Firefighters of all ranks from Rochester and other area towns lined the perimeter of the Rochester Town Hall in formal dress on May 6 to witness a moment of Rochester history.
During the Rochester Board of Selectmen meeting that evening, the selectmen signed the employment contract appointing current Fire Chief Scott Weigel as the town’s first ever full-time fire chief.
An emotional Town Clerk Naida Parker swore the chief in in front of a room packed with Weigel’s family, friends, and fellow firefighters, with some representing the towns of Bridgewater, Freetown, and Raynham.
Outside Town Hall, the group converged for photos before climbing aboard their various fire apparatuses with red lights flashing and celebratory sirens sounding as the procession paraded out onto Route 105.
Weigel has been fire chief of Rochester for 10 years, beginning in July 2009, first as the interim fire chief when former fire chief, Scott Ashworth, retired on short notice. He was then appointed as permanent part-time chief.
In other business, the board entertained a visit from three representatives of Rochester Affordable Housing, Inc., a group of citizens tasked with exploring various options for providing affordable housing for Rochester senior citizens.
Now a 501(c)(3) non-profit, the group says it will begin fundraising soon to assist in the process of searching for and eventually acquiring land. During the meeting, the three affordable housing representatives – Richard Cutler, Mark Wallington, and Gianno Lettieri – described various properties around town that might be suitable for future development, such as a five-acre lot near the intersection of Ryder Road and High Street.
“What we’re looking to do is one-bedroom units, perhaps 500 to 800 square feet,” said Cutler. “We’d like very much to keep the rental numbers down as low as possible.”
The group said it didn’t think the new 40R affordable housing was affordable enough for seniors priced at $1,350 for a two-bedroom unit and $1,150 for a one-bedroom.
“We’d love to see something in the neighborhood of $500 to $800 a month,” said Lettieri, although he added that he had no real numbers to calculate just yet. “But we do want to keep it as low as possible.”
Selectman Greenwood “Woody” Hartley cautioned the gentlemen not to get “too excited with too low a number,” since the investment would have to at least cover its own costs.
“We’ll do some scouting and find out where the vacant parcels are that might be available and get back to you,” said Cutler. “Ideally, it would be down here in the village,” he said, where folks wouldn’t have to drive in order to shop or go out for dinner.
“It’s great that you’re making progress,” Hartley said, adding that the board was happy to assist in whatever ways it can.
In other matters, Rochester is pressing ahead with its application for a $30,000 grant from the state to improve recycling practices in Rochester through printed educational materials, curbside recycling compliance enforcement, and data tracking, all funded through the grant. According to Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar, the Town hopes to implement curbside enforcement by mid-September, which will entail bin inspections of 20 percent of bins in town to test for compliance.
“If it has one (restricted) item in there, it’s not going to be rejected,” Szyndlar clarified. But if the workers find three or four or more, the bin will be tagged and rejected for that week.
Also during the meeting, Szyndlar announced the passing of Rochester’s oldest resident, Marion Thomas at age 102. The selectmen will schedule an event soon to present Rochester’s next oldest resident, Edna Chadwick, 101, with the Boston Post cane. Chadwick will turn 102 July 31.
The board also signed the Annual Town Meeting Warrant.
The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for May 20 at 6:15 pm at Rochester Memorial School before the start of Town Meeting, which begins at 7:00 pm.
Rochester Board of Selectmen
By Jean Perry