The Plympton Board of Selectmen met virtually on Monday, May 9. The first order of business was appointing Matt Ahl as the new Chief of Police effective through May 2025. Dan Hoffman was also appointed as Lieutenant for that same time frame. “I truly appreciate the opportunity; I’m really excited to get going tomorrow,” Ahl told the Selectmen. Regarding the promotions within the Department, Selectmen Chair Christine Joy said she was “looking forward to what the future holds for us.”
Ahl also spoke briefly regarding the Police Department budget which will be presented at town meeting next week. At an earlier Selectmen’s meeting, there had been some back and forth between the Selectmen and Finance Committee Chair Nathaniel Sides regarding the requested versus recommended amount. “The budget that we are looking at is to help sort of compensate for any staffing needs that we are going to have moving forward,” Ahl told the Selectmen. A ninth officer was approved during the previous fiscal year though the position remains unfilled. Ahl said that in recent months, they have had fifty and sixty something single officer shifts. Even with the addition of a ninth officer, Ahl said they would still have twenty something shifts to be covered. Ahl said that he was “truly hoping the Board would consider letting us move forward with that tenth officer.” He said that doing so would result in “complete stability within the Department.” He also noted, “it truly would offset a lot of the overtime.”
Ahl also told the Selectmen that he had an officer in the Academy and another four interviews that week. He also clarified that the amount he was seeking was actually the amount being recommended by the Finance Committee at town meeting. The Selectmen and Ahl agreed that should the funds be necessary for a tenth officer, that money could be appropriated during a special town meeting in the fall. Town Moderator Barry DeCristofano questioned if the additional amount could be requested at next week’s town meeting but the consensus amongst the Selectmen and Ahl was that they were not ready to make that case just yet. “We haven’t done the full analysis to back up the requested number,” Joy said. Selectman John Traynor agreed saying that they should take the necessary time first to map out all the shifts and identify remaining needs.
The Selectmen, DeCristofano, and Town Administrator Liz Dennehy went through the remaining articles and identified who would speak to each article. They also discussed the articles that would need holds placed on them during town meeting. Town Accountant Lisa Hart was present for the discussion as well as she would be putting the hold on many of the articles to clarify the amount recommended and the funding source for each. The Fire and EMS salaries are one of the articles in question. Traynor said that there was some extra money in ambulance compared to prior years which allow for less money to need to be raised and appropriated. Fire Chief Stephen Silva plans to speak to the requests.
Other changes include a $197 increase to the public works budget line 303 for the Highway Department. Dennehy said that there would be a request for budget line 310 for general highway needs to be amended back to $96,970. The Police Station debt is also going to be amended but reduced rather than increased. There will be an additional $20,000 carrying over from this year in the account. Dennehy noted that the funding for that budget line is coming from the Capital Stabilization Fund.
Sides remarked that the Finance Committee felt comfortable with their process and asked that that be taken into consideration. “These aren’t a given, they are just requests that we will give to the town and see how they want to vote,” Joy said.
A conversation ensued regarding the procedure for the storage of contracts and response to public records requests though what sparked the agenda item was unclear. Joy said that if a department or office wants a record from another town office, they must make a public records request. Town Clerk Patricia Detterman repeatedly inferred that the current way of handling and storing public record’s requests was not in line with the law as she said they needed to be provided to the town clerk as the town’s official records officer. “The contracts are certainly available it’s just they are under the control of the town accountant and appointing authority,” Joy said. The appointing authority is the Board of Selectmen as they are the keepers of the contracts. Joy interjected that they would have to agree to having different opinions to which Detterman insisted that it was not a matter of opinion but the law. Joy said that town counsel had assured the Selectmen that their way of dealing with such requests was “perfectly proper.”
The Selectmen voted to reappoint several town employees through June 30, 2023. Amongst those reappointed were Zoning Enforcement Officers Kathy Cannizzo and Tom Millias, the latter of whom was also reappointed as the Building Commissioner. Director of Elder Services Colleen Thompson and Highway Superintendent Rob Firlotte were also reappointed in addition to several others.
The Selectmen voted to award the Townhouse roof project to JD&D Construction out of Webster, MA for $162,000. Chair of the Town Properties Committee Jon Wilhelmsen said that they had received five bids in total. “One was out of whack on the high end, and one was out of whack on the low end.” He said that JD&D were on the low end of the appropriate-looking bids. Regarding the project, Dennehy said, “we have a great architect on board, and they have served us very, very well over the last few months.”
During her Town Administrator’s update, Dennehy said that there have been some recent opportunities for extra funding in town. She said that $25,000 has been earmarked for conservation/recreation uses. Another $115,000 is available for MassDOT related spending. Additionally, Dennehy said that there may be more American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds coming from the State. Regarding school funding, Wilhelmsen, who also chairs the Plympton School Committee, said, “we keep getting additional good news from our state rep.” He said that some of that funding could potentially be used for the Dennett roof project which would free up some ARPA funds.
Wilhelmsen also provided an update on the Dennett playground project. He said that additional Chapter 70 funds have become available due to enrollment increases. That funding in addition to a few other funding sources, including a donation from a resident, will likely make it possible to put rubberized surfacing under the entirety of the playground. According to Wilhelmsen doing so would create “maximum safety and maximum accessibility.” Wilhelmsen also explained that it would put the playground in a better spot in terms of changing regulations.
As is customary, the Selectmen ended the meeting with their rants and raves. Raves were given for Dennehy’s work on police contracts, mothers in general following Mother’s Day, and the centuries old town meeting process.