The Monday, May 17 Plympton Board of Selectmen meeting began with a reorganization of the Board. Current Clerk John Traynor led the reorganization nominating himself to serve as Chair for the coming year. Upon not hearing a motion for a second, Traynor said, “So, knowing that this was coming, I at least would like to point out a few things. I’ve been involved in town government for 33 years, 12 on the Finance Committee, eight on the Library Trustee, eight as Moderator, and five years as Selectman. For the last five years we have rotated the Chair every year except one when Mr. Russo declined it. My community involvement, as I’m sure like yours, is I go back as far as being a Cub Scout Treasurer. I’m founder of the Library Genealogy Club and a longtime member of the Upland Club where I served as President, Vice President, Treasurer and Director at various times. So, I guess my question to Mr. Russo and Mrs. Joy is what exactly has prevented you from seconding my nomination?”
Referencing an email sent requesting her support of the motion, Selectman Christine Joy said that her concern was open meeting law. “I think you are incredibly qualified, and I have no doubt that you always have the best interest of the town at heart. Perception is so important, and I think that we always need to err on the side of caution.” Selectman Mark Russo said, “We each have strengths and some weaknesses; we each have different styles. I think, actually, to some extent, that has been the strength of the three of us together in four years; our styles have been kind of complimentary. We have our set projects, our pet projects and we’ve done very well over the past four years… really it’s just a matter of style… the best person to Chair would be Christine.” Traynor then made a motion that Joy be made Chair for the coming year. It was then voted through unanimously. Traynor was voted Vice-Chair and Russo was named Clerk.
The Selectmen then turned their attention to the next steps and timeline of the disposition of town owned land. Traynor asked that it be put on the agenda for the following meeting so that the Town Properties Committee could lend their thoughts. Colleen Morin and Christine Kelly from the Treasurer’s Office were on the line as was Atty. David Coppola. Coppola provided an explanation of how towns typically dispose of land that they have acquired through tax foreclosure. “Once you have these properties the town can use these properties for their own town purposes or if they don’t have a need for them, they can subsequently sell them and the most common way to do that and probably the simplest way to do that is through public auction.” Coppola explained that the Board of Selectmen would appoint someone to oversee the sale of the property with that person generally being the treasurer/collector though he noted it can really be any qualified individual. That custodian would then work with other town departments to determine which properties will be auctioned. The next step would be to actually hold the auction. Coppola said another option would be a request for sealed bids; the property would have to be declared surplus through a town meeting vote.
Joy asked Chair of the Town Properties Committee Jon Wilhelmsen when he thought the Committee would be able to survey the list of properties and make recommendations. Wilhelmsen said that they had looked at some lists saying, “from a general perspective, I think the Town Properties Committee is certainly in favor to sell properties that people have an ability to use but not such that they are able to take those and combine them to create buildable lots; we don’t think that is a wise use of the land and… better almost to leave the land as open.” Wilhelmsen said they would look at whatever list the Board of Selectmen would like them to at their next Town Properties meeting.
Next on the agenda was a discussion of Area 58’s live meeting coverage. Traynor said that one of the things that had been discussed was the possibility of streaming the Board of Selectmen meetings live while also capturing it with Zoom. He said the one attempt to do so, did not work out though Area 58 felt it was still possible with some tweaks. Traynor reached out to Silver Lake Regional Technology Director Steve Pellowe who said it would be a relatively easy process taking roughly two hours to complete if the right consultant was brought onboard.
Russo expressed some concern about using Area 58’s Zoom number as opposed to their own saying he was hesitant to give up that control. Traynor said that one of the benefits as he sees it, is that seniors who may not have the technology know-how to figure out Zoom, could turn on their televisions and live stream the meetings that way.
Following the discussion on Area 58, Joy turned to the Host Community Agreement (HCA) with Sweet Grass Farms on 77 Spring St. Town Administrator Liz Dennehy said that Russo and herself had been in contact with town counsel to see what an HCA draft would look like. Dennehy said they would need to determine if they are asking for the three percent impact fee right at the outset. She also said that they would need to determine how to handle the community benefit fund; some towns ask for it as one lump sum of say $50,000 while other towns take a more incremental approach receiving something like $10,000 a year. The third item that would need to be ironed out would be the charitable contributions. The project proponent would have the say over which local entities they would disperse the funds to. “Sweet Grass Enterprise has been really great to work with so far and they seem like a really nice earnest bunch,” Russo said. He said he saw the three percent surcharge to be reasonable. For the other funds, Russo said he would be in favor of a much more modest ask. Traynor said he was in favor of the higher amount for the community benefit fund.
After much discussion, Dennehy said that for this round of negotiations they would ask for the three percent impact fee. Joy proposed finding out what Sweet Grass had in mind for the other categories. Dennehy said that they could ask them if they would prefer the community benefit fund to be in the form of a one-time lump sum payment or whether that would be too much to ask of a small, start-up company. Wilhelmsen suggested taking the payments and putting it away to be used for something greater than just offsetting budget items. He likened it to the Dennett using school choice funds in part to pay for the new playground.
Dennehy provided an update on various topics including COVID 19. “Our Covid numbers are as low as we’ve seen them,” she told the Board. She said the town has reconnected with GATRA so being accepted as a member community is still on the horizon. She said that work on the Soule Homestead project is still underway as well. Dennehy also said that the Old Colony Planning Council (OCPC) did great work for the Highway Department regarding traffic counts for speed zones. They will be attending the June 7 Board of Selectmen meeting to discuss their findings.
As customary, the Board ended their meeting with their rants and raves for the last few weeks. Russo said, “I was incredibly impressed for a little tiny town in slightly challenging times how smooth the town meeting operation was; I want to rave about the town administrator, the town moderator, the school people, the town clerk, the AV people and Area 58. That was really cool; that was really well put together.” He also said he was impressed with how serious residents were who attended the meeting.
Traynor said he wanted to rave about Barry DeCristofano’s handling of town meeting saying he “runs it as good as anybody has ever run it.”
Joy said her first rave was for Brian Kling and his handling of an incident involving her own dog. Her second rave was for the various local Fire Departments’ handling of a house fire on her street the night before.