Town Administrator Elizabeth Dennehy gave an update to Plympton selectmen at Monday night’s meeting on the proposed contract with Regional Old Colony Communications Center (ROCCC). The Selectmen had previously met with members of the ROCCC to discuss the large increase in dispatch costs to the town. Plympton paid $50,000 for this fiscal year and the increase proposed by ROCC discussed previously was $200,000 annually. Following that meeting, the ROCCC has since suggested a fee of $125,000 due by July 1 for the next fiscal year, increasing to $175,000 the following year.
Joy said, “The $125,000 to me, seems very reasonable and I think we should attempt to lock that in given the service that they provide. I don’t know if we want to see if there’s any room to further negotiate the $175,000.” Joy did say that she would want to ensure that if another community were to join the center, Plympton’s rate would be adjusted accordingly. Traynor said that he believed it would cost the town more than $200,000 to handle their dispatch services any other way. Russo, however, was not as eager to agree to the newly proposed rates saying he still takes issue with the formula used to determine call volume.
“My concern right now is that the means they’re using to come up with this allocation is just way off – the number of calls. Us having three times as many calls as a town with three times as many citizens (Halifax) is just crazy,” Russo explained. Dennehy and Russo agreed to have another meeting with the ROCCC.
The board discussed various roads in town. Resident Bill Manganello of 67 Pleasant St. was represented by Gary James of James Engineering, Inc. in his request to the board for a discontinuation of a county roadway. James said that the right of way in question was laid out back in the 1960s and has been unchanged since. A right of way easement essentially gives someone else the right to use a specific portion of the landowner’s property. Showing the selectmen and Highway Superintendent Rob Firlotte a map of the area, James said that their suggestion would be to widen the existing road and utilize that rather than the right of way. James said that the administrative staff at the County Commissioner had indicated that they would need the request to come from the Board of Selectmen rather than a private individual.
Selectman John Traynor asked if it would affect any neighbors and was told that, if anything, it would help them as they would be gaining a bit of land back. Manganello explained to the board that he is trying to apply for a 61A application but has run into an issue due to the parcel being separated.
“So that’s the motivation? To get this into condition where you could go into 61A?,” Selectman Mark Russo asked. Manganello explained, “The main problem that has motivated this whole thing was them charging on the right of way for taxes.” Manganello went on to explain that he was being charged doubly for frontage taxes and that it was not a small amount. His hope is to make it one continuous lot.
Chair Christine Joy asked if there would be any expense to the town and was told no. Traynor said that he didn’t see a drawback, but Russo was more hesitant saying, “I’m just trying to be careful that there are not unintended consequences that we’re missing and there’s a part of me that wonders if we shouldn’t be checking with town counsel just to be sure.” James offered to draft a letter that could be reviewed by town counsel prior to taking up the matter again at the next selectmen’s meeting.
The Selectmen and Firlotte discussed the intersection at Main Street and Ring Road. The intersection has been deemed one of the most dangerous in town and was one of the motivations behind the article at special town meeting which granted permission to the selectmen to create safety zones at designated intersections by lowering the speed limit. Traynor said, “If you’re coming from the town house, it is very hard, especially when all the foliage is out, to get a clear look down there. If you’re going to make a left-hand turn onto Ring Rd., it’s a little dicey.” The selectmen also said that many drivers fail to yield despite the yield sign. Firlotte offered to speak with some engineers and get their feedback.
“My inclination is to wonder if we might try the lowering of the speed limit, the creating of the safety zone which we’re authorized to do based on the special town meeting and just see what happens with that, see if that works,” Russo said. He continued, “The advantage of that is it is really inexpensive, and we avoid any problems with disrupting current property lines. I don’t know if it’s enough, but it would be a start.” Russo also said that the reduced speed limit would be 20 mph. The selectmen agreed to put the discussion of a safety zone at that intersection on the agenda for the following meeting. The selectmen also mentioned that the abutters may want to be in attendance for that discussion.
Dennehy updated the selectmen on the modular home that was declared surplus and put out to bid. The sealed bid opening was held on Thursday, February 6 with a single bid of $8,100. The selectmen voted to award that modular home to the sole bidder, John Mathias.
Colleen Thompson was in attendance to speak to the proposed talent bank form for the town. Traynor said that it was modeled on the one used by Halifax. Thompson and the selectmen discussed possible ways to encourage volunteering including manning a table with the talent bank forms during town gatherings including election days or town meetings. Russo also suggested possibly including it in a town-wide mailing.
Russo asked the other members of the board to authorize him to seek a contract with Colonial Power Group should it prove beneficial to the town. Russo said that Colonial Power Group had informed them that natural gas is at a six-year low. Traynor said that he was fine with it as long as residents were made aware of what their current rate is versus the new proposed rate under Colonial Power Group. Traynor also wanted to make sure that residents understood that they could opt out. The selectmen voted to allow Russo to explore a new contract.
Dennehy informed the board that a resident had inquired about the possibility of placing several blue bird nesting boxes along the town green and cemetery. The resident offered to donate the boxes but was seeking permission to install them. Joy suggested that there might be a better location for those boxes such as the preserve. Russo, a veterinarian, said, “It’s pretty easy for human beings to well intentionally make a change and change the ecosystem.” Russo offered to look into the matter further.
Dennehy provided an update on the town’s response to the Coronavirus. “It does sound like they feel that places should be kind of gearing up in the event that we did need to start closing certain things whether it be the Council on Aging, the library, or the town house to get some plans in place,” Dennehy explained. She said she had been in touch with both the Police Chief and the Fire Chief as well as the Board of Health. “They’re very much on top of it,” Dennehy said.