Conservation Agent Hire Takes Turn

            The formality of the hire of Brian Vasa as Rochester’s new environmental planner and conservation agent took a twist during Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting when the selectmen voted to sign an employment agreement approving the hire of Marilee Kelly.

            The two were identified as finalists and interviewed for the job during the selectmen’s last meeting on June 7, after which the selectmen voted to enter negotiations with Vasa.

            Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar explained that Vasa, the conservation agent for the Town of Plympton, changed course and declined the Rochester’s offer and the job went to Kelly, the other finalist who has been working at the conservation agent for the Town of Acushnet.

            The selectmen voted to sign a Retirement Citation for Laurell Farinon for her service over the past 27 years as Rochester’s conservation agent.

            Also retiring from service to the town is Cynthia Mello, who has been the town treasurer for the past 14 years. The selectmen voted to accept Mello’s retirement notice and will send her a letter of appreciation. Szyndlar noted that Mello has offered to assist in the hiring process, and the town anticipates the first round of candidates in mid-July.

            In her Town Administrator’s report, Szyndlar told the board that the Rochester School Committee is seeking assistance from the selectmen per protocol after the May 26 election’s failure to elect a new member. The School Committee wants a meeting with the selectmen to appoint a nominee, which would be a public meeting requiring posting with 48 hours’ notice.

            Noting that this addition to the school committee will go to the next town election, Selectman Woody Hartley asked any interested people to please send a letter to Old Rochester Regional Superintendent of Schools Mike Nelson at the ORR Central Office, 135 Marion Road, Mattapoisett.

            “I know they want to get it done as soon as possible,” said Hartley.

            The next selectmen’s meeting would fall on July 5, but Szyndlar recommended holding off scheduling the next meeting until a meeting with the Rochester School Committee is set and use that meeting to handle any other Board of Selectmen business.

            Fred Underhill and David Hughes from the Water Commission addressed the board in an effort to hasten the process of setting up a meeting with Town of Wareham representatives to expand the water agreement between the towns.

            The Water Commission is also making an effort to pool resources with the towns of Lakeville, Middleborough, and Freetown in an effort to gain more control of New Bedford’s and Taunton’s usage of water emanating from the four smaller towns.

            “Not that it may get us anywhere, but at least we can give it a whirl,” said Underhill.

            Once the state Department of Environmental Protection makes its recommendation regarding New Bedford’s water withdrawal permit, Rochester has 90 days to respond, according to Underhill, who said that New Bedford and Taunton presently have the right to withdraw water until safety thresholds are reached and that Taunton is interested in drawing more water.

            Town Counsel Blair Bailey said that Rochester expressed this same concern to the state three years ago.

            The selectmen voted to accept Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the federal government and authorized a representative to sign grant awards. Szyndlar said there is still some discussion as to whether the new program will be administered through Plymouth County as has been the case with the pandemic reimbursement funding of the federal CARES Act.

            Szyndlar also reported that Rochester is eligible for the next round of mutual energy assistance via its membership in the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD). The grant would provide Green Communities assistance up to $4,000 per year. Szyndlar told the board that she has already applied for the funding ahead of the July 2 deadline.

            The selectmen set October 18 as the date for the Special Town Meeting and voted to hold open a spot on the warrant for solar energy company Solect Energy’s lease article. The board voted to set September 17 as the deadline date for article submission.

            Hartley reported that, starting Monday, June 28, the Senior Center will have breakfast five days a week.

            Rochester is looking to replenish its tax work-off list. Anyone interested in tax work-off should contact Senior Center Director Eric Poulin at 508-763-8723. Hartley said people fill in at Town Hall and at the Senior Center on tax work-off. “It’s an opportunity for those people (over age 65) to reduce their real estate tax,” he explained.

            Szyndlar said five people are interested in two full-time vacancies on the Conservation Commission. Hartley indicated interest in attending the next ConCom meeting to sit in on the commission’s review of candidates before recommendations come before the selectmen.

            The selectmen also voted to sign a Revenue Anticipation Note (RAN) for a pump for the Fire Department.

            Selectman Paul Ciaburri reported a June 16 COVID-19 clinic that drew approximately 150 people to receive their second vaccination.

            The selectmen entered executive session to prepare for negotiations with school union personnel.

            The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen was not scheduled before the public portion of the June 21 meeting had ended.

Rochester Board of Selectmen

By Mick Colageo

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