January 29, 2023

Seekonk: The Year in Review

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The possibility of a new building for the Seekonk Public Library was on the minds of most residents in 2022.   The Board of Selectmen expressed their frustrations following the rejection of a new public library at the October 24 town meeting. The project would have cost a total of $24 million. A proposal for a $19.6 million library was defeated at the May 2021 town meeting. There were over 600 in attendance at the Seekonk High School auditorium. The vote was 405 in favor and 207 opposed. A two-thirds majority was required for passage, but fell three votes short. Every member of the Seekonk Board of Selectmen voted in favor of the project. Town Administrator Shawn Cadime had also voiced his support. Last July, the Library had been awarded a $7.3 million grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners for the construction of a new building. Michael Durkay, chairman of the Library Board of Trustees, said the grant was “provisional”, which meant the voters would have had to approve the grant at a special election to be held before January 9, 2023. The MBLC has now given the trustees until April 30 to win town approval for a new library by holding a special town meeting and then a special election. “What we have done is examine all the possibilities and examine all the obstacles that exist to achieve either end,” Durkay said. “The possibilities are we go back to the town to request funding for the project as originally designed, as we’ve done twice in the past.” Durkay said the other option is to ask voters to approve funds for repair or renovations to the existing facility at 410 Newman Avenue.

Town meeting voters also rejected making changes to the home rule charter. Selectmen Chair Justin Sullivan noted the members of the Charter Review Committee put in two years of work on making recommendations for changes. “Granted they had to endure the fact that we didn’t take all of their recommendations,” Sullivan continued. “We submitted what we thought was best. I think what’s disappointing to me, is town meeting, to quote somebody else ‘didn’t do its job again’”. Voters at the 2021 Spring Town Meeting opted for an indefinite postponement, claiming they were given an insufficient amount of time to review the changes. The Town Charter is reviewed every five years. Sullivan said a new subcommittee for charter review would have to be assembled in 2024.

Cadime signed a new three year contract with the town, which extends through 2025. Cadime has been serving in the position since 2014. He is also a member of the Fall River City Council. Cadime’s annual salary is $184, 381. Cadime’s salary will increase to $188, 068 on August 1, 2023 and $191, 830 on August 1, 2024. “Upon satisfactory completion of his Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA), the Town agrees to increase the Town Administrator’s then annual base pay by $5000,” according to the contract. The contract also states: “The Board shall review and evaluate the Town Administrator every year at the end of the fiscal year. Said review and evaluation shall be based on the goals and objectives developed jointly by the Board and the Town Administrator.”

The new turf field and athletic track at Seekonk High School were unveiled at a ribbon cutting ceremony held September 1.  Voters at the fall 2021 special election approved $2.7 million in funding for the project. School Superintendent Rich Drolet thanked members of the town’s Finance Committee, School Committee, Board of Selectmen, and Capital Improvement Committee for their support. “It is because of the critical support from the town that has enabled our school district to provide this top-notch facility now that our student-athletes and community can enjoy for years to come,” Drolet said.

The content of books in school libraries became a major subject of debate at many school committee meetings. Kyle Juckett, a parent and former school committee candidate, raised concerns over elementary school students having access to books dealing with gender identity.  “Currently there is no policy in place to control the flow of these materials,” Juckett said at an August meeting of the school committee.  Some of the titles cited were “What are Your Words?: a book about pronouns,” “Julian is a Mermaid,” “What Riley Wore,” “I Am Jazz,” and “When Aidan Became a Brother.” A search through the SAILS Library network revealed some of the books were available at the Aitken and Martin school libraries. According to the School Library Journal: “I Am Jazz” is “the story of a transgender child based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings, who has become a spokesperson for transkids everywhere.” The SLJ says of “When Aidan Became a Brother”: “this well-illustrated and sweet family tale centers on the experiences of a transgender boy.” One parent believed teachers were “grossly overstepping their bounds” by sharing these books with their students. “I think the Principal is probably the best person as they are the supervisor of the library media specialist and can insure there’s proper communication going to the families,” Drolet said in response.

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