Selectmen Settle Fairgrounds Use Policy

Kelly Morgado of the Rochester Country Fair Board of Directors and committee was present on November 27 as the Rochester Board of Selectmen reviewed and then asked questions on the proposed Rochester Country Fair grounds use policy the board had charged a policy committee to draft.

Town Counsel Blair Bailey was also present to answer questions, mostly which were asked by Selectman Greenwood Hartley as he reviewed the language and took issue with some phrases he thought would be confusing to others.

“I think that we need to help everybody with the neighborhood,” said Hartley. “What’s the ‘neighborhood’ and what’s the neighborhood notification process?”

“What we came up with was the abutters of the abutters,” said Chairman Brad Morse.

Hartley opposed granting RCF Committee members a vote on whether or not to allow a requested event, which was addressed by Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar, who said the process would begin with the application submission to the RCF Board of Directors. Committee members would vote on whether to recommend the event or not, and then that recommendation, along with the final vote, would be passed up to the Board of Selectmen.

Hartley commented that the language still sounded as though the RCF Committee had an actual say on the matter.

“I want them to vote … report that to you and then you have the final stamp on whether it gets approved or not,” said Bailey.

“You can override us, it doesn’t matter, but at least we have a say…” said Morgado. “At least we had our say…”

Morgado continued, “We work really hard to take care of those grounds, and I think it’s a common courtesy,” Morgado said.

“But you don’t own it; the Town owns it…” said Hartley. “I think it gives you a sense that you can deny it and you can’t.”

Morgado commented that it would be “rude” to simply pass over the RCF Committee in the process.

After further discussion, Hartley called the draft “comprehensive,” and aside from some minor language changes, the board was satisfied and voted to adopt the policy with the changes discussed at the meeting.

Of significance, the policy restricts use of the RCF grounds to six events per year, with the actual Rochester Country Fair being one of them. Another five one-day events of a town/fundraising nature would be considered.

Morse stated that the policy committee would remain intact and would not be dissolved in case issues arise in the future.

            In other matters, the board decided the Town will post the police chief position internally for two weeks, first offering the position to existing Rochester police officers. The selectmen will comprise the majority of the five-person hiring review committee. They will invite another police chief from another town who resides in Rochester and retiring Rochester Police Chief Paul Magee to also sit on the review committee.

“I’m willing to do whatever the board needs,” said Magee.

The internal posting will run until mid-December and any ensuing applications will be reviewed.

Magee will retire on September 16, 2018.

Also during the meeting, the board reviewed a draft social media policy for town employees and board and committee members at Szyndlar’s recommendation.

“There actually were some complaints of some board members posting on social media,” said Szyndlar. “That breaks the Open Meeting Law.”

Szyndlar said she had looked at other towns’ social media policies when crafting the draft policy, and the draft will be circulated to department heads before selectmen vote on adoption.

“We need to address this,” said Morse, with Hartley concurring.

The board also voted to accept the updated police chief job description as presented, which Magee and Szyndlar had both worked on since the last meeting when Szyndlar first presented the matter to the board.

Also during the meeting, the board approved another annual contract between Rochester and the Town of Lakeville Animal Shelter. The Lakeville Animal Shelter is a no-kill shelter, and Selectman Naida Parker praised the shelter for its service.

Szyndlar announced that the Rochester Police Department has received a payment of $2,642, which comes as a result of a traffic stop during which police officers discovered six pounds of marijuana plus $5,000 and some other drugs, all of which were seized and forfeited. Szyndlar said forfeited cash is split with the District Attorney’s Office who uses the rest of the funds to defray the costs of drug investigations.

The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for 5:30 pm on December 4 in the town administrator’s office at the Rochester Town Hall ahead of the tree lighting at 6:00 pm.

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