The Rochester Board of Selectmen on December 16 voted to accept a LAND (Land Acquisitions for Natural Diversity) grant for $345,769 for the purchase of a conservation restriction on 109 acres of wetlands and open space.
The 109 acres is located in the northeastern part of town off Walnut Plain Road and Old Middleboro Road and is owned by Decas Cranberry.
The conservation of this particular land is especially important, said Rochester Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon. The state has mapped the land as “highly desirable” for conservation, given the presence of the Eastern box turtle and other threatened species that make this part of Rochester their habitat. According to Farinon, the state favors conservation acquisitions like this one when it considers its grant applications.
The state’s LAND grant program helps municipalities acquire land for conservation and passive recreational use by reimbursing them up to $400,000 for land acquisition or for conservation restrictions.
“This particular project rang all the bells and whistles with the state,” said Farinon.
The Buzzards Bay Coalition assisted in negotiations with Decas Cranberry and will hold the fee in the property while the Town of Rochester will hold the conservation restriction.
The land will be made available for the use of public passive recreation with the creation of a trailhead and parking area.
The Board of Selectmen voted to authorize Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar to sign the LAND grant paperwork in order for the town to receive the funds.
The next step will be a formal acceptance of the grant money at the Annual Town Meeting.
The conservation restriction will be purchased by funds the town will front ahead of receiving the grant, and ultimately will be acquired at no cost to the town.
In other business, the selectmen set the date for the next Annual Town Meeting for May 18, 2020, at 7:00 pm at Rochester Memorial School.
The warrant is now open for citizens’ petitions and article submissions and will close at 1:00 pm on Friday, February 21.
Also during the meeting, Rochester Water Commissioner Fred Underhill gave the board an update on the water main project that will provide water from Middleboro to the Annie Maxim House on North Avenue.
“Finally, it looks as though it may come to fruition,” Underhill said.
According to Underhill, the project will be put out to bid in January. He was concerned about an extra $10,000 charge the Annie Maxim House will face due to its agreement to install a bigger 12-inch pipe down North Avenue as opposed to a nearby field along the Middleboro border – a request from the Town of Rochester. Underhill said the $10,000 charge was ordered by the Middleboro Water Department to install a vault in the road with a metering system in order to accommodate any future expansion in water to Rochester.
During her town administrator’s report, Szyndlar announced that the town has leased two new Chevrolet Volts, two fully-electric cars to replace the Kia Souls that only provided 90 miles per charge as opposed to the Volts that provide 260 miles per charge. At the end of the lease, the town will own the vehicles.
In other matters, the Facilities Department has received an $8,480 grant to purchase maintenance software to track and schedule town maintenance projects. The software will be installed at the Highway Department office.
“It will help improve the operations and just keep track of everything,” Szyndlar said.
The Fire Department received a $5,551 grant to purchase firefighter gear.
The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for January 6 at 6:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
Rochester Board of Selectmen
By Jean Perry