During the Monday, January 27 Plympton Board of Selectmen meeting, town administrator Elizabeth Dennehy said that herself and Selectman John Traynor met with State Representative Kathleen LaNatra, Senator Michael Brady, a representative from the town of Halifax, and Francis Gay, the administrator of The Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA). Dennehy said the takeaway from the meeting was that applying for membership in GATRA would only require a vote of the Board of Selectmen. GATRA would then vote in February to act on the request. Traynor said that membership would not cost the town any additional money.
College student and Plympton resident Emily Hayes attended Monday’s meeting to speak to her need for available public transportation. Hayes said that she had a brain tumor removed many years ago that resulted in a loss of her peripheral vision leaving her unable to drive. Hayes said, “I don’t really have freedom and I’ve seen the bus go by our street coming from Kingston and it always kind of stings a little because there is my freedom going right by.” Hayes’ parents also attended the meeting and her mother Susan Hayes described her many failed efforts to secure transportation for her daughter. Hayes said she reached out to MA Rehab but was told they don’t offer transportation services. GATRA told her they don’t provide services to Plympton and the MA Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired told them Emily didn’t qualify as she wasn’t visually impaired enough. In the end, the elder Hayes had to leave her part time job of 16 years to assist her daughter with commuting to and from college. Joy thanked them for telling their story saying, “It’s nice to personalize this… It’s very brave of you to come in and share your story.” The Selectmen voted for the town of Plympton to become a member of GATRA.
Transfer station sticker dispute
A dispute over a sticker on a vehicle for the town’s transfer station took up more than thirty minutes of Monday’s meeting and included a trip to the parking lot to ensure the correct and visible placement of a sticker. The residents insisted that they always had a sticker on their vehicle while the employees of the transfer station said it was either placed in the wrong location or not present on the vehicle at all. The residents insisted they were being singled out and even described their treatment as harassment, something those working at the transfer station vehemently disputed. An earlier incident at the transfer station between those present at Monday’s meeting resulted in the police being called on the resident due to fear for the workers’ safety.
Selectman Mark Russo said, “Public service is difficult and you end up dealing with situations that can get kind of hot and I totally respect the work of our people at the transfer station and I know they have a tough job and I know that sometimes they catch some abuse for doing what their job is.”
Russo went on to acknowledge the confusion surrounding where the sticker was and was not present saying that as long as it is now properly affixed to the car and there are no further incidents, it would be best to move forward. Selectman Chair Christine Joy said, “Let’s put this behind us and hope that we don’t have to talk about this again.” Russo added, “I would hope that the interactions at the transfer station can be done with dignity and respect.”
Right of First Refusal
There were two public hearings both concerning Chapter 61A right of first refusal. Right of first refusal gives a potentially interested party, in this case the town of Plympton, the ability to purchase a property prior to the seller negotiating other offers. Notice of the hearings were posted in the Plympton-Halifax Express. The first hearing regarded several acres of property on Lake St. and the second was for 17 acres on Main St. The hearings were first opened to those wishing to speak in favor of the town exercising it’s right of refusal and then to those against. There was no one present that wished to speak out for either of the properties in question.
Before heading into deliberations, Russo did let those present know that the selectmen requested recommendations from various town boards and committees including the Open Space Committee, Planning Board, Historical Society, Conservation Committee, Agricultural Commission, and the Community Preservation Committee. The Board did not hear back from any of those groups. The Board unanimously voted not to exercise their right of first refusal in both instances.
Housing Choice Grant for $93,000
Dennehy explained the next step in the Housing Choice Grant contract process to the selectmen. The grant is for $93,000 for a consultant to work with the Town Campus Committee to establish a master plan for the town center and hopefully establish some housing opportunities. Dennehy also told the selectmen that the Town Campus Committee wished to change their name to the Town Properties Committee. The selectmen voted to make the change official.
Traynor told the other selectmen that he would like to see the Board increase their social media presence. Traynor cited the success of the fire department’s social media sites.
Traynor also said that he would like to see a meeting between various elected officials to deal with issues that arise outside of the purview of the Board of Selectmen.
Currently Dennehy runs an operations meeting where the major department heads gather to look at the state of the town and ensure communication across the departments.
Joy suggested the possibility of a quarterly roundtable discussion that would include both department heads and elected officials. Traynor agreed saying that he would like to see these meetings have a theme such as customer service. “I think sometimes we miss that the only reason we are here is as a customer service to the residents,” Traynor explained. Russo agreed saying it might also be beneficial to have a de-escalation training to help officials deal with challenging situations that may arise.
Cultural Council members needed
Dennehy addressed the need for members to join the Cultural Council. Dennehy pointed out that without an active Cultural Council, the town won’t receive money from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), a state agency. The grants are used to support a number of artistic and cultural projects throughout the town. Joy described the Council as “feel good” and suggested possibly reaching out to people currently serving on some other boards and committees. Dennehy said that she felt that people may be more likely to come forward to join if they realized that the town was in jeopardy of losing the funding.