The year ahead: Tri-Town officials weigh in

Jan 5, 2021

Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester officials all have one thing on their minds going into 2021: Covid. 

Officials from all three towns cited the ongoing pandemic as a major factor affecting 2021 operations. But as the vaccine begins to be administered throughout the commonwealth, some are hopeful. 

“Everybody’s excited to get back to normal,” Rochester Selectman Woody Hartley said. 

Still, Hartley said covid will guide how the town moves forward into 2021. 

“We really have to be careful here,” he said. “Until people are able to get out and about, it wouldn’t be wise to start planning too many new things.” 

As it stands, the town is already working to approve a new 208-apartment development on Cranberry Highway. That project is currently awaiting the approval of Rochester’s Planning Board. 

“It will bring new tax revenue to the Town of Rochester and the Smart Growth Overlay District will provide 208 new apartments, and all will ‘count’ towards our affordable housing requirements under state guidelines,” Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar wrote in an email to Sippican Week, adding that the project will will put Rochester “well over” the 10% affordable housing threshold imposed by the state. 

In the meantime, Hartley said the Selectmen’s biggest focus will be on a needs analysis for the town’s police and fire department buildings. 

“I think that as a board, the biggest thing we’re going to be doing is putting together a needs analysis for our public safety buildings,” Hartley said. 

He said that the fire station is already overdue for a modernization, and that the town will work to see how much work the police station will need as well. 

Even though covid made 2020 a tough year for nearly everyone, Hartley said that aside from the virus, “services are going well around town.” 

In Mattapoisett, Town administrator Mike Lorenco said the game plan is to just keep the town’s head above water. 

“I think the response from many Town Administrator’s would be ‘just survive,’” he wrote in an email to Sippican Week. “It certainly has been a difficult year for everyone, regardless of profession.  If I am honest, my primary goal for 2021 is to continue to do our best to respond to covid appropriately to safeguard all residents of Mattapoisett, while also working to assist businesses and individuals who may be struggling at this time. “

Lorenco wrote that despite the virus, the town will still be putting a focus on its ongoing projects.

“Additionally, we have a number of significant Town projects that we have to ensure are completed successfully, one being the Town’s new fire station,” he wrote. “With much uncertainty, we will also look to improve things internally if we are unable to tackle new projects.  The completion of the Town’s master plan is also a significant goal for the community.”

Another of those large projects is the Mattapoisett Rail Trail Bike Path extension, which is set to hit its next milestone in the Spring. 

“We expect that the publics’ response and use of the path will be vast,” Lorenco Wrote. “There is much excitement to see this section of the bike path, which is unlike any other I’ve seen, be completed, but there is still a lot of work ahead of us.”

Moving east to Marion, Town Administrator Jay McGrail said that even the $9.5 million Wastewater Treatment Plant project is taking a backseat to covid. 

“Everything takes a backseat to covid,” he said. 

But Marion could be the first beacon of hope for the Tri-Town, as it’s approved as a vaccine distribution site, and will begin inoculating first responders next week. 

McGrail said that the town’s prior flu vaccine clinics were a warm-up for the covid vaccine, and that he’s “proud that we were able to submit an application” and get approved to be a distribution site.