Chairman Mark Russo opened the Plympton Selectmen’s meeting Monday night, March 22, with a little lesson in comity. Comity: courtesy, considerate behavior for others, a clear understanding of the rules, customs. “Tonight the password is ‘comity’”.
The board welcomed Lillie Krueger, as part of a continued segment of their regular meetings where a representative of a group or board or committee is welcomed to tell about their organization. Krueger represented PAYS, Plympton Athletic Youth Sports, of which she is treasurer. President Amy Hempel was not able to join the meeting.
Krueger told selectmen that PAYS had just wrapped up their basketball season and were able to form four teams of combined 4th, 5th and 6th graders, giving the kids something to do in the pandemic. Working with Dennett Principal Peter Veneto, PAYS was able to play and practice in the school’s gymnasium. They even did a little fundraising for the school to get storage units to give the school a place to put the desks and chairs that had been stored temporarily in part of the gym, Lillie told the board. “Now we’re looking forward to baseball and t-ball in the spring, “ she said, “Kids just need to exercise!”
Selectman John Traynor said that he had especially enjoyed watching the games on Face Book, something new PAYS was doing where only one family member per athlete was allowed to attend the games. “This way,” Krueger said, “they call all watch the games – even the payers.”
Selectman Christine Joy asked if they had enough girls to form a team and Krueger said that they were able to do it.
Krueger said that they are hoping their schedules will be close to normal with the fall sports schedule. Russo congratulated the group for their dedication.
Under appointments, the board voted unanimously to appoint Christine Kelly as Treasurer/Collector. Kelly has been the assistant treasurer/collector for several years and is well acquainted with the details of the job.
Another appointment was David Batchelder to the Board of Assessors. Batchelder had been an assessor years ago and is a welcome addition as an interim assessor until the election is held in May.
Russo brought up the question of making the position of Town Clerk and appointed position. Christine Joy spoke up and said she had asked for this, that she had spoken with the current Town Clerk Patricia Detterman last week. She said that this was another step in assuring qualified professionals in key town government positions. Selectman John Traynor said that he would like to hear from the present town clerk on the subject. Detterman was present at the ZOOM meeting and said that she thought making the position appointed gives too much say to the Board of Selectmen when it has always been the vote of the people of the town. Detterman said that the position of Town Clerk is the very basis of town government and it is important for the people to have the final say (at election).
Russo moved to include the article in the town meeting warrant, saying this is only a first step in the process. The hope is, he said, to have the present town clerk fill out her term and appointment would follow, should town meeting vote in favor of the change.
Another item for the warrant is a $5,000 to $7,000 item to hire a hydrologist to go over the records and recordings with the Dept. of Environmental Protection from Rocky Harvest water company withdrawals on Brook Street.
Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy suggested repurposing the article originally used for the Town Administrator search, to change the language so it can be used for other professional positions in the town.
Dennehy said that the Town Properties Committee submitted an article for $300,000 to replace middle and rear portion of the Town House and an article for $7,500 for an assessment of the roofs on the Fire Station and Library.
Dennehy also said there is an article asking for $5500 to refurbish two flagpoles, one at the Town Green and the other at Route 106 and Main Street intersection and $15,000 for general consultant and preliminary design services for any projects related to town-owned buildings and grounds.
The warrant closes the last Monday of the month, March 29.
Traynor said that he would vote to go forward with these articles but wanted to wait to see what the finance committee says before he will say he recommends them. Russo made the motion to proceed with the articles discussed. Joy was the second. The motion passed unanimously.
A matter of concern to selectmen is the Board of Selectmen Member Protocols as well as information sharing among selectmen. Chairman Russo presented a list of ten items outlining how selectmen should behave during a meeting.
Joy said that the ten items were right out of Roberts’ Rules of Order and the selectmen’s handbook. “I’m glad you’ve put it in writing, “ she told Russo.
John Traynor disagreed with several items, saying that there was really no need for such a structure and that it would likely get in the way of free and open discourse. “I believe everything should be out in the open for the public to see… I think that when you say the chair is the arbiter for when the discussion ends, that hampers discussion.” Traynor said he would like more discussion on the subject before the board votes on it.
Russo defended his position, saying that most of these come right out of the selectmen’s handbook. A couple of weeks ago the Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association had a webinar on Civility in Town Government. “The main theme, the almost exclusive thing that was put forth as the way to promote and foster civility was to have rules of conduct exactly like this.”
Traynor continued saying that he would like to see an item on the agenda for selectmen’s items of interest, “trying to make it easy. … Put a line that says Selectmen’s Updates and then underneath list all the things like I’ve done.” They agreed to have more discussion and will take the matter up again.
The next agenda item is the proposal for a cannabis facility on Spring Street in the industrial park. Russo asked for a vote and suggested a motion to ask the people who are putting this together to ask Town Counsel to make an agreement. “This commits us to nothing; there are many steps along the way. They have not purchased the property, or gone through all the permitting, and we have not seen the details,” Russo said. “This is just an opportunity for us to give them a signal that we continue to be interested … enough to explore a municipal agreement with town counsel.”
Joy said she is interested in exploring, recognizing there are still a number of unanswered questions but thinks “we should pursue this.” Traynor agreed with Joy in that he has a lot of questions and wants to see a plot plan as to just where the property is they are considering and if it’s going to be an issue with Spring Street neighbors, he “really doesn’t want to go down that route. But if it’s back in the industrial zone, that’s the place it should be.”
Russo moved that we let the principals involved in this know that the town is interested in hearing more of their proposal and negotiations with Town Counsel. Joy seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Area 58 ZOOM issues
Traynor began the discussion by saying that he has been somewhat negative on the Area 58 operation right back to when he was moderator, “when we changed over from Comcast to Area 58 and they couldn’t provide the same service.” Traynor said, ‘I want them to be successful,” citing it as the next step in the communications process. Traynor said he was disappointed in the operation of Area 58 and disagreed with Russo’s assessment of Area 58 as a business model to emulate. Traynor shared with the board that he felt the operation was “mediocre at best.” There have been operational glitches and stumbles, and although the director of Area 58 told selectmen at a recent meeting that Area 58 could deliver more meetings and better technology using ZOOM, Traynor gave as an example a Hazard Mitigation meeting that was to be set up on zoom and to tie the Zoom into TV so it could be broadcast at the same time. “I see that as a significant advance when they can do that.“ The meeting didn’t go off. The Zoom portion was fine but they couldn’t broadcast over the educational channel simultaneously as they indicated they could. Area 58 representative said that Comcast was the cause.
Traynor went on to say that when Jon Wilhelmsen had a meeting on the return to school – an important meeting – it failed again. Traynor said that he wants to see more accountability from Area 58. “What are you measured on? How are you measured? I think we need to talk to Richard (Goulart) again. “ He said he doesn’t think this is an issue where Plympton or Halifax gets more or less time, it’s about how they run the overall operation.”
Russo answered that he appreciates separating the success of shared services, and some operational difficulties along the way. “Like everyone else, Area 58 is working under COVID situations which makes it all the more challenging. I have been in touch with Rich about the two meetings and he fully understands the problem and is working on it. “ Russo also mentioned that the Director of Area 58 reports to the Board of Directors of Area 58, not the boards of selectmen. Russo noted that he is a member of the board of directors of Area 58 and “they are fully aware of some of the things that happen along the way that aren’t quite as good as they should be but they continue to push hard for things to improve.”
Traynor said that Area 58 has the same responsibility as other businesses. All I’m asking is Let’s make sure that Area 58 gets the message that we want them measured and that we’d like to have them come back and provide feedback.” Traynor furthered that residents of Plympton who have Comcast paid them $68,000 last year for the operation of this business.
Russo said we will continue to hold them to a high standard. Joy asked if it is our intent to go live with town meeting? Russo said he’d like to think about that; there are some pros and cons to consider. Joy said perhaps they could do a selectmen’s meeting. Traynor answered, “Let’s do that. That would be great.”
Town Administrator’s report
Had a conversation with Carver’s town administrator, looking into possibility of shared services, particularly with the Animal Control Officer. That position is currently vacant in town and it would be great if we could work out an arrangement, perhaps with a municipal agreement.
Working on putting together an inventory of all of our town-owned vehicles, to put it into a spreadsheet so everyone knows which vehicles we are talking about, rather than looking at separate lists.
The Hazard Mitigation Planning grant is still moving forward and we expect that the project will be completed soon, looking at an August 1 deadline. When completed it will be a stand-alone plan as well as give the things needed to provide to the Old Colony Planning Council so it can become part of the regional plan.
The Green Communities Grant is moving forward and it looks like we will be able to move forward with the weatherization project at the Dennett School.
We also have still pending replacing the thermostats at the old town house.
Everything is a go as far as the Dennett School is concerned and ready for Town Meeting on May 12. Dennehy said that she and Town Moderator Barry DeCristofano had worked with Principal Peter Veneto to make the arrangements.
Dennehy told the board that FEMA and the state are requiring towns to update their floodplain by-laws to incorporate some of their required changes. Vote to forward this to the Planning Board for a public hearing and also to co-sponsor the article with the Conservation Commission. Russo moved that the zoning by-law revisionbe forwarded to the Planning Board. Joy seconded the motion and it was unanimously passed.
Liz Dennehy also announced that she had completed her certification as a Massachusetts Certified Public Purchasing person. “ A lot of time went into that and some pretty in-depth courses as it relates to procurement. I’m glad to have that under my belt.” The board gave its congratulations to Dennehy on her achievement.
Ken Thompson, Plympton’s Zoning Enforcement Officer, asked to speak regarding possible warrant articles from the by-law review committee, especially regarding apartments, in-law apartments and kennels. He said that from the night’s conversation regarding warrant articles there won’t be any such articles on the warrant for town meeting. He expressed his disappointment, as these items are frequent, if not daily, questions he has to try to answer in his position as Zoning Enforcement Officer. Russo said that these items need more discussion and will be heard at a future meeting. Joy suggested an off-night work meeting. The board concurred.
Joy spoke of the beautiful weather – yard work, sunshine, are all good for the soul.
Traynor agreed, and encouraged people to drive by the great stone wall on Route 106. “it’s amazing. There are daffodils coming up and it will be spectacular!” Another accolade went to State Rep. Kathy LaNatra. “She really worked well for us.” Traynor told the board that when one of the places in Kingston got some extra doses of vaccine, she wanted to see them go to the most vulnerable people in town and this past weekend five of our senior citizens were vaccinated.
In another rave, Traynor acknowledged his “Hero” David Batchelder, who at the age of 91 has returned to town government to help out the Board of Assessors with an interim appointment until town election on May 15. “Thank you, David.”
Lastly he said it was a joy to see the kids getting off the bus. “It was good to see a little bit of normality.”
Russo said they will be back ifor a meeting in two weeks, if not sooner.