The Plympton Board of Selectmen have begun inviting a representative of a different town department to each meeting to present before the Board. Assistant Assessor Wendy Jones attended the Monday, Oct. 5 meeting where she gave a status update on the seven and a half acres of Middleborough land to be leased to Plympton for use as a trailhead and parking area for Two Brooks Preserve.
The Middleborough land to be leased is part of Soule Homestead which is adjacent to the 130 acres of conservation land acquired by the town of Plympton known as Two Brooks Preserve. Jones said, “I’ve been in touch with Middleborough; It’s complicated but we are working on it.” Jones told the selectmen that a special act has been drafted to go before the House and Senate to allow Middleborough to lease the land to Plympton for that specific use. Selectman Mark Russo asked if Jones had a sense of how long the legislation would take but she said that she does not.
Jones also said that there will be an article at the next Middleborough special town meeting to secure funds for an “on the ground” survey to ensure that Plympton has access to the trails and Soule Homestead has everything they need to continue running their farm.
A request for a street crossing on Ring Road was brought before the Board by the development manager on the project as well as another representative from the energy company responsible for the solar project. The project in question is a dual use solar project that would allow for ongoing agricultural projects around the solar array. An electric line is to go underneath Ring Rd. from the west side of the street where there are cranberry bogs owned by Roger Carriera to the east side on property owned by the Dunhams. Permission has been granted by the Conservation Commission for the project and it is anticipated that approval will be granted at the next Planning Board hearing.
Highway Superintendent Rob Firlotte said, “If done properly, it will be rather minimally invasive to us.” The Board voted to approve the crossing at Ring Rd. pending approval from the Planning Board.
Selectman John Traynor was named as acting director of the Council on Aging (COA) until the position can be filled. Traynor will not be accepting a stipend while holding the position joking, “I might ask my selectman salary to be doubled.” Traynor said he is hoping to have the COA Board more involved going forward saying that the previous director Joy Marble took on much of the responsibility herself. Traynor also said that they will be distributing a Council on Aging newsletter moving forward.
The selectmen appointed longtime volunteer Jacqueline Freitas to the COA Board. Traynor said that they needed another volunteer for the Board as well as an outreach worker. Town Administrator Liz Dennehy said that the virtual meeting Traynor held with the COA Board was very productive. Traynor said that he did approach the Board of Health about meeting in-person. “They certainly weren’t receptive which was kind of interesting considering they were meeting,” Traynor said.
Also discussed at Monday’s meeting was the town’s projects and priorities list, formerly known as the parking lot. Chair of the Town Properties Committee Jon Wilhelmsen spoke a bit about the committee’s work. Wilhelmsen said they have made significant progress in their mockups and said that he hopes to have something firmer to share in the near future. Wilhelmsen said that an architectural firm has been brought on board to help work through the specs for the new roof at the town barn. He also said that they plan to discuss the Fire Department at the next meeting and noted that space constraints are among the biggest concerns.
Among the other concerns is the lighting issue at the library. Wilhelmsen said they may consider an architectural firm to recommend a lighting plan. The committee has also been exploring costs to have the town green flagpole cleaned and fixed. Water and drainage issues in the lower level of the old townhouse are also being considered. Consultants are also being brought in to address septic issues at the townhouse.
As Chair of the Plympton School Committee, Wilhelmsen also provided an update on the state of the Dennett. Regarding the return to in-person school, albeit limited to a hybrid model, Wilhelmsen said, “We have to understand the feat that has been accomplished to get this off the ground.” He also likened the teachers to first year teachers since they have had to completely upend their normal way of operating. Wilhelmsen also told the Board that the Dennett teachers have requested laptops as the chromebooks issued to them haven’t been sufficient. He told the Board that a small number of docking stations have been purchased in order to provide more flexibility.
Wilhelmsen also told the Board of a few positive cases of COVID-19 in the district. There have been confirmed cases within Kingston Elementary School, Silver Lake Regional Middle School, and Silver Lake Regional High School. The contact tracing for those cases is being managed in accordance with the Kingston Board of Health.
Dennehy provided the town administrator’s update. She said the COA was awarded a $4,000 grant through Old Colony Elder Services to help better prepare for a second wave of the virus. The bulk of the money was needed to have been spent by the end of the September. Items including a large freezer to help with food pantry purchases were obtained. Other items purchased included air purifiers, filters, hand sanitizers, and disinfecting wipes.
The financial team plans to begin meetings again starting Nov. 16. Dennehy said that the plan is to get Wilhelmsen involved as well as town treasurer Barbara Gomez. Nov. 16 is a regularly scheduled meeting for the selectmen and Dennehy said she would like the Finance Committee to attend as well. She said the goal would be to talk through next year’s budgeting process and figure out where the priories are. Other potential discussion points would be restructuring some of the town’s debt.
Dennehy also told the Board that she is exploring the possibility of shared services with Carver. She said that working out an arrangement for animal control with Carver might prove to be a more cost-effective option.
There are a number of vacancies for positions in town that are currently being advertised internally. According to town bylaws, the positions must be posted internally before being advertised externally. Dennehy said that in addition to the COA Director position they are also looking to fill a senior technician position for the library as a result of a planned retirement. The Planning Board has an open clerical position and the zoning officer is resigning. Dennehy also said that an independent and a democrat are needed for the Board of Registrars in order to guarantee equal representation.
The selectmen ended the meeting with their rants and raves for the last few weeks. Traynor said that one of his raves was for the wonderful photos on the town’s Facebook pages.
His second rave was for a person that came forward with two vintage photographs from Plympton. The person’s uncle, who recently passed away, was a genealogist who grew up in Plympton. The pictures show horses and wagons. Traynor hopes to have them restored and put on display around town. His final rave was for Briggette Martins for the wonderful job she has been doing on the selectmen’s meeting minutes.
Russo’s rave was for Fire Chief Stephen Silva’s mother who recently passed away. Referring to her as an exemplar of resiliency, strength and vibrancy, Russo said, “It’s hard to lose her but what she inspires is pretty ensconced in my mind and I’m pretty thankful.”
Christine Joy said that her raves were for the excellent work being done by the highway superintendent as well as the emergency management team.