The Rochester Board of Assessors want to replace retired assessor Debra Lalli with Debra Lalli as an appointee, but the Select Board delayed that appointment Monday night, objecting that the members should have been told sooner that this was the plan all along.
“Did you know this would happen?” Select Board Chairman Woody Hartley asked. “It would’ve been nice if we had known about her interest before.”
Hartley complained that the board would not have made the effort to advertise the position if it had known Lalli was interested in returning as an appointee. As a result of that effort, there is already one other applicant for the position, town Financial Director Suzanne Szyndlar. “You could have been a little more above board,” Hartley said.
Board of Assessors Chairperson Diana Knapp said Lalli sent her letter of interest to the board just recently. Someone of her experience is needed right now because the town is in the middle of a revaluation, she said. It is important for the sake of continuity that Lalli be the one to help the board with this project.
“We weren’t being secretive,” Knapp said. “This has been standard practice in the past. We didn’t know for certain what she would do. It was her call. We couldn’t say for sure she would do this.”
Hartley said the board only heard about Lalli’s interest the day of the Select Board meeting and that there would have to be two interviews now because of the other applicant.
Assessor Jana Cavanagh said they were hoping the Select Board would vote at Monday night’s meeting because of all the work they need to get done, but the board members voted to close the application process on Thursday, August 5, to then conduct interviews and vote to appoint on Monday, August 8, at 5 pm.
Next, the Select Board approved $96,783 in FY22, year-end budget transfers after Szyndlar explained transactions representing approximately 0.5 percent of the town’s annual operating budget and mainly the result of staff turnovers and budget overlaps.
Alan Decker of the Buzzards Bay Coalition convinced the board to approve a conservation restriction for 4 acres on Burgess Avenue near Walnut Plain Avenue that the group is calling “Head Water Bog.” Decker said the plan is to allow public access and maintain social trails there, and the small, one-acre bog on the property would be maintained for public demonstrations of bog work. He added, however, the coalition may add a parking lot for visitors.
In related action, the board voted not to exercise the town’s right to buy 8 acres on Featherbed Lane that is being taken out of 61A zoning protections. This acreage is in the middle of a proposed solar project, Town Counsel Blair Bailey said. He added that the town is close to imposing a moratorium on solar projects because three others like it are already in the works.
The selectmen then approved Monday, October 17, as the date for the fall Special Town Meeting and Monday, August 29, at 5 pm as the last day and time to file warrant articles. They awarded the transfer station siting contract to Tighe and Bond of Westfield for $32,500, and they appointed two police officers, Ryan Delmonte and Robert Orr, to cover the September 6 primary polling place.
In his report to the board, Town Administrator Glenn Cannon announced a variety of special dates and financial awards.
Friday, September 2, will be “Employee Appreciation Day,” and Town Hall will close at 11:00 am.
Rochester will be receiving $117,000 in Green Communities grants funds this year. Cannon noted the town approved $27,000 at Town Meeting for that matching grant program.
The town has received $10,000 from a COVANTA “outreach contribution.” Town departments will now submit requests for these funds. The selectmen will decide the recipients during their first September meeting.
Rochester’s offer to pay town COVID-positive employees for their first five days out sick will end on Saturday, September 3. Cannon said that is because the program funding the offer has expired.
Cannon is proposing to organize a Public Safety Building Feasibility Study Committee. He will post his proposed charge for this committee and seek the public’s and the Select Board’s input.
Hartley was happy to report to the board that Cannon recently met with Old Rochester Regional Superintendent of Schools Mike Nelson and Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Howie Barber. Hartley told the Wanderer that improving communication between municipal leaders and the ORR School District remains crucial as the Tri-Towns navigate the high cost of public education.
The next meeting of the Rochester Select Board is scheduled for Monday, August 15, at 6:00 pm.
Rochester Select Board
By Michael J. DeCicco