Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar told the Rochester Board of Selectmen during its May 17 meeting that the town has been approved for a Master Plan study. The full application is due on June 4.
While it is considered logistically impossible to complete a Master Plan for the town in time to meet the seven-month window that ends with the June 30 grant deadline, a feasibility study is the short-term goal and an overall plan to be addressed in phases.
“If we chose to do it all at once, we would have to look at other funding sources,” said Szyndlar, reporting a cost of approximately $90,000.
After discussing the Master Plan with Eric Arbeene of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), Szyndlar described it as a 10 to 15-year outlook that would be established with SRPEDD acting much like an administrative assistant, conducting outreach including meetings with the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen. SRPEDD would create a website so townspeople can view Master Plan surveys, price proposals, and attend workshops.
“Planning has to have some input,” said Selectman Woody Hartley, who is in favor of the town pursuing its Master Plan on a chapter-by-chapter basis. “Mattapoisett is going through the process right now…. They’re having some really good discussions.”
Selectman Brad Morse noted that 15 years ago before social media’s emergence, such meetings were conducted at the church.
“A lot has changed,” said Hartley. “Planning Board has to direct this because it’s their call.”
Hartley said he would like to see a group meeting including outgoing Town Planner Steve Starrett, outgoing Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon, and the Planning Board.
Szyndlar said the feasibility study is more important, and Hartley agreed it would be the right place to focus. Citing key personnel transition, Szyndlar said, “Sometimes a pause is the most prudent thing…. There’s going to be a learning curve.”
In her Town Administrators Report, Szyndlar told the selectmen she received an email from Old Rochester Regional Superintendent Mike Nelson notifying the town that ORR will be going into negotiations with Rochester Memorial School support staff and asking if a Rochester selectman would like to be part of ORR’s negotiation team.
Morse will fill the role. “It does fall right along with a lot of the things that we’re discussing,” he said.
Last year’s was a one-year contract, so the sides are back at the table.
The selectmen voted to approved two appointments, that of Eric Poulin as the new Council on Aging director and Christopher Gerrior as the new Veterans Services director taking the place of the retiring Barry Denham.
Morse recommended that, given the history of overlap between the Senior Center and veterans services, the two new appointees should get together. “We’ve had a history of having veteran involvement in the Senior Center,” said Hartley, noting his agreement.
The selectmen also voted to accept Christina White’s letter of resignation from the Agricultural Commission. Morse motioned that the selectmen send her a letter of thanks.
There are three openings now on the Agricultural Commission. Hartley said the membership has never exceeded five. “[We’re] back down to four, so we’re back on the edge,” said Hartley, offering a public plea. “So, please, if you’re a farmer in town … think about joining the Agricultural Commission. They’re very active in town…. They’re very interested in doing things. Send a letter to Suzanne. We would love to have a full commission.”
Under correspondence, the selectmen voted to officially reject on behalf of the town’s Board of Assessors the Provision of General Law Chapter 59 Section 2D. “This is basically housekeeping,” said Szyndlar, explaining it as a vote to reject a supplemental tax assessment. “Supplemental billing is not necessary.”
A mobile COVID-19 vaccine unit will be distributing the Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday, May 26, from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm at the Senior Center. May 26 is also the day of the Town Election, which also takes place at the COA, but Szyndlar told the selectmen the mobile vaccine unit will do its distribution outside and will not interfere with election traffic.
The vaccine will be available to anyone age 12 and older with no appointment necessary. The prescribed second dose would be distributed three weeks later.
A separate COVID-19 first-dose vaccine distribution will be held on Saturday, June 5, at Plumb Corner, also outside. It will also be available to ages 12 and older with no appointment necessary.
“We’re hoping for at least 50 people,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman Paul Ciaburri.
Town Counsel Blair Bailey notified the selectmen of a complication in the governor’s press release anticipating an end to the state of emergency effective June 15. Bailey is seeking clarification as the end of a state of emergency would end all exemptions from state Open Meeting Law. That would render public meetings held via Zoom unlawful.
Rochester’s Planning Board will has already announced it will henceforth meet at Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School. Bailey said the matter is left up to each individual board, depending on how the state legislature writes the law.
Rochester’s Annual Town Meeting will be held on Monday, May 24, at 7:00 pm at Rochester Memorial School, and the Board of Selectmen’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 7, at 6:00 pm.
Rochester Board of Selectmen
By Mick Colageo