The Monday, Aug. 10, Police Chief Matthew Clancy updated the Plympton Board of Selectmen on the challenges facing the police department. Clancy told selectmen his department was facing a number of challenges both pandemic related and not, some operational and some financial. He told the Board that the court system has been completely upside down for the last few months and that they are just now starting to embrace Zoom. He said delays on their end have had a tremendous impact on the need to hold people longer than normal.
Clancy also said that half the full-time patrol staff in Plympton has recently left. One left for the state police, another for the Mashpee police, and some staff retired. New hires have been made in their stead and he praised the new members of the department. Clancy said that one of the goals for this year was officer professional development but many of these opportunities had all but dried up due to the pandemic. He said they are beginning to be offered once again, this time online.
Clancy also told the Board about a number of improvements including upgrading the portable radios to digital. If not converted, it would soon be difficult for Plympton officers to converse with their neighbors. The Regional Old Colony Communications Center (ROCCC) did well through their 911 grant which allowed for a number of upgrades that were done without expense to Plympton. The process of replacing a number of workstations and a network server at the police station is in the final stages. Some of this work was supported by the ROCC and some by the town. The fiber connection to the regional dispatch center is up and running. The campus fiber project is also being completed in phases. The townhouse, library, fire station, and police station will all be connected. The phone system is anticipated to be complete by December at the latest.
Clancy also said that the drug disposal program has been a success. The kiosk is located in the police station lobby. Clancy said it is open despite COVID and that if the door is not open residents should use the intercom button.
Clancy addressed the Massachusetts’ police reform bill saying that he wants residents to know that Massachusetts and the northeast have always been progressive and already adhere to many of the reforms in the bill. Even prior to the tragic events in Minneapolis, Clancy said the department had already revised their use of force policy. It has been reviewed yet again. He emphasized that Massachusetts’ officers have never been trained to use chokeholds. The Plympton Police Department has also submitted their first annual use of force analysis to the Board of Selectmen. Officer Daniel Hoffman has been named as the Plympton’s civil rights officer.
Clancy also told the Board that he was happy to hear that the state will be reestablishing the accreditation process. He said that the old process was removed due to budgetary reasons many years ago. He said it was reformed as a non-profit back in the mid-nineties. Regarding the bill, Clancy said, “the main pieces of this are things that we embrace and we have been asking for.”
The Board took up the matter of the potential declaration of a safety zone at the intersection of Main St. and Ring Rd. as well as at Winnetuxet crossing. Plympton voted at town meeting to give the Board of Selectmen the authority to declare a safety zone of 20 mph where they deemed necessary. Selectman Chair Mark Russo described it as an inexpensive way to slow people down, noting the tight economic times we are living under. Selectman John Traynor said he had heard that once implemented, the speed limit of 20 mph could not later be rescinded. Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy said that she didn’t know of anything that would prevent it from being changed later but agreed to verify with town counsel prior to moving forward with the vote to designate the safety zones.
Traynor initiated some conversation about possible reconstruction of the Main St. and Ring Rd. intersection including the difficulties posed by the telephone pole located there. Traynor said that estimates to remove the pole were in the $200,000 range. Russo said that he in no way intends for the safety zone designation to replace a plan for redesign and reconstruction. He referred to it as “…a short-term strategy that in no way excludes a bigger project.” Russo said he had promised that this week’s meeting would not include extensive talk of reconstruction and said it would be put on the agenda for one of the next two Board of Selectmen meetings.
Traynor gave an update on his efforts to reach out to the owner of the North Plympton cemetery. The cemetery is on Route 106 on the Kingston/Plympton line and is considerably overgrown. The owner lives in Olympia, Washington and while the cemetery itself is only about a third or a half of an acre, they own 10-15 acres. There are approximately 60 graves in the cemetery. Traynor said that at one time the Boy Scouts had gone in and cleaned it as part of a project. Traynor said he hopes to reach out to the owner to find out if they would be so inclined as to let the town clean the cemetery grounds. Selectman Christine Joy said she hoped they would consider donating the land to the town.
Russo and Dennehy touched briefly upon protected health information for town employees and officials. The subject came up while waiting for test results. Town counsel was conferred with to establish what the town’s obligations were regarding privacy. Russo said that it is a tricky subject that requires a balance of individual good versus communal good. The town plans to adopt a policy that will put the information into a concise format that will be easily understood.
Chair of the Plympton School Committee Jon Wilhelmsen provided an update on the reopening plan for Dennett and Silver Lake Regional. Both school committees plan to take advantage of the DESE commissioner’s offer of 10 days for professional development that must take place prior to the start of school. This reduces the number of required school days from 180 to 170. As a result, the first day of school for students will be Sept. 16. The Dennett will begin with a phased in hybrid approach. Under this model, the majority of students will begin remotely with the intention to have everyone on the hybrid plan within a few weeks’ time. High needs and the youngest learners will be phased in first. Silver Lake Regional voted to immediately go into the hybrid model.
Wilhelmsen said the schools are currently working with the emergency management team on the health portion of the implementation plan including contact tracing. According to Wilhelmsen, self-reporting is going to be key to keeping the doors open at the Dennett. Wilhelmsen also said that some people view the comprehensive plan consisting of a full in-person model, a full-remote model, and a hybrid model as being three distinct plans but Wilhelmsen said it was actually a single plan that is built to move. “We have to quickly recognize when something isn’t working and adjust course immediately,” he said. Wilhelmsen also pointed out that the Dennett has a lot of advantages compared to other districts with respect to reopening. He said that they plan to leverage those as much as possible. Joy thanked Wilhelmsen for all of his work keeping the parents informed of the reopening plans. Traynor agreed saying, “The strength of the Dennett is that everybody is involved.”
Dennehy addressed rumors she said she had seen circulating regarding the dissolution of the Plympton Council on Aging (COA). Dennehy said this was not true and noted that the Meals on Wheels program is still delivering food to Plympton residents five days a week. The Council on Aging has also purchased some pop-up tents and tables and chairs with the intent of safely holding some outdoor activities.
Dennehy also mentioned that Habitat for Humanity of Greater Plymouth has a COVID related program that supplies one-time rent assistance to low income households. She said that she plans to share the link on the town website as well as social media as the deadline for rent relief is approaching. Dennehy also notified Council on Aging Director Joy Marble of the program.
Finally, the Board and Dennehy reminded residents that outside activities on town owned land are prohibited by the Board of Health from dusk to dawn due to the threat of EEE.