RMS Fills Committee Vacancy

            Jason Chisholm was unanimously voted onto the Rochester School Committee during the July 19 Board of Selectmen meeting at the Town Hall.

            The May 26 Annual Town Election failed to produce a winner for an open seat after longstanding member Tina Rood chose not to run for reelection. No one pulled papers and there was tie in write-in votes, so the task of filling the position fell to the selectmen in concert with the School Committee. They met on Monday night as required in the case of a failure to elect.

            “It’s really about serving the entire community; I feel called to do that. I believe we’re here for the long haul,” said Chisholm, who told the meeting that the 2021-22 academic year will be the fourth for his family in Rochester. “I’ve definitely recognized where there is room for improvement.” Chisholm said he is a seasoned professional involved in non-profit organizations and also a sports coach.

            Chisholm was one of three candidates who, after sending letters of interest, were invited to speak before the committee and the board on Monday night. His term will expire at the 2022 Town Election next spring.

            Rochester School Committee Chairperson Sharon Hartley presided over the appointment that was attended by all four sitting committee members, including Kate Duggan, Anne Fernandes, and Rob Rounseville, along with Old Rochester Regional Superintendent of Schools Mike Nelson.

            Tim Scholz and Maciel Pais were the other two candidates.

            Scholz, who served on the Rochester School Committee six years ago, offered his obvious experience and noted his recent retirement. “I know exactly what I’m getting into,” he said, alluding to all the subcommittee work that committee members typically perform. “You guys also know me; you know exactly what you’re going to get from me.”

            Nonetheless, Scholz acknowledged that the town’s best interests might be served by getting new people involved and said he would support such a decision.

            Pais, who works at Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical High School in visual learning, said he has attended many school committee meetings. “Half my life has been providing education for students and doing right by students. Now, as an administrator, my job is to give both teachers and students the opportunity for the best experience. Roch has an excellent school system and I want to be part of it,” he said. Pais told the meeting he also has experience in budgets and teacher contracts. He said his passion will always be education and he aims to lend support today so that, in the future, the students can support their world.

            “I think this is a difficult decision because all of your hearts are in the right place. I hope we have the same dilemma when we have the election,” said Nelson.

            Hartley told the three candidates, “No matter what happens, we want you to know we appreciate your interest and want you to stay with it.”

            Duggan asked if the candidates were aware of the opening before the May 26 town election and, if so, why did they not enter. Responses indicated a lack of awareness, which left the committee and the selectmen pondering exactly how publicity can be improved next time around.

            The Board of Selectmen addressed other vacancies, voting to enter into negotiations with Kaitlin Young for the position of town planner. “She comes with a lot of experience as a planner and as a conservation agent,” said Chairman Brad Morse.

            The selectmen voted to approve the appointment of new Conservation Agent Merilee Kelly to represent the town on the Mattapoisett River Valley Water District Commission and Water Protection Advisory Committee, the Buzzards Bay Action Committee, and APC Nemasket Management Plan Steering Committee.

            In her Town Administrator’s Report, Suzanne Szyndlar told the selectmen that she would like to start bringing people in for interviews for the town treasurer’s position.

            It was determined that the original September 17 deadline for final submission of articles for the October 18 Special Town Meeting warrant is not sufficient, so that submission deadline has been move up to August 6. The draft warrant review will be held on September 6.

            Rochester received its fourth CARES Act reimbursement for $225,000, bringing the funding approximately halfway toward the total $825,000; two more CARES Act checks will be coming to Rochester.

            The town’s Council on Aging has been awarded $63,000 in state grant funding to purchase a new van.

            Rochester received its first round of ARPA funding at $297,625 and is anticipating $595,250 more in February. The town will receive an additional $1,104,000 in ARPA funding that will be delivered through Plymouth County.

            Szyndlar clarified to the selectmen that ARPA funding is not a reimbursement plan like CARES Act funding, but a resource for the town. Treasury guidance permits funds that are obligated by December 2024 to be expended by December 31, 2026. Despite the funding, the town is taking a cautious approach, considering the slow evolvement of information coming down from the federal government.

            Rochester’s FY22 apportionment of $308,083 from the state in Chapter 90 funds (roads) is up $6,421 from last year.

            The selectmen signed their approval of the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s annual Watershed Ride scheduled for October 3 on Marion Road and approved by the Highway, Fire, and Police Departments.

            The selectmen voted to accept a SEMASS PILOT payment of $342,600 for May 2021.

            The selectmen voted, effective July 11, 2021, to approve Fire Chief Scott Weigel’s proposed on-call payroll rates for FY22: deputy chief, $26.41; captain, $25.34; lieutenant, $24.27; paramedics, $24.12; and on-call Fire EMT, $21.97. Weigel told the selectmen he wants to be competitive with the rates. “I think you’ve done an amazing job staffing that department,” said Selectman Woody Hartley.

            Selectman Paul Ciaburri will join a seven-person COA committee looking into expansion of the Senior Center.

            Hartley presented an 1899 atlas of Rochester’s town boundaries donated by the Munroe family for safe keeping.

            Ciaburri expressed concern about fast-moving traffic off of Rounseville Road in the direction of the Town Hall. Town Counsel Blair Bailey told the selectmen that any discussion about potential traffic measures will necessarily involve the adjacent church.

            The selectmen entered into an executive session to discuss non-union personnel negotiation strategy and did not return to open session.

            The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled to be held on Monday, August 2, at 6:00 pm.

Rochester Board of Selectmen/Rochester School Committee

By Mick Colageo

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