Codification Would Vet, Update and Unlock a ‘Wealth of Information’

Article 6 of the warrant for Rochester’s November 16 Special Town Meeting won’t be the most expensive, but its benefits may outlast those of the other eight articles that have been approved by the Rochester Board of Selectmen and the town’s Finance Committee.

            The final votes to those approvals took place during the selectmen’s joint hybrid/remote access meeting with FinCom, the Capital Planning Committee, town moderator, and town clerk on October 19.

            The $15,000 price tag to hire a consultant for the codification of Rochester’s bylaws is what Town Clerk Paul Dawson openly anticipated would be a maximum expenditure, possibly less and/or with an extended schedule to “ease the pain a bit.” Dawson will have a final price by Town Meeting. He told the selectmen and FinCom that it is a process he has managed on several occasions and insisted it will be well worth the investment.

            The two pieces to the codification update include a deep dive in the immediate to make necessary changes to and/or clean up old bylaws, delete those that are extinct and ensure attorney general approval. The cost for ongoing maintenance is estimated to be approximately one-tenth of the initial amount.

            The service comes with a number of bound hard copies, a searchable online document including details on when changes were made. Dawson called it a user-friendly document.

            “It’s nothing we want to do in-house,” said Selectman Woody Hartley.

            Town Counsel Blair Bailey said, “If we don’t spend (the money to get it done), we end up in the same position.”

            Dawson said that the documents that on hand emanate from work done up to six years ago, and a typical codification project can go take to two years to complete just to get the basic documents in place. Then the company will find out if the bylaws are legal with larger jurisdictions such as region, state, and federal levels. Once that analysis is complete, the results can be brought to Town Meeting for vote.

            “This includes a legal review as well,” said Hartley.

            Having asked questions that precipitated the revelation of the codification’s underlying value, Zoning Boards of Appeals Chairman Dave Arancio considered it a wealth of information. “That’s where I live,” he said, “in the weeds, so I appreciate the town counsel and the clerk. Thanks for your time.”

            Article 6 was among nine reviewed at Monday’s meeting.

            Articles 1-4 would allow the town to purchase trucks with plows, a tractor with a snowblower for the Highway and Facilities departments. The amounts range from $35,500 (used equipment that new could cost up to $170,000), $90,000, $69,000 and $51,000.

            Other items included a transfer to the Public Safety Stabilization Fund of $100,000 and transfer to the Capital Improvements Fund of $200,000.

            The Assessors were approved for a supplemental budget of $8,000 to overlap their retiring principal assessor during the transition period from January to June 30 of 2021.

            Article 7 is a pilot agreement proposal with Rochester MA 4, LLC, a Delaware-based developer with a Duxbury address, to see if payments in lieu of taxes can be made for a solar array the company wants to operate at 139 Sarah Sherman Road comparable in size to the solar farm on Mattapoisett Road. FinCom Chairman Kris Stoltenberg asked what would happen if the town voted against the arrangement. Bailey explained that the company would pay taxes; the purpose of a pilot program is to guarantee the town a revenue stream and at the same time let the company lockdown that cost.

            After the warrant was reviewed and approved, the Finance Committee adjourned.

            The Joseph H. Plumb Memorial Library opens on Monday, October 26, for the first time since the shutdown of state and municipal buildings in March.

            “We are at long-last ready to reopen, starting a week from tonight,” Gail Roberts, the town’s library director, told the selectmen, albeit with restrictions subject to the approval of the library’s trustees and Health Director Karen Walega.

            Visits to the library, at 17 Constitution Way, are to be held by appointment only and for no longer than 30 minutes. The governor’s stipulations include browsing but no inside programs. Facemasks will be required. New features at the library include self-service to check out items via a phone app called Hoopla. Patrons will also be able to download online items. A press release was scheduled to go out on Monday night, and Roberts also reported substantial improvement in the basement.

            Rochester has received $33,990 in its first-ever Green Communities grant-program disbursement. The funds apply to FY20. The town is eligible to apply over a three-year period for up to $135,960 for FY2021, but a more aggressive approach is anticipated.

            In her Town Administrator’s Report, Suzanne Szyndlar reported a Zoom meeting with Mark Weiland, Covanta’s new market-area asset manager. Covanta is one of the biggest taxpayers in Rochester.

            Szyndlar reported that the recycling grant is complete, and there will be no more inspection of bins for contaminants.

            The lighting project has been completed at the Senior Center on Dexter Road, and weather stripping of Rochester Memorial School doors will commence on Monday, October 26.

            Szyndlar gave a town building update including the completion of an elevator that is now waiting on state inspection. An intercom system has been installed at the Annex building, which is admitting visitors on a limited basis. “We’re working on that for Town Hall,” said Szyndlar, adding that a new video system allows employees to see a visitor outside the building and talk with them.

            Contract negotiations are beginning with Chief of Police Robert Small.

            The Tri-Town Zoom meeting of Rochester selectmen with Marion and Mattapoisett counterparts is scheduled for Thursday, October 22, at 7:00 pm. The meeting is posted at The Tri-Town contract with ORCTV remains on the agenda, but the joint agreement with the Old Rochester Regional School District was pulled as ORR is still waiting on essential financial information from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The ORCTV audit has been completed for 2018, and Szyndlar told the selectmen that 2019 is being worked on now.

            A Verizon pole hearing for private residents will be held on November 2.

            In other business, the selectmen reviewed and accepted the 2020 herring-migration report from Alewives Anonymous, Inc.

            Ominique Garner, of A.V. Rose Farms, 628 Walnut Plain Road, was appointed to the town’s Agricultural Commission.

            Hartley said he would like to see the town establish a consistent process for when the town is considering purchasing a parcel of land.

            The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for Monday, November 2.

Rochester Board of Selectmen/Finance Committee

By Mick Colageo

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