The Town of Rochester will lose two key employees at the end of Fiscal Year 2021, Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon and Town Planner Steven Starrett. Both employees’ resignation letters were officially accepted by the Board of Selectmen during its April 5 meeting.
Farinon was recognized for her 27 years of service to the town, as the board voted to accept each resignation and send out letters of appreciation to both her and Starrett.
“We wish her the best in her new endeavor,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman Paul Ciaburri of Farinon. “I’m sorry to see [Starrett] go, but hopefully we’ll find somebody as good.”
Town Counsel Blair Bailey identified the challenge of the coincidental departures as an opportunity to put heads together including those of Farinon and Starrett so that town officials can gain the understanding necessary to best define the respective jobs going forward and navigate toward what will be two pivotal hires.
“This is a good opportunity, at least from my end, for us to look at both positions and see what we want from a priority standpoint,” said Bailey. “Because they’re both open, we really need to look at [both positions] as one package. …We just definitely need to jump on this because they’re both gone at the end of the fiscal year.”
FY21 comes to an end on June 30.
As Rochester’s only conservation agent, Farinon’s original part-time job soon became full-time, and her multiple adjudicatory boards in town and the Mattapoisett River Valley Water District commission and safety committee have benefitted from her guidance. While Starrett has been the town’s planner on a part-time basis, the experience and institutional knowledge that both have brought to the town cannot be replicated.
Starrett has served Rochester in a part-time capacity the past four to five years, according to Ciaburri.
While deferring to Selectman Brad Morse’s experience, Selectman Woody Hartley volunteered to represent the selectmen in a think tank that would presumably include Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar, the chairmen of the Planning Board and Conservation Commission, and input from Farinon and Starrett.
“Initially I think it needs to be all three of us, I really do, because this is a monumental change time that we can really see where we’re heading with our planning [and] conservation,” said Morse. “That’s a major personnel change.”
Without Starrett’s representation to the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District (SRPEDD), Bailey suggested that the Planning Board appoint one of its members.
Reporting on behalf of Szyndlar, who was absent, Bailey told the selectmen that the FY22 draft budget of $22,858,381 constitutes an approximate $631,215 or 2.84-percent increase.
The Board of Selectmen will finalize the budget proposal at its April 20 meeting, where it will be joined by the Finance Committee to go over the draft warrant for the Annual Town Meeting.
Rochester received some good financial news, as the town’s third CARES Act funding request for $113,132.75 is complete. Federal CARES Act funds reimburse individual municipalities for non-budgeted, pandemic-related expenses.
In other news, Hartley announced that the state Department of Transportation has informed the town that it will not be required to kick in 20 percent of the $53,000 Senior Center improvement project.
SEMASS, meanwhile, sent Rochester a $10,000 check for outreach, so the selectmen have $20,000, including the $10,000 that was not spent last year, and will consider requests on April 20.
In other business, the board approved the ambulance hardship application for funds, and approved the appointment of Jordan Latham to the Rochester Cultural Council.
The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for Tuesday, April 20, at 6:00 pm.
Rochester Board of Selectmen
By Mick Colageo