The Rochester Select Board made a significant, last-minute change to the Annual Town Meeting warrant, as they reviewed the draft articles on Monday night. The board followed member Brad Morse’s recommendation to combine all the measures on the warrant related to withdrawing from being a designated Green Community into one article.
Article 29 proposed rescinding the Town Meeting’s previous vote to adopt the Stretch energy codes that tighten the base building codes in the name of more energy-efficient construction but are an expensive part of being a Green Community.
Morse said he wanted to rescind the town’s Stretch codes and withdraw from the Green Communities program in one article. Town Administrator Glenn Cannon said he felt the town should rescind the code itself first. Morse wondered aloud what would happen if one article passes and the other article fails. This is the better way, Morse said, and the board agreed, combining both measures into one article.
As the Select Board and the Finance Committee voted to recommend the warrant articles, their discussion revealed that another highlight will be a move to change the town clerk’s position from elected to appointed.
Select Board member Paul Ciaburri asked if the town would be able to go back to an elected town clerk if it so chose after the Town Meeting vote. Town Clerk Paul Dawson, attending the meeting remotely on Zoom, said he did not know, and the town would have to refer the question to Town Counsel.
Discussion of Article 4, the FY2024 budget, featured Select Board member Brad Morse questioning why an executive assistant was being upgraded to a higher salary. He said this is a position under the Select Board office’s jurisdiction and the board should have been a part of the personnel decision. Both the Select Board and the Finance Committee approved this article but hinted they may re-address this concern at Town Meeting.
The town will be asked to fund $100,000 for the first year of a reconstruction plan for Old Colony Regional Vocational-Technical High School. An article to fund a new storage shed for the Highway Department will be removed, as will a move to purchase 15 acres of land on Mendell Road, a measure tied to plans to build a new fire station.
In his report following the review, Cannon announced that childcare services will be available at Rochester Memorial School during the Town Meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, May 22.
In other action, the board approved Police Chief Robert Small’s recommendation to appoint Daniel Allende, a resident of Fairhaven, as a new part-time Rochester Police officer, and it reappointed Sharon Cruz to the Old Colony School Committee.
The Select Board then approved raising building inspection fees and instituting new ground-mounted, solar-project inspection fees. Prior to this vote, Cannon revealed the state of these fees last July was the reason a town building commissioner resigned quickly after taking the job last summer. “The building commissioner resigned because we hadn’t raised our inspection fees and pay in seven years,” Cannon said. “We lost a good building inspector because of this.”
As recommended by current Building Commissioner Paul Boucher, the building inspection fee will climb from $25 to $50. The new fees for ground-mounted, solar-project inspections will be $12 per 1,000 square feet of a building and $6 per 1,000 square feet of electrical work.
Next, the panel approved Rochester Country Fair president Kelly Sullivan-Morgado’s recommendation that structures and other property remaining at the Country Fairgrounds on Pine Street all be declared surplus.
“We’ve closed the fair,” Sullivan-Morgado said with some regret in her voice. “I had to list all of the fair’s assets. It was a large list I had to narrow down to small.”
She said the Select Board must vote what to do with all or most of it. The ensuing discussion revealed that sheds on the site that were donated by private parties will go back to those people. The Fair Committee will donate a tractor and a monitoring board to the Westport Fair. Money in the town’s Fair Account totaling $18,000 will likely be dispersed as scholarships. The town owns three box trailers at the site. These are among the items that will be declared surplus for Cannon to dispose as he sees fit.
For the rest of these surplus items, Sullivan-Morgado said, “we’ll soon get a big dumpster down there.”
The Select Board then appointed a Steering Committee for the new Master Plan project. These members will be: Arnie Johnson and Nancy Durfee to focus on Land Use; Brad Morse, Economic Development; Matthew Monteiro, Historic and Land Trust; Andrew Daniel, Services and Facilities; Jeff Eldridge, Transportation; David Hughes, Open Space and Recreation; and Jordan Latham, Natural and Cultural Resources.
The board will next meet on Monday, May 1, at 6:00 pm at Town Hall, 1 Constitution Way, for an agenda that will include signing the warrant for Town Meeting.
Rochester Select Board
By Michael J. DeCicco