The Rochester Board of Selectmen’s September 7 review of the Special Town Meeting Warrant with Town Clerk Paul Dawson and the Finance Committee was swift and, without committee Chair Kris Stoltenberg in attendance, did not carry official FinCom recommendations.
FinCom member Peter Armanetti attended via Zoom, as Board of Selectmen Chairman Brad Morse summarized the 14 articles that will be up for consideration before voters on Monday, October 18, at Rochester Memorial School.
Articles 9-13 are the bigger-ticket items, No. 9 being the Old Rochester Regional School District agreement and No. 10 being the proposal for ORR to establish its own capital stabilization fund to address smaller capital items that cannot be budgeted via maintenance.
Article 11 would clear the path for solar canopies over town-owned parking lots, while Article 12 proposes the transfer of $200,000 to the Road Improvement Stabilization Fund and Article 13 the transfer of $300,00 to the town’s regular Stabilization Fund.
Article 6 proposes that the Board of Selectmen be renamed the Select Board, and Article 4 proposes $10,000 for the selectmen’s consulting services.
In order to resolve some confusion and lateness in the paying of dog license renewals due January 1, Article 1 establishes the end of March as the new due date.
Articles 2 and 3 address the Assessor’s office, No. 2 a $10,000 commitment to install a camera for the ongoing valuation of property, and No. 3 a $3,000 commitment toward the Assessor’s supplemental budget for software and support. Article 5 proposes $10,000 for the Facilities Department to meet the raised cost of the purchase of a utility truck.
Article 7 proposes additional retail liquor licenses for the town, which is at its limit with requests in hand. Article 8 proposes to rescind the authorized borrowing of $160,000 to purchase land between Town Hall and the congregational church (the board decided against making that purchase).
Article 14 is a citizens’ petition.
The selectmen will sign the warrant, officially recommending the articles, at their September 20 meeting.
During a visit from Water Commission Chairman Fred Underhill, Morse reported that Rochester has received authorization from the Town of Wareham to use up to 100,000 gallons of water per day. That is a drastic increase over the small increments that totaled barely half that amount for the residents and businesses of the Route 28 area.
Underhill told the selectmen that a Water Commission meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 8, including representatives from Freetown and Lakeville. Middleborough representatives have also been invited to discuss the New Bedford and Taunton water withdrawals from these towns. Underhill is hoping that strength in numbers will help stem the tide of regional cities taking the smaller towns’ water and giving nothing back.
“We’ve been on this thing five or six years. They’re not going to give us the time of day alone, but maybe get the four towns together,” said Underhill, who plans to address the meeting of the Mattapoisett River Valley Water Protection Advisory Committee and Water District Commission next week.
Selectmen Woody Hartley told Underhill that town officials would co-sign a letter.
In other business, the selectmen voted to approve Dawson’s request that they sign the single precinct voting form.
Every 10 years, explained Dawson, the federal census results in redrawing census lines. Rochester’s population of 5,717 did not rise to the 6,200 threshold that would have necessitated a second voting precinct, effectively doubling the resources it would take to hold municipal elections. The selectmen also officially approved Dawson’s mathematics as presented.
When asked about the trend toward mail-in voting, Dawson said that would not change the requirements. “The federal census is what drives the bus here. … It’s a population issue, too. … A sudden spike could trigger [the change].”
In her Town Administrator’s Report, Suzanne Szyndlar told the selectmen that free cash will be certified in time for the October 18 Special Town Meeting.
She suggested in wake of last week’s Tri-Town Board of Selectmen meeting that Rochester selectmen should revote in open session to put the results in Rochester’s record. The selectmen voted their support to the ORCTV agreement and to approve the memorandum of understanding with the ORR School District.
Hartley was voted to join Szyndlar in representing Rochester’s effort to reach an agreement with the Town of Marion whereby Rochester can offer its residents a Marion beach sticker.
The selectmen also signed the contract for newly hired Town Treasurer Kory Lydon.
Tuesday night’s meeting began with a brief executive session to discuss non-union personnel negotiations.
The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for Monday, September 20, at 6:00 pm.
Rochester Board of Selectmen
By Mick Colageo