With Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy absent, newly appointed Chair Mark Russo took the helm at the remotely held Monday, July 6 Plympton Board of Selectmen meeting. Holding up a legal pad and referring to it as the “parking lot” Russo said, “The intent of the parking lot is that issues might come up which are significant and important but aren’t on the agenda or aren’t within the timeframe of the meeting… so that those things can be held onto and certainly addressed at the next meeting or at the proper time.”
The first item on the agenda was getting the approval and appropriate signatures on the documents related to the sale of Lots 1 and 2 as well as the closing of Lot 3, all on Prospect St. Russo referred to it as “another big step getting things done on Two Brooks.”
The Selectmen spent the remainder of the meeting focusing on the Board of Selectmen Projects and Priority list as well as the Board of Selectmen Goals for FY2021. Russo explained, “the main point of all of this is that with all the things we have going on at once, we don’t lose anything in the shuffle.” Although there was some discrepancy in how frequently, the selectmen all agreed that the documents need to be reviewed at regular intervals. “We lost a lot of time because of the virus… it feels to me that there are a couple of things on here that are now going into their second year; we need to refocus and bring some attention to it,” Selectman John Traynor explained.
The selectmen reviewed their previous goals and made amendments as needed. Vice-Chair Christine Joy asked that senior citizens’ needs become its own stand-alone goal. Shared services were removed as a goal as the pandemic makes it difficult to make progress in that area.
The selectmen also dissected what their goal of further professionalizing the town services means. Chair of the Town Properties Committee as well as the Plympton School Committee Chair Jon Wilhelmsen was in attendance and offered his perspective that the goal was a perpetual one. “Then you have to take from that, what one or two things are you going to do in 2021 to meet that goal. You’re not going to wave a wand, and everything is professional and perfect and then you’re done. You’ll probably never be done with that goal” he said.
Russo said he would work on a draft of their goals to again be discussed at their next meeting. They then turned their attention to the discussion of the projects and priorities. Much of the list will be handled by the somewhat newly formed Town Properties Committee, a committee that Traynor referred to as one of the two most important ones in town (the second being by-law review). Wilhelmsen said that the committee plans to do the necessary work, including hiring consultants, to figure out what needs to be brought before the selectmen. The plan is to have a master spreadsheet that can be shared with the Board.
Turning their attention to the Highway Department portion of the list, Traynor said that he sees the Paving Software Management Plan as “a critical piece of letting the townspeople know where we are devoting our energies in terms of highway and restoration.”
How best to handle the oft discussed intersection on Main St. is also included amongst the town’s priorities. Traynor said that there has been a great deal of feedback on the topic as it’s mention always seems to attract a crowd. He went on to say, “somehow we need to bring this to a finish.” Russo suggested that the selectmen use their town voted ability to enable a safety zone with a limited speed limit until a final decision can be reached.
Also, on the priorities list was the town’s technology. Traynor said that while Dennehy is doing a great job regarding this topic and is having fiber installed, it would be good to have a technical resource to help guide the town into the future. Wilhelmsen said that the town website is behind what they used to have. “If we’re going to do more stuff online now and, in the future, that is a piece that is going to need to be addressed,” Wilhelmsen explained. Joy suggested that they ask Dennehy to look into available technology grants. Given the current environment, Joy said, “we’re going to have to offer more town services online.” Traynor suggested the possibility of having the town’s IT tied into the school district. Joy, for her part, felt it might be a better idea to look into shared IT services with other surrounding towns.
The selectmen also discussed the financial plan saying that they need to establish a 5-year capital plan. Traynor said that the Town Properties Committee is a wonderful asset to help guide where the town’s money will be directed in the future.
There was a brief discussion of the emergency management of the town. The selectmen agreed that the team has done an amazing job during the pandemic. “We’ve had a really good team leading us through this; they’ve been such an asset to the town” Joy said. Traynor said that he was “very impressed with the fire chief.” “Having a real professional at the police station at this time… thank goodness,” Russo added.
Several items came up under volunteerism and general government. Traynor said that he would like to see flags put up from the town green to the old townhouse. “I think we can probably raise some money to buy the flags… I think there would probably be people who want to help us.” Joy said she would like to see them develop a flag and decoration policy to ensure consistent, appropriate decoration for events such as Memorial Day and to ensure that no one has to pay out of their own pocket. Wilhelmsen brought up the state and age of the flag and the pole on the town green saying that it will soon be inoperable. He said it was high on the priorities list for the Town Properties Committee.
Other items discussed included affordable housing, cemetery clean-up, and senior citizens’ issues. Joy said that she would like to see the town seek opportunities to work with Habitat for Humanity when town properties are turned over through tax title or other means. Traynor said that a decade or so ago, the Boy Scouts assisted in the clean-up of the town’s cemeteries and said that he would like to once again look into a similar opportunity. Traynor also expressed concern over the effects the virus has had on the senior citizen population in town who are no longer able to have meetings. Wilhelmsen suggested the possibility of having the seniors meet remotely via a platform such as Zoom.
As always, the selectmen ended their meeting with their rants and raves. Joy said that while sad, her rave was for the recent vote that recalled two Kingston selectmen, including the chair, from their positions. “People got involved,” Joy said. “They weren’t happy with what was happening in town government and they did something about it,” she continued. Traynor said that his rave was for the agreement between Plympton and Middleborough regarding Soule Homestead and parking for Two Brooks Preserve. Traynor called it a “win, win, win.” Russo at first said his rant would be for the poor horses, dogs, and humans that struggle with fireworks but quickly changed his tune saying he preferred instead to provide a rave. He applauded the town for making it through the recent elections and town meeting and for opening and operating the townhouse again.