As it looks ahead to 2019, the Town of Rockland is also reflecting on the successes it had in 2018, which it expects to build upon in the year to come.
"Last year was an important one for our town, and we have a lot to be proud of as a community," Interim Town Administrator Marcia Birmingham said. "The town has taken tremendous steps to become more environmentally friendly, improve its housing stock and maintain and reinvest in its institutions in a way that will serve our residents well for years to come."
Rockland Earns Multiple Grants to Support the Community
Throughout 2018, Rockland earned several grants to support community improvement, public works projects, housing development and environmentally friendly projects.
Green Communities Grant: Rockland earned its fourth grant from the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to pursue five energy-saving measures at municipal facilities, including LED light conversions that would help conserve energy and help the town save on its energy bills.
Planning for Production Grant: The Joint Abington-Rockland Water Works received a $150,000 grant from MassHousing to complete engineering design to expand the Myers Avenue Water Treatment facility in order to support future economic development.
REiMAGINE ROCKLAND launched an effort to become a nonprofit organization, thanks to work made possible by a Massachusetts Downtown Initiative (MDI) grant awarded to the town last spring.
Rail Trail Grant: The Town received a $100,00 Rail Trail Grant from the Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) to continue to grade and pave the former Hanover Branch Rail Line as an accessible recreational rail trail in Town from Liberty Street to the Hanover town line. Work was completed by the Rockland Highway Department in December.
Community Development Block Grant Grant: The town received a $745,000 grant to help fund the rehabilitation of approximately 26 units of housing across town. The Community Development office is currently accepting applications for homeowner assistance.
Rockland's Public Safety Agencies Move to Regional Dispatch
In July, the Rockland Fire and Police Departments began partnering with the Holbrook Regional Emergency Communications Center (HRECC) for 911 answering and dispatch duties for the Rockland Police and Fire Departments.
The HRECC delivers state-of-the-art emergency and non-emergency communications to the citizens of Rockland for its emergency services. The HRECC emergency dispatchers deliver the highest quality of emergency dispatching from the time the 911 call is answered with a citizen until the last emergency responder clears an incident. As part of this transition, the police department was able to complete a much needed upgrade to their radio system. It has also increased the safety for Rockland firefighters by ensuring that phones and radios are staffed and answered at all times.
Rockland's Students Excel, While Facilities Upgrades Are Ongoing
Jefferson Elementary School students scored highly on the MCAS, with the school becoming one of just 52 statewide to earn the School of Recognition designation from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Third and fourth grade students greatly exceeded their performance targets in math and English language arts.
Principal Michelle Scheufele attributed the rise in test scores to Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), the district's social-emotional curriculum that is implemented throughout the district. PBIS uses evidence-based prevention and intervention practices that support the academic, social, emotional and behavioral competence of all students.
Rockland's schools were also able to add free after school enrichment programs for all of its elementary school students in 2018.
Earlier in 2018, Rockland voters passed a warrant article to fund a complete renovation of the Veterans Memorial Stadium, which was built in the early 1950’s to honor returning WWII Veterans. It is used today for local and regional sporting events. The $2.1 million in stadium renovations will be completed in late spring 2019.
In addition, the Rockland Elementary Building Committee, in cooperation with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, continued its work on potential future construction by working through the feasibility study phase of the project and will now enter the schematic design phase, year three.
Town's Bond Rating Increases
In May, the town's credit rating was increased to AA by Standard and Poor's Rating Services. The increase marks a significant improvement from a decade ago, when the down had a negative bond rating. The increase is a tangible marker of the town's financial health and stability.
Youth Commission Programming Participation Strengthens
The Rockland Teen Adventure program, which is part of the Youth Commission’s summer programming and in 2018 saw an increase from 10 to more than 30 children. This increase has been attributed to program staffing and a diverse set of activities to choose from. Teens in fifth through ninth grades participate in the program, with two field trips per week to various locations. When not on a field trip, teens played field games, swim or make arts and crafts in a new teen-designated area at Rockland's Hartsuff Park.
A message from the Town of Rockland