PLYMPTON– On Monday, May 23, Selectmen met and welcomed their newest member, former Town Moderator John Traynor. The Board reorganized, electing Colleen Thompson chairman, Christine Joy, vice-chairman, and Traynor as clerk. Thompson, who at times shies away from the spotlight, appeared confident as Chairman, and moved the meeting along through a lengthy agenda. Traynor, who has served on the Finance Committee as well as Town Moderator for nine years, did not seem shy at his first BOS meeting, frequently giving his thoughts and opinions.
Filling vacancies and creating new committees
One of the new board’s first priorities is to fill vacancies on various town boards and committees, as well as create several new ones. The full list of vacancies is being prepared, but the board discussed creating a “by-law review” committee, which as the name implies would study the current by-laws and make recommendations.
Selectman Joy recommended a five-member committee, and Town Coordinator Dale Pleau suggested that the selectmen task the committee with a specific by-law or set of by-laws to study to keep them focused.
Selectmen also created an Economic Development Committee, something Joy has been researching and supporting. The board also felt that five members would be an appropriate number of residents for this committee, which would be charged with marketing the community to make it more attractive to businesses as well as make recommendations to the board to make town government more business-friendly.
Joy also has been looking to form a committee to study affordable housing in Plympton and make recommendations.
The Board of Selectmen was in unanimous support of the creation of these committees, and the discussion centered around what mix of people with what types of expertise would be of best use. Selectman Traynor suggested sorting the annual street list by occupation to identify residents with specific expertise, though noting this may leave out those who list their occupation simply as “retired”.
Brook Retreat Follow-up
The selectmen also discussed a follow-up to a letter sent by the owners of the Brook Retreat to the board in response to a scathing letter the board sent them. The selectmen wrote in a letter dated May 5 that they were disappointed in the handling of an incident that occurred at the sober-living facility on Brook Street where a resident left after curfew and allegedly attempted a home invasion while in an apparent drug-induced psychotic break. The man, Shane P. Sullivan, is in state custody pending trial.
The owners of Brook Retreat have refused to appear publicly before the board although they did meet with-former Selectman Mark Russo. The letter also suggests they have not demonstrated sincerity or comprehension of the situation by not appearing before the board and even went so far as to use language from Alcoholics Anonymous literature and encouraged the owners to make a list of people harmed and make direct amends.
The board suggested as well, that the sober-living facility look into the voluntary accreditation program offered by the state for such facilities. The board also seems, from the May 4 letter, to be concerned that fencing around the property promised by the Brook Retreat after the incident has not yet been put up.
Both Selectman Joy and Chairman Thompson acknowledged after the meeting that they really weren’t sure what the fencing was supposed to do in terms of security, noting that it was the owners’ idea.
The board asked the selectmen’s assistant to write a follow-up letter to the facility to ask them to keep the board up-to-date on their fencing situation.
The Brook Retreat owners wrote a brief response, noting that fencing was more expensive than they originally believed, and that the non-profit is currently raising funds for fencing. They also note that they are following the law. Brook Retreat was recently, as the law requires, inspected by the Building Inspector who certified that they do still qualify as an “educational institution,” a requirement for the zoning exceptions they used when siting the facility in a residential neighborhood, and an annual inspection to the sprinkler system is pending.
“What next?” asked Selectman Traynor, after Selectman Joy asked, “What now?”
Two IT related issues came up at the meeting, and Selectman Traynor, a retired software sales representative, had strong opinions about them: municipal permitting software to help move projects requiring permits smoothly through Town House without getting lost or tied up in “red-tape”, and revamping the town website.
Town Coordinator Pleau mentioned that a vendor had demonstrated some software earlier, and Traynor immediately stated that it was too soon to commit to a vendor without seeing at least three options, and getting all departments together to ascertain their needs as well as make sure they are committed to learning and using the software.
Traynor also spoke at length to the faults of the town’s website. The vendor for the website, Virtual Town Hall, provides municipal government website portals to many towns in the Commonwealth, but this website suffers from a confusing interface, strangely alphabetized lists, outdated information and information appearing on one part of the website and not another.
Posted documents also appear online for a time, then disappear, only to reappear after manual intervention, according to the Town Clerk.
Traynor suggested forming a committee to study what may be done about the situation in a cost-effective manner.
The Plympton Board of Selectmen next meets on June 6, 2016 at 6:30 p.m.,Town House.