Continuing discussion from the past three meetings, the Plympton Board of Selectmen heard the current state of the draft for the proposed Earth Removal Bylaw, budget and warrants for the Town Meeting, as well as an update on the Fire Advisory Committees.
Up for discussion first was the Earth Removal Bylaw, presented by Linda Leddy. She told the board that she, Rick Burnet, Marta Nover, Brian Wick, Amy Conin, along with the guidance of selectman Mark Russo, had volunteered to develop a new Earth Removal Bylaw for Plympton as it is currently outdated according to state standards and the growing needs of the town. The goal of the bylaw is to take into consideration everybody involved in an application of an Earth Removal site. Citizens, land owners, and wildlife all need to be considered to ensure the potential project is fair on all sides. In developing the bylaw, volunteers met on several occasions and for many hours to adapt bylaws from surrounding towns, as well as edit sections to be better suited to Plympton’s needs.
The sudden action to construct a new bylaw was due to the rising concern of Ryan Vlaco of BRV I, Inc. in Middleborough, which is a sand and gravel company. He is a potential buyer of the Atwood property on Prospect Road and presented to the board several weeks ago his plan to expand a pre-existing cranberry bog, and also begin a sand and gravel removal operation that will require 100 trucks a day moving material for sale out of Plympton. Due to the unreasonable amount of trucks estimated for a small restoration project, many town and board members believe he has found a loop hole by claiming to be agricultural and exempt of needing to file an application. Without filing an application for an earth removal permit, he would be able to build a sand and gravel distributing company, without consent of the town.
To try to prevent similar companies from finding the same loopholes, the draft of the bylaw had three main edits to the version that was presented to the board last week.
The first main change to the draft was specifying which agricultural projects were exempt from filing an application for earth removal. These exempt projects would be normal construction and maintenance projects, including for existing bogs and farmland that operate under the state’s agricultural and wetlands laws. If new projects arise such as installing a new bog, or pond, then an application must be filed with the board of selectmen.
This portion also included the addition of a new section stating that any amount removed from a site more than 1,000 yards must also require an application. This was heavily debated by a concerned resident, Rebecca Lipton. She stated, “If you have a project happening on one side of you and another project on the other, you would have about 75 to 100 trucks going by your house per day.” Another concerned resident asked the board to consider the typography of Plympton and the need to protect all the open land that Plympton has left.
After several other concerns of 1,000 yards being too large a quantity to allow an application, Marta Nover of the Bylaw Committee, suggested the quantities be discussed when the draft is sent to Town Council for approval.
The second change to the Earth Removal Bylaw was making sure it provided significant protection for the town’s residential properties, special environments, water, or any other qualities that give Plympton its rural character. Any applications that may harm Plympton’s valuable features would not be allowed.
The last change to the bylaw was constructing clear standards and procedures for applications so that residents, applicants, and the board can reference the bylaw for guidance at any point. Board member, Christine Joy, stated that the bylaw was “very well written, comprehensible, and transparent.”
The bylaw will be sent to Town Council, on Tuesday, April 10, for recommendations and approval. The bylaw is expected to be presented to Town Meeting, May 16, for a vote of the residents.
Fire Advisory Committees
The Fire Advisory Committees updated selectmen on their progress and the joint training for Plympton and Halifax Fire Departments to receive their Firefighter I/II certifications. Interim Chief Phil Curran of the Plympton Fire Department reported that both departments will begin their joint training session the first or second week in May. Selectman John Traynor, the board member overseeing the Advisory Committees, discussed a meeting Wed. April 18 for all fourteen volunteers of the Fire Advisory Committees, and then a meeting the following Wed., April 25 between the two fire departments regarding shared services. Selectmen wanted to emphasize that the town is only exploring the option of shared services and have made no legal decisions yet.
The Finance Committee presented their approved budget for next fiscal year, as well as vote on approvals for the presented articles for the Annual Town Meeting. After evaluating all the recommended budgets for each committee in the town, the Finance Committee came up with a final budget of approximately $10,903,000 for next year, which is a 5.7% increase from last year. Local real estate taxes will not increase to that extent, only roughly 2.5% from last year. The Finance Committee presented their changes such as their decision to separate EMS services from medical supplies needed for the town, and a reduction of the budget for vocational technical students as less people registered for the program than expected.
Selectmen and the Finance Committee then discussed each article presented for the Annual Town Meeting one by one, providing recommendations or approval for its current state. Out of the 27 presented articles, three were not recommended by both parties, as they believe there are other options worth exploring that could exclude the need for those articles this year. For example, Article 13, which was not recommended, requested funds for hiring a specifically named consultant for map research for the town. Both selectmen and FinCom believed there could be more exploration of costs for consultants for the town and they did not recommend the article for this year.
In other news:
Council on Aging Warrant-
The director of the Council of Aging, Joy Marble, met with the board requesting $55,000 for the COA budget so they may be able to get a new van to help with their services. The current van is getting old, and in need of repairs, as the Council on Aging often transports senior citizens to distant towns for medical appointments such as Cohasset causing wear and tear on the vehicle. The van is also a regular minivan that is not handicapped accessible, and riders often have a difficult time getting seated.
With the increase to the number of people being served by the COA, the van is not always available. Because of this, volunteer drivers are using their own cars when transporting seniors to so-called “social events” such as shopping and other non-medical appointments. Director Marble is trying to eliminate the need of volunteers to use their own vehicles with the purchase of the new van. The present van would be maintained for these uses.
Possibilities of a donated van from Best Chevrolet, or cashing in an unused town sedan were discussed among the board, leading to their decision to pass over the article for this year, which was presented as Article 24. The board plans to explore this idea over the coming year, and bring a solution to next year’s Annual Town Meeting.
Animal Control Officer Update
The board contacted the former Animal Control Officer, Frank Bush, who said he was not interested in serving in that position again. The board is now exploring any surrounding towns that would be interested in sharing animal control services with Plympton. If no suitable candidates are found, the town will post the position for any interested applicants.
Elizabeth Dennehy, Town Administrator, presented a new CORI policy last week, which is beginning to be utilized for new employees for the town. The application is simpler, and excludes the Dennett Elementary School and Plympton Police Department since they have more in-depth procedures for CORI checks. There were questions regarding this policy such as if current employees are now needed to submit a CORI check, even though they did not require one upon hire. The board authorized Elizabeth Dennehy to meet with legal counsel regarding this.
The next open meeting for the board of selectmen is Monday, April 23, at 6 p.m.