It was announced during the Monday, Feb. 8 Plympton Board of Selectmen meeting that town accountant Barbara Gomez will resign effective May 27, 2021. Selectman Christine Joy said she accepted the resignation “with regret but tremendous appreciation of Barbara’s years of service to the town.” Joy continued saying, “she has been our financial rock that we’ve all leaned on; she will definitely leave a void.” Selectman Chair Mark Russo expressed gratitude to Gomez for “her patience along the way,” particularly in his early days on the Finance Committee and as a new selectman.
Town treasurer/collector Colleen Morin will retire effective June 3, 2021. Joy again expressed regret, this time at losing Morin who she called a “super source of information.”
“The nice thing is the foundation has been laid by Barbara and Colleen and it’s always great when we know that things are running well and we can take off from there,” Selectman John Traynor said. Of Morin, Russo said he was “very appreciative of her patience and sharing of wisdom along the way and a quite ready smile which was very much appreciated.” “Their expertise and kindness over the years has been very much appreciated and both of them will be well missed,” town administrator Liz Dennehy said.
Area 58 Director Richard Goulart attended Monday’s meeting to provide an overall update as well as discuss a renewal for the existing agreement which expired in September of 2020. The original agreement was signed in September of 2015. Goulart explained, “Substantively [we] don’t intend to change the agreement in any significant way.” He said that they would likely address COVID in the new agreement. Russo said, “cable access is just a constantly and rapidly evolving field… fully recognize this will probably look totally different in five years.”
Goulart said that currently Area 58 is operating out of 96 North Main St. in Carver but noted that they were hoping to move to a different location closer to both Plympton and Halifax. He said the hope is to cut down on their expenses associated with their location. Their current layout is around 3,000 square feet and their new location would need to be at least as large. Goulart said they were looking for feedback on possible locations.
Goulart said that both Carver and Halifax are occasionally holding live meetings but noted the extent to which COVID has changed their business. Traynor asked if it would be possible to live stream the selectmen meetings. Goulart said that it would be possible as long as Area 58 were the hosts of the Zoom meeting. “If you can do them live then that’s going to give us a lot more outreach,” Traynor said. Goulart said they are working on a plan for how to go live from the selectmen’s meeting room once in-person meetings are resumed. Joy spoke to a possible negative of having Area 58 host the virtual meetings as the selectmen or town administrator would lose their ability to mute a participant were things to get out of hand or inappropriate.
Traynor mentioned that he hasn’t seen the school committee meetings being posted to Area 58 regularly. Goulart said that he has had difficulty obtaining the recordings of the virtual school committee meetings. He noted that Area 58 has put out feelers to see if the committees would like them to record them or if they would be able to jump on and record the meetings while they are taking place. Plympton School Committee Chair Jon Wilhelmsen was on the call and said that he should be the contact person for the Plympton School Committee meetings.
Dennehy provided a general update on town business. She said that to date, the town had not offered a dental plan for town employees. According to Dennehy the town carries some excess in that particular budget line. She said the cost to the town would be $120 a month for families or $60 a month for individuals. Russo called it “a nice benefit that people will really appreciate without a huge expense to the town.” Joy asked if it would apply to retirees as well and was told it likely would. All the selectmen voted in favor of offering the plan.
Dennehy also provided an update to the water emergency at the Highway Barn on 23 Palmer Road. A large water leak occurred following the recent snowstorm. As of Monday’s meeting, Dennehy said that the affected ceiling tiles had been removed. She said they were unable to tarp the roof due to it being a metal roof as well as some repairs that had taken place, so they used sealant instead. The barn will also have to be checked for damage to insulation in the walls. Dennehy thanked Administrative Assistant Briggette Martins, who she said has extensive experience in insurance, for her work in getting the claims processed.
Dennehy said that the town has been working on their hazard mitigation plan and noted that there will be a public workshop in the next month or so that will be recorded through Zoom. She said she hoped to televise it live as well. The town is looking into several grant opportunities including one that the Fire Chief is working on to increase manpower. Dennehy said that the town had unfortunately received word that one of their larger projects that they were hoping to run through Green Communities would need to go through the procurement process.
The COVID-19 update was brief with Dennehy saying that the numbers have come down a bit in town. Plympton is now designated in the yellow risk category.
Wilhelmsen provided an update on Dennett Elementary and recapped the School Committee meeting from a few weeks ago. During that meeting, which was well attended, there was a lot of public interest around getting more students back into the classroom for more in-person learning. Wilhelmsen said that despite everyone agreeing that more in-person time is better for the children, there are still many logistical issues that stand in the way including limited bus capacity, the physical distancing requirement of 6 ft at lunchtime, and shortages with staff and substitutes, in particular. “To date, we have not gone full remote at all during the school year… we think we’ve had some good successes there,” he explained.
Wilhelmsen mentioned that teachers and elementary school staff are part of the third tier of Phase Two for vaccine distribution. He said the School Committee is interested in looking at what other plans can be put into place in addition to that mitigating factor. “How can we do this in a safe and effective manner both for students but also for teachers and other staff at the Dennett?” Wilhelmsen said that he would be holding a Zoom information session for parents along with Principal Peter Veneto later that week. He said the hope was to keep the lines of communication open and provide parents an opportunity to ask additional questions. “if parents are watching here, we are looking at how we can do this and do it in the right way so that we are successful.”
“I’ll just acknowledge the incredible challenge of balancing the needs and the wishes of numerous variant and disparate stakeholders and groups; you’re surely in the midst of kind of the crossfire from a lot of different directions and we’re glad you’re still standing,” Russo told Wilhelmsen.
Before moving to their rants and raves for the last few weeks, the selectmen also approved a request for use of town property. A Daisy Girl Scout Troop out of Plympton requested to work on the garden beds at the library throughout the spring, summer, and fall. They plan to clean, plant, and maintain the garden beds. Correspondence said that they also plan to do the work entirely outdoors and will adhere to all required safety protocols.
Joy said that she had two raves for the week, the first of which was for Traynor, Russo, and Dennehy working with Senator Michael Brady and Representative Kathleen LaNatra to advocate for the town and to be proactive in looking at ways to meet the town’s needs. “I’m sure a lot of good is going to come out of that,” she said.
Her second rave was for all those that stepped up to deal with the water emergency at the Highway Department including Briggette Martins and Fire Chief Stephen Silva. She noted that without a facilities manager, other people really had to step up to the plate. Chair of the Board of Health Art Morin also spoke up sharing a rave for the same.
Traynor’s rant was for the problems seen in the rollout of Phase 2 of vaccine distribution for individuals aged 75 and over. “I’ve never seen a website problem like the State has created… unfortunately, it’s just a nightmare,” Traynor said. Traynor said that it wasn’t until after filling out all necessary forms that the website would tell you there were no spots available for the selected date. He said this would happen repeatedly. “I think the State and Governor Baker are going to lose a lot of marks over this… it should have been done better,” he said. Both the Council on Aging and Fire Captain Cheryl Davis were assisting those that needed it with filling out the forms and booking appointments. Morin agreed with Traynor saying, “from a Board of Health perspective… it’s appalling.”
Russo said that with both the town accountant and town treasurer leaving, it got him thinking about mentors as he said he has considered both of them mentors along the way. Russo said he has been spending a fair amount of time at Churchill Park where there is a bench dedicated to Gail Briggs. He said that had the town had the opportunity to name either Churchill Park or Cato’s Ridge after someone it would have been Briggs. He mentioned that Briggs passed away before all of her decades’ worth of work came to fruition. “That bench is a wonderful place to sit at the beginning of the Boardwalk to see what she created and remember how her foresight and energy brought forth something that is so beautiful; thinking of you Gail and really appreciative,” Russo said.