The Plympton Board of Selectmen met on the evening of Monday, Oct. 19. Chair of the Finance Committee Nathaniel Sides made a brief visit. Sides told the selectmen that he was looking for their support in getting better budget monitoring and reporting from the various departments in town as they prepare for the next fiscal year. Sides said that there was in influx of last-minute requests to the Finance Committee this year.
“I think that a formal letter would be helpful,” Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy said. Dennehy agreed to draft a letter to the departments to be signed by herself, Sides, and Selectmen Chair Mark Russo. Sides said he would also like to see regular updates coming from the revenue side as well. “We surely hear you. Some of this is structural and systemic and may take a while but moving in that direction surely makes sense,” Russo told Sides.
Continuing with the new tradition of meeting with a different department head at their meetings, Highway Superintendent Rob Firlotte attended Monday’s meeting. The topics of discussion included the two safety zones which would reduce the speed limit to 20 mph, initial research on restricting heavy truck traffic, and a redesign of the intersection at Main St. and Ring Rd.
Firlotte said he had received an estimate that day from an engineering firm for much of the work. Russo said that he didn’t believe that all of the services listed in the estimate were necessary and proposed saving money by asking for a lesser scope particularly for the safety zones. Russo said he was, “just wondering if we have to spend that much, at least initially.” He proposed signage and painting of the road as an inexpensive first step. Firlotte said he would reach out to the engineer again and ask for the quote to be amended. Russo said that should they decide to move forward with a redesign of any of the intersections, he would hope that there would be a funding source available. Before Firlotte left the meeting, Russo said of him, “Rob’s been doing an amazing job.”
Chair of the Plympton School Committee Jon Wilhelmsen was also in attendance and told the selectmen that himself, Mike Antoine, and Jason Fraser had interviewed two candidates for an open spot on the Silver Lake Regional School Committee to be filled with a Plympton resident. Wilhelmsen sang the praises of both candidates saying, “I wish we had two spots because both were excellent candidates.” In the end they chose Lukasz Kowalksi to come before the Plympton selectmen.
Kowalksi told the Board that he is originally from Poland but has spent the last twelve years in the United States. Kowalski, who doesn’t have any children but said he is a former teacher, said, “I love this place so far and I would like to do something for the school.” In closing, Kowalksi said, “I’m a tough guy. I’m a fighter and I will fight for kids and especially for Plympton kids.”
Kowalski was appointed to a 1-year term with the position to appear on the ballot in May for a 2-year term. Since it is an elected position, it can only be filled until the next election.
While there were no specific issues at the Dennett, Wilhelmsen said that since Kingston has been in the red zone for COVID infections for the last two weeks, the data that comes out this week will be significant. Back in September Governor Baker urged communities to use three weeks’ worth of data to make decisions regarding changes in school models. Should the trend continue in Kingston, the affected school committees will have to at least consider moving to a fully remote model.
Wilhelmsen also told the selectmen that they are continuing to struggle with securing substitutes at Dennett Elementary. He said there are more staff absences than normal as staff is being encouraged not to come to work if they are feeling unwell in any way. Wilhelmsen said they have been encouraging members of the community to step up and offer to substitute. The Dennett may need to hire a full-time building-based substitute as was done at both Halifax Elementary and Silver Lake Regional. CARES Act funds were used to order laptops for teachers at the Dennett as the chromebooks were proving inadequate for their needs.
Selectman John Traynor, who is acting as the interim director of the Council on Aging (COA) provided an update on the COA to his fellow selectmen. Traynor said he plans to get a newsletter out to older residents to alert them of what services are available to them such as plowing and handyman services.
Traynor said he is putting in 25 hours per week into the job currently and stated that once the position is filled, it should be recognized that it requires more than 10 hours per week despite that being all that can be paid out. “Thank you so much for jumping into the breach,” Russo said to Traynor.
There was a request for use of town owned property for Sunday, Oct. 25 from 2-4 p.m. for a Track or Treat program put on by Plympton Athletic Youth Sports (PAYS). Initially the Board of Health rejected the idea but PAYS has since put extensive efforts into making sure it would be both fun and safe. The Board of Health has since signed off on the event. “I know a considerable amount of thought went into this,” Dennehy explained. The selectmen agreed to the event pending a sign off from both the Police and Fire departments.
Dennehy said that in conjunction with the emergency management team and the Board of Health, it was decided that the townhouse would be closed to regular business both on election day and the following Wednesday. The intention would be to minimize the number of people in the building on election day and then have it professionally disinfected the day after. Dennehy also said that a ballot box has been bolted to the ground outside of the townhouse and that residents can drop their ballots off at any hour of the day. Dennehy’s final update was that the Fire Chief had submitted $173,000 in CARES ACT expenditures to be submitted for reimbursement.
The selectmen ended their meeting with their raves of the past week. Christine Joy said her rave was for PAYS for coming up with a safe alternative to Halloween. Russo said his rave was for the Bylaw Review Committee for how willing and eager they are to volunteer for things. “It’s so refreshing,” Russo said, adding, “It’s quite beautiful.” Russo’s second rave was for the Walt Whitman poem, Election Day, November, 1884. Traynor said his rave was for the volunteers of the town referring to them as Plympton’s “backbone.”
Dennehy also had a rave that she wanted to share. Fire Chief Stephen Silva, his wife Deb Silva, Captain Cheryl Davis and Amira Kim, also of the Plympton Fire Department spent their Saturday evening rearranging and organizing the COA pantry at the townhouse. Council on Aging Administrative Assistant Jean Pacheco said she was nearly brought to tears by how good the pantry looked.