The Plympton Board of Selectmen met virtually on Monday, Dec. 6.
The first appointment of the evening was with the Finance Committee and Wage and Personnel. Chair of the Wage and Personnel Alan Wheelock said he was looking for this to be a collaborative meeting to discuss a cost-of-living increase without a vote or decision being made until the following week. “We have done our usual research and I think one of the things that we would like to hear from the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee on… is what components you would like to see incorporated into this [fiscal year 2022 plan]… this is a very, very unusual year that we have experienced and that we will continue to experience.” Selectmen Chair Christine Joy asked Wheelock if he had a recommendation. Wheelock said that the social security recommendation for a cost-of-living increase is 5.9 percent. He said that the number came as a surprise to many of the surrounding communities including Plympton. Wheelock said their recommendations have nothing to do with the school or police departments. “Our scope is quite small, I think it is less than 30 people that our recommendations have an impact on,” Wheelock said.
Chair of the Finance Committee Nathaniel Sides said that the town has never voted for a number that matches the social security recommendation in his six years with the exception of a recent year affected by COVID. He said that five out of six of those years the town has voted higher than the social security recommendation. “The overall dollar impact for the typical one percent, two percent increase… for this small group of employees when you calculate it all out… that pencils out to $25,000 or $30,000 impact out of an $11 million budget,” Wheelock explained. He acknowledged that going from the one or two percent increase to five percent was a significant jump. Wheelock said a possible solution might be a one-time bonus for the affected employees instead of blindly following the social security guidelines.
Joy said, “while your scope is pretty small… your recommendation is used in many contracts that the town has; wages are based on Wage and Personnel.” She also said that those numbers would be factored in when negotiating with the school as well. “It has pretty far-reaching tentacles with what we recommend,” she continued saying that the town couldn’t maintain more than a one or two percent increase.
Selectman Mark Russo said the question is whether the last 30 years of low inflation or this year is the aberration. “I had been feeling like the number of 2.5 sounded good,” he continued. Russo said they had to be careful with respect to precedent but said that he thought a bonus to reach the 3 percent number might be a rational approach. Selectman John Traynor said, “I think a year from now we’ll know if this year was an aberration.” Traynor said that 2 to 2.5 percent sounded right. He went on to say he was unsure about the bonuses as it would affect the contracts with other town employees. Wheelock confirmed Traynor’s suspicion that all the surrounding towns they spoke with were falling in the 2 to 2.5 percent range.
Elyse Lyons with Wage and Personnel said she would like to ask that the bonus be considered a one-year adjustment rather than a bonus. Sides pointed out that the town often has an issue with retention. “I think that would send a message that Plympton is a town that cares about their employees,” Sides said of the adjustment. Regarding retention Traynor said that to him it seemed to mostly apply to fire and police and said that he felt it was less about salary and more about moving to a more dynamic environment.
A decision will be made during the December 14 meeting of Wage and Personnel.
Town Administrator Liz Dennehy said the Plympton Hazard Mitigation Plan had been finalized and approved by necessary state agencies. The Selectmen voted unanimously to adopt the plan.
There was also a discussion of an appraisal of town-owned land located at Old Brook Street. Russo said they had previously discussed the viability of the site for Habitat for Humanity. Dennehy recommended getting an appraisal done for the land as a buildable lot versus a lot with restrictions. The options as presented were for the town to keep the lot, the town to go through the correct channels to sell the lot, or the town to partner with a non-profit to utilize the lot for affordable housing. Joy said it was her understanding that they likely would not use this lot for Habitat for Humanity due to its proximity to some industrial businesses. Traynor made a motion that the town get an appraisal for the lot. Russo voted against the motion, but it did pass with the support of both Joy and Traynor.
The cost of transfer station stickers was discussed as the cost of waste management went up 25 percent last year. The projected revenue shortfall for 2022 was nearly $19,000 just for household refuse. It was recommended that a $200 sticker increase in cost to $240 and the senior sticker be increased to $120 in order for the town to break even. The sticker price has not been increased since 2012. “It’s either going to come this way or it is going to show up in the tax rate,” Traynor said of the increase. “I think this is fair to the citizens and to the town; it’s regrettable that things are going up, but they are,” Russo said. The Selectmen voted to approve the increased rates. The recycling stickers stay the same price as previously at $30.
Two appointments were made during Monday’s meeting. Both Cameron Broderick and Nathan Cristofori were named as part-time police officers to indefinite terms.
Dennehy provided a Town Administrator’s update. She said that both the Green Communities Grant and the Hazard Mitigation Grant were nearly complete. She did note that they were denied an IT grant but said that they are currently conducting a full assessment of the town’s IT needs so it would put them in a better position to apply next year. Dennehy said that herself and Traynor had been working with multiple department heads to try and be better prepared for an emergency, long-term power outage. Public outreach messages and warming stations were discussed. She said they were also in talks with Carver about a possible overnight shelter should the need arise.
Plympton Elementary School Committee Chair Jon Wilhelmsen told the Selectmen that the paving at the new playground at Dennett Elementary would be happening that week. “The hope is that they will be able to open that up in the very near term; we were not able to put down the rubber surfacing due to the weather… we will put the rubber surfacing down in the spring,” he explained. He said the hope is that the playground can be used during the winter with wood chips in lieu of the rubber surfacing.
Russo’s rave was for new Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and her slogan, “we can do big things if we get small things right.” He said his rave was for her thirty-something energy and not being “burnt out.”
Joy said her rave was for town government and the “awesome team” Plympton has assembled. “I just feel fortunate to be part of this team all the time,” Joy said.
Traynor said he had two people come forward with raves. He said that a resident who’s relative was in an accident had high praise for multiple members of the fire and police departments. Another resident came forward with a rave for those departments as well.