Plympton: Town meeting approves solar agreement, medical marijuana by-law, and more

Plympton residents gathered Wednesday night at the Dennett Elementary School for Annual and Special Town Meetings.

Before acting on any business, residents recognized Joe Freitas for his 39 years on the Board of Selectmen.

Selectman John Henry said he’s been on the Board with Freitas for the past six years.

“How in God’s name he’s done it for 39 years, boy, I will never figure it out, and he’s still reasonably sane,” Henry said, “He’s a great guy [and] he did a lot for the town.”

Henry listed off some of the many boards and committees Freitas has served on, including the Finance Committee for 9 years, the Water Commission for 19 years, the Plympton School C0mmittee for 3 years, and more.

“It’s remarkable,” Henry said, referring to all Freitas has done.

Freitas received a citation signed by Senate President Therese Murray and Senator Tom Kennedy. He also was gifted a gavel signed by Newt Gingrich from Henry.

“If I knew I would get this much, I would’ve tried for 40,” Freitas said.

Shortly after, voters began taking action on the articles. The first big debate arose for Article 1 of Special Town Meeting, asking the town to grant Selectmen the authority to enter into PILOT agreements for solar photovoltaic facilities.

Many residents expressed concern with the existing Solar By-Law, saying it has many “holes” in it and that it is not strong enough. Such residents felt uncomfortable approving an open-ended authority without looking further into their By-Law.

An amendment was made to the article, giving the Selectmen the authority to negotiate and enter into a PILOT agreement solely with TJA Solar for a 10-megawatt solar photovoltaic facility on state and privately owned land.

Henry said the facility will be located on the south side of Route 44 at Spring st. “It has an allocation from NSTAR, which is a big deal,” he said.

Voters also approved a $60,000 Drinking Water Treatment System for the Dennett Elementary School.

Brian Wick, Dennett Elementary School Committee member,  said the school is currently in a secondary  violation of the Massachusetts DEP drinking water standards.

Wick added that the issues with the water include poor quality in terms of taste and odor, and high levels of iron and manganese.

“This is an opportunity to fix this problem and fix it right,” Wick said. He added that they have been talking with three different firms, and the project should be done within a year.

As the night went on, voters debated back and forth on whether or not to change the tradition of Town Meeting and hold it on the second Saturday in May instead of the Second Wednesday.

Henry supported this article, and said the reasoning behind it was mainly due to senior citizens in town.

“We have 800 elderly people…most of them don’t drive at night,” Henry said, “We do very little for the elderly in town, and basically having it at night disenfranchises them.”

During debate, several residents offered to drive seniors to Town Meeting, and several suggested setting up some kind of organized service for future Town Meetings.

The article ultimately failed, and the Wednesday-night tradition will continue.

Other approved articles include $30,000 to evaluate parcels of land for a potential new Public Safety building, $10,000 for cable negotiations, the operating budget, and a Medical Marijuana By-Law.

The town voted to pass over the proposed Public Gathering By-Law to review and strengthen the language.

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About Samantha Tracey

Samantha Tracey graduated from Salem State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism. She has been reporting on local issues in a variety of towns: Bridgewater, Abington, Carver, Weymouth, East Bridgewater, Hanson, Halifax, etc. She says growing up on the South Shore has made it interesting now to be covering news in such familiar places.