to start the conversation over creating regulations in Southwick.

The board agreed to send the first draft of bylaws along to the Planning Board for review.

The next order of business was to receive an update from the High-Speed Internet Commission about its research into bringing more internet options to the town.

During the discussion, Alicia Sullivan, one of the committee’s members, gave a presentation about a survey sent out to residents about their internet.

She said, “We did receive 268 responses and all in all showed the majority of residents are satisfied with their provider, most of them having Xfinity, some having Verizon. But they are unhappy with the costs, and the costs are escalating.”

As part of bringing fiber-optic internet to Southwick, the first step would be creating a municipal light plan, which would require yes votes at two town meetings within 13 months of each other. Sullivan said the entire project to install fiber-optic internet in Southwick would cost around $8 million.

Select Board Chair Doug Moglin clarified that the town would merely facilitate the fiber optic internet, but not create a department to manage it and rather create an agreement with an outside company to operate it.

The board ultimately agreed to continue the discussion under old business in the future.

As the next order of business, Southwick Police Department Lt. Robert Landis brought forward a motion to reorganize the Auxiliary Police Function. He said, “Our recommendation is that if they came under our training program, they would receive the same yearly minimum training the full-time officers receive.”

He added that this extension of training would be for officers that have gone through the police academy but would rather not do full-time work and mostly work on community-oriented detail jobs.

During the meeting, the Board also conducted a moment of silence for Barbara Pooler, the town’s former treasure, collector and clerk after her passing.

Select Board Clerk Russ Fox reflected on her time in the town and said, “Barbara Pooler was the rock for the town of Southwick. She was the person that people went to on a daily basis. She did a tremendous job for the town of Southwick and we lost a very good person.”

The board also agreed promote several firefighters to new ranks, including Lt. Michael Feraccio and Lt. Paul Johnson to captain, and Pvt. Chris Garvey and Pvt. Chris Moccio to lieutenant.

The Southwick Select Board next meets on Aug. 4.

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