Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy announced during the Tuesday, December 8 meeting of the Plympton Board of Selectmen that the Townhouse would be reverting back to a remote model of business from Dec. 14 through January 11. The decision was made by the Emergency Management Team in conjunction with the Board of Health. Dennehy said that it was not a decision that was entered into lightly but noted the escalation of the virus in town, in the state, and even nationwide.
Dennehy said that all offices will be up and running remotely and noted that the public should still be able to proceed with most business. She also said that they are working on a plan to keep the Council on Aging (COA) pantry open, most likely by appointment. COA transportation services will also continue.
The selectmen voted on a number of appointments in town including Madeleine Pompei as the senior clerk for Permitting and Planning. A number of appointments were made within the Police Department as well including Daniel Hoffman as acting sergeant, Stephanie Connolly as a special police officer, and James Cranshaw and Matthew Terenzi both as part-time police officers. The appointments are through the end of the fiscal year though language in the contract indicates that they do not need to keep being reappointed once they’ve been appointed for a year. There was also a ratification of two appointments made at the previous Selectmen’s meeting – Colleen Thompson as the Director of Elder Affairs and Carolyn DeCristofano as the alternate for the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Plympton Police Chief Matthew Clancy presented before the Board as part of an ongoing series of discussions with various department heads and other town officials. Chief Clancy began by saying that it had been a tough year for a number of reasons.
There were a number of long-term injuries among members of the Department that required them to be paid as well as those filling in for them. The pandemic also resulted in a number of officers having to quarantine. As with injuries, officers were paid while quarantining resulting in greater expenditures for the Department.
Regional responsibilities required the Department to send officers to protests throughout the region including in New Bedford and Brockton in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Clancy also said that there was a five-day state-wide plan for dealing with possible fallout from the election. As a result, Plympton had some officers assigned to regional response teams and consequently there were costs also associated with the extra responsibilities.
Clancy said that he doesn’t yet have a projection of the shortfall but is working on it and is keeping both Dennehy and the Finance Committee apprised of the situation. While there hasn’t been a lot of federal or state money targeted to law enforcement this year, Clancy said that he was able to procure a few grants. A DOJ Byrne Memorial Grant was awarded in the amount of $20,000 which will be used toward the purchase of protective vests for officers. The funds will also be used to acquire a solar powered, trailer-mounted signboard so the Department won’t need to continue to borrow them from nearby communities. The Department was also awarded a traffic enforcement grant of $11,000 to pay officers for their participation in various Department of Transportation (DOT) traffic campaigns.
The new fiber network is up and running and will be installed in all buildings by the end of this week. Clancy said they will then proceed to thoughtfully and methodically cut various systems in town into the network. The new phone system which will be one system across the entire town will hopefully be up and running in January.
Clancy also gave an update on the accreditation program. He said it is a goal of the Department to obtain state certification. Though the process has been somewhat delayed due to COVID, Clancy said they are close to complete with the revamping of their policies and procedures. The next step will be the state audit. Clancy said that accreditation will likely soon be mandatory so the department has a jump start.
The new Plympton Police Department website that has been in the works for several months, will likely go live in January. “It’s going to give residents a bunch of different opportunities to open up the lines of communication,” Clancy explained.
Clancy also told the selectmen that the Department’s relationship with Duxbury and the Regional Old Colony Communications Center (ROCCC) continues to be successful. The selectmen thanked him for the updates and Chair Mark Russo said, “We so appreciate your professionalism.”
Chair of both the Plympton School Committee and the Town Properties Committee Jon Wilhelmsen asked the Board if they would be willing to approve a letter of intent with Solect Energy for a solar power project at Dennett Elementary School. Wilhelmsen said that the opportunity to work with Solect Energy on a project only recently came about and noted that in order to obtain the higher rate for a tax credit, a letter of intent would have to be signed by Tuesday, Dec. 15. Wilhelmsen said that while he had discussed the idea with fellow School Committee member Jason Fraser as well as the Town Properties Committee, he had yet to discuss it with the entirety of the School Committee. All those conferred with were in favor of the idea.
Due to the less-than-ideal state of most of the Dennett roof, the project would entail rooftop solar panels on the blue metal portion of the Dennett roof only. A possible addition would be a canopy in the parking lot. One option involves cutting down what likely amounts to 12 pine trees while another possible option does not. While the taking down of the trees would need to be funded, Wilhelmsen noted that it would probably be just as well as they are within striking distance of the building itself.
Wilhelmsen said that placing panels on just the one small portion of the roof would be an opportunity to invest and learn and said that when the time comes to redo the Dennett roof, they could make sure that it could accommodate solar panels. He also noted that the technology keeps getting better and the cost lower. He described the Dennett as an ideal location in town for solar panels as it is somewhat tucked away.
Russo said, “I have actually felt a little challenged about the trees… also about this canopy thing in the parking lot just in terms of aesthetics.” He did, however, say that it was clear that as a society we need to be moving toward electricity and away from fossil fuels. Given that the letter of intent doesn’t lock the town into an agreement, Russo and the other selectmen agreed to move forward with it pending an approval from the School Committee during their meeting early next week.
Wilhelmsen also provided an update on the Townhouse entrance accessibility project. The Town Properties Committee is hoping to award the design services to the company BETA. Thanks to funds acquired through the efforts of Selectman John Traynor and Representative Kathy LaNatra the plan to add an elevator or lift has evolved into a more comprehensive redesign of the entrances to allow for easier access to the upper floor.
The selectmen also voted to move forward with a notice of intent to award the Highway Barn roof replacement project to the lowest bid. NEL Corporation came in with the lowest bid of $105,875 and according to Dennehy they meet all necessary requirements. The work will be required to be completed within 150 days from the notice to proceed.
Dennehy said that the town had received a $1,000 anonymous donation to benefit the Plympton Public Library. She said that a number of gift cards to be used by seniors for groceries were also donated.
She also updated the selectmen on the signage for the speed zones the Board voted to create in certain areas of town. While the signage is expected to be up this week, Dennehy said that further steps, such as painting markings onto the road, will be investigated in the spring. She called the signage a “step in the right direction.”
The Selectmen each had raves at the conclusion of the meeting, mostly for the volunteers in town. Christine Joy sang the praises of both the Bylaw Review Committee as well as the Town Properties Committee. She also thanked Wilhelmsen for his leadership on a number of committees – a sentiment that was shared by the other selectmen. Traynor said that while two members of the Library Trustees resigned, two more volunteers stepped up to take their place leaving only one opening to be filled. Russo said that while the current times are filled with frustration and challenges, he was heartened by the patience and heartfelt well wishes seen within the community.