The Plympton Board of Selectmen met virtually on Thursday, April 16 to discuss ongoing developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the weekly selectmen meetings, Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy has also been having weekly conference calls with the townhouse staff.
Dennehy told the selectmen that the most recent guidelines from Governor Baker’s office have granted municipalities the ability to postpone tax payments and waive interests on late payments through June 29. Dennehy said that Plympton Collector Colleen Morin has recommended keeping the May 1 due date but asked that the Selectmen take a vote to waive any interest through June 29 on late payments for tax bills due May 1. The Selectmen unanimously voted to pass this motion.
Governor Baker’s office has also moved the 2019 state individual income tax filing and payment deadline from April 15 to July 15.
On April 16, the Plympton Fire and Police Departments participated in a drive-by parade at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Plymouth to show appreciation to all the healthcare and essential workers there. Many local public safety organizations were also part of the parade. “That was a nice event that made people happy and spread some joy,” Dennehy said.
According to Dennehy, after some bumps in the road, the transfer station is now operating smoothly. “Now we’re in a spot where the employees have adequate personal protective equipment, they’re following all of the social distancing protocols, and they’re doing a wonderful job keeping the facility open. I think that everyone feels more confident now that they are being properly protected as well,” Dennehy said.
The town of Hanson loaned Plympton an electronic message board that has been used to reflect the new hours of the transfer station. Selectman John Traynor, who said he had been to the transfer station that day said, “I would like to reinforce that as well… very well done.”
Dennehy told the selectmen that there were initially some logistical issues distributing brown bag meals to the Woodlands. Council on Aging Director Joy Marble has found a way to streamline the process, however, while keeping everyone safe.
New measures include placing tape on the floor to ensure workers and patrons stay six feet apart. “Joy deserves to be commended on that; she’s put an enormous amount of time into getting these meals out to people,” Dennehy shared.
Plympton was called upon to see if they could also deliver meals to facilities in Carver and Marshfield. “Right now we’re kind of working on that. We don’t want to overextend ourselves and take on more than what we can reasonably handle but we are trying to be helpful to other communities,” Dennehy said. She also said that Jim Mustacaros, who handles transportation for the Council on Aging, had delivered meals to the facility in Marshfield. “Trying to be mindful of our own resources and of Joy and Jim’s time and also the Fire Chief’s time…we want to be sure that Plympton seniors and Plympton residents are being served first with the limited resources that we have,” Dennehy continued.
The Plympton police and fire departments have also been continuing with their disinfecting protocols. Scott Materna, the Director of Building Maintenance for Halifax, has been periodically disinfecting both buildings and has also loaned equipment to the fire department that enables them to fog the ambulance used for COVID-19 related runs.
Inspections and permits continue
Dennehy said that she had received several questions from the public regarding protocols for inspections and permitting. Plympton has been following the same protocols as most of the state, allowing outside inspections and inside ones for new construction only. Chair of the Board of Health Art Morin said that exceptions are being made for emergencies.
Selectman Mark Russo expressed concern for those residents who find themselves mid-project asking, “If this is going to drag on, is there no way of finding a way to keep the permitting process moving so people aren’t stuck in the mud for month after month?”
Morin agreed saying “We have to adapt and come up with different and creative ideas.” Morin went on to specify that he meant this in regard to individuals and realtors as well as the town.
Russo also said, “When all of this settles down, I think we should look at a way for online permitting options… to offer more options to our residents for doing some of these transactions.”
Morin also told the Board that Plympton has brought on Kevin Forgue as the health agent. Forgue, who is a registered engineer, is also the health agent in Carver. Morin said, “We are fortunate to have Kevin on board now.” Morin also said that Halifax health agent Cathy Drinan had stepped in during the interim on several occasions.
Schools report on distance learning
Plympton School Committee Chair Jon Wilhelmsen provided an update on the status of the schools following the second full week of distance learning. Administrators sent a survey to parents, staff, and secondary students in order to receive feedback. Wilhelmsen said that the greatest obstacle thus far has been the wide spectrum of needs throughout the district. Wilhelmsen said that despite hundreds of chromebooks being loaned out, there are still some students who are unable to access technology for one reason or another. According to Wilhelmsen there are students on either end of the spectrum ranging from those struggling with remote assignments to those wishing for more work. “The whole public-school system is setup to provide equal access to all students and you cannot provide equal access in this environment,” Wilhelmsen explained. He also said that Superintendent Jill Proulx deserves a lot of credit for the efforts made thus far.
“This likely is going to continue for this school year and we’ve had a number of conversations with the administration that we need to prepare for the fall,” Wilhelmsen said. Governor Baker officially canceled school for the remainder of the year in the Commonwealth on Tuesday, April 21.
“We need to think forward and I would encourage all of us to think of creative options to keep things moving,” Wilhelmsen continued. Board of Selectmen Chair Christine Joy agreed saying, “We need to learn to do things differently and be more efficient.”