In keeping with the new tradition of having a different representative from a Board, Committee, Commission, or otherwise attend the Plympton Board of Selectmen meetings, Alan Wheelock was in attendance on Monday, December 21 on behalf of the Wage and Personnel Board. Wheelock told the selectmen that they were impacted by COVID and didn’t meet at all over the summer.
He also provided a number of updates. Wheelock said that the federal government was recommending a 1.3 percent cost of living guideline this year. The Wage and Personnel Board plan to vote on that increase during their first meeting in January. Wheelock also told the selectmen that the Board had a request from Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy asking them to support her on a probationary period bylaw. The proposed bylaw would state that newly hired or promoted town employees would be subjected to a 6-month probationary period. Selectman John Traynor interjected that he believed the intent was to modify the request not to include those newly promoted that had been with the town a substantial amount of time already. Wheelock said that he was open to such an amendment.
Wheelock also said that the Board was taking a look at the wage and personnel bylaws in Plympton since they haven’t been updated in quite some time. He said that they were hoping to have a few recommendations to bring to the spring town meeting. The Board also had an intern from Bridgewater State University who assisted with some of the data that the Board uses. Finally, Wheelock said the Board was looking to find a location on the town website to store the paperwork related to wage and personnel.
Plympton School Committee Chair Jon Wilhelmsen provided a brief update on the schools. He said that two additional cases of COVID were reported at the Dennett Elementary School over the weekend, bringing the overall total for the school to 3. There has been a total of 61 cases throughout the Silver Lake district. Wilhelmsen noted that the holiday break will be a welcome one for the staff and teachers who have been working so hard throughout this unusual year.
Several appointments were also made during Monday’s meeting. Gabe Lundgren was named to the Board of Registrars through May 22, 2021. Miranda Boyles-Pink and Kathleen Keirstead were both appointed as trustees to the Plympton Public Library through May 22, 2021. There was also an appointment to the Central Plymouth County Water District Commission Advisory Board.
Dennehy introduced a new initiative for 2021 described as “what makes Plympton unique.” Dennehy said that the original intention was to talk a bit about knowing where your food comes from and highlight the many remarkable farms in town that provide for people all over the South Shore. Dennehy described the project as “fun” and “feel good” and said that the idea has since morphed into picking a different topic in town on a regular basis to highlight on the town Facebook page. She said the intention would be to “show what makes us unique and a really great place to be.”
Dennehy said she would potentially like to start with the Plympton kindness tree that has been setup over the holiday season on a Farm on West St. The idea of the tree is that residents can stop by and write something positive about something or someone in town and enclose it in a globe ornament that is hanging from the tree. Dennehy said that hand sanitizer, etc. was provided by the family. Traynor mentioned another project in town along the same vein. He said that he was recently the recipient of a holiday wreath courtesy of some members of the Garden Club who delivered over 90 wreaths to seniors in town.
Dennehy also provided a general update. She said she had just attended the Finance Committee meeting and said that while things do appear to be on track overall there are some shortfalls in the police salary lines moving forward. A member of the department is retiring somewhat unexpectedly resulting in the need to pay out overtime and out of rank pay to covering officers.
Dennehy noted that the town has retention issues within the Police Department. She said that many officers have cited the health insurance, which is a 50/50 split, as a reason for leaving. She said that she is currently surveying other towns as to their insurance and obtaining pricing. Selectman Chair Mark Russo said that he agreed with Dennehy’s assessment and referenced the hidden cost of losing people and training new people.
The town is often footing the bill for putting officers through the academy only to have them leave shortly thereafter. Traynor mentioned that some towns mandate that an officer must stay in the department for three years or pay back a portion of the expense for the academy.
Regarding COVID, Dennehy said that the numbers continue to rise in town and everywhere. She said that while it can be challenging to tell if cases have cleared or not through the MAVEN system, her best estimate for number of active cases in town stands at 20. “It’s out there and it’s around; it’s in town,” Dennehy said. She said that the decision to dial things back at the townhouse appears to have been the right one. She also alluded to employees becoming too lax and said of the closing, “it’s a good chance to reevaluate some of our protocols.”
Christine Joy was absent from Monday’s meeting so just Russo and Traynor provided their traditional raves at the conclusion of the meeting. Russo said that his rave was for the holiday season despite acknowledging that it would be “strange if not downright weird.” “I’m really looking forward to that time when things slow down a little and we all gain a little perspective… to give our minds a little rest but also to give our hearts a little rest,” Russo explained.
Traynor had three separate shoutouts. The first was for the Police Department for their new website that went live recently. “It really looks good and I’m happy to see it,” he said. The second was for the Fire Department. They were awarded a grant that allowed them to install fire signs for any seniors in town that wanted them. Traynor said that 24 residents signed up. His final rave was for the good condition of the roads in town after the snowstorm.