Over the objection of its longtime chair, the town’s Community Preservation Committee Thursday narrowly voted to fund an administrative position that would do some work for the committee but report to the town manager. 

Creation of the part-time  job has been the subject of a long tug of war between chair Bill Keohan and other officials.  

Committee members Betty Cavacco and John Mahoney have pushed for the position over Keohan’s objections. 

Thursday night, Town Manager Derek Brindisi asked the committee to fund its share of the position, which would be divided between Community Preservation Committee and the Committee of Precinct Chairs. The October Town Meeting allocated $25,000 for the position, and the Community Preservation Committee will allocate the balance of $15,000.

Keohan argued instead for asking existing town staff to take on “a couple of hours a week” to perform occasional work for the committee, because its work requirements fluctuate greatly from month to month. He pointed out that the committee has never had staff in its 21-year existence.  

“There’s no way that this committee needs someone for 20 hours a week,” said committee member Russel Shirley, who supported Keohan’s view. “Could be 20 hours one week, but the next week might be two.” 

Keohan argued that a new staff position reporting to the town manager would further erode the autonomy of the committee. It previously voted to relinquish having its own counsel and replace it with town counsel. Keohan said that the committee, not Brindisi, should control the activities of any staff that works for it.  

The Community Preservation Committee funds projects to acquire open space, build recreational facilities, preserve historic buildings, and create housing. It draws on the Community Preservation Fund, which in turn is funded by a 1.5 percent surcharge on property tax bills, and through a state allocation that varies from year to year.  

Plymouth Finance Director Lynne Barrett projected that Plymouth would take in between $3.5 million and $3.9 million in Community Preservation Act funds over fiscal year 2025, which begins on July 1.  

In the end, the committee voted 4-3 to allocate $15,000 of community preservation funds that would supplement the $25,000 allocated by Town Meeting to fund a new staff position from Jan. 1st to June 30. Cavacco, Mahoney, Karen Buechs, and Bill Fornaciari voted in favor. Keohan, Shirley, and Allen Hemberger voted against.  

Community Preservation Committee member John Mahoney called fellow member Bill Keohan a “pathological liar” at the meeting’s end. Credit: (File photo by Wes Ennis)

The discussion of the staff position escalated already simmering tensions between Keohan on one side and Cavacco and Mahoney on the other.  

Those tensions exploded into the open over another item that was not even on the Thursday agenda: the sale of the Plimoth Grist Mill. 

Keohan had announced at the Nov.  9 meeting of the committee that Plimoth Patuxet Museums and David Gould, Plymouth’s director of marine and environmental affairs, had expressed interest in acquiring the mill.  

At Thursday’s meeting, Keohan elaborated, explaining that after Plimoth Patuxet Museums reached out to him, he discussed the matter with Gould and asked Plimoth Patuxet to find out how much it might be willing to offer for the mill. The asking price for the privately held property along Town Brook is $1.6 million. 

But Keohan said he since learned that the mill was already under agreement with another buyer, making any offer by Plimoth Patuxet and the town moot. Keohan asked the seller’s agent to let him know if the agreement falls through.  

The agent, Tammy MacNair of RE/MAX, did not respond to a voice mail asking if the mill is still under agreement.  

At the end of Thursday’s meeting, Mahoney told Keohan that Gould acknowledged meeting with Keohan and Plimoth Patuxet, and said at that meeting that the town should not take part in the purchase of the Grist Mill.  

“That’s not what happened,” Keohan told Mahoney. 

“You’re a pathological liar,” Mahoney shot back before storming out. 

Gould, who had been there to testify about several other projects, left Thursday’s meeting before its end and did not respond to an email and a voice mail requesting comment. 

Fred Thys can be reached at fred@plymouthindependent.org.

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