Old Colony Memorial
February 7, 2015
By Frank Mand
PLYMOUTH – Plymouth 400 Inc. Executive Director Michele Pecoraro had big news to share. Appearing before the Board of Selectmen Tuesday to give a quarterly update on the nonprofit’s progress, Pecoraro announced that the organization had finally managed to collect 1,500 orders for special 2020 license plates and soon – once a few details are worked out – the state can begin to manufacture those plates.
And despite the fact that it was late in the evening and few people remained in the meeting room, applause broke out.
It’s been a long process. The Old Colony chronicled that effort, listing the number of plates that had been ordered on the front page of the newspaper.
If you watched that number you know that, at times, it seemed to inch up very slowly.
If you know 400 Administrative Coordinator Cheryl Soares, who administered the sale of the plates over the last few years, you have to marvel at her persistence and good nature.
“I am thrilled that we have reached our goal and thankful to all of those who have purchased plates and stuck with us, as well as the many volunteers who have helped with the administrative work that accompanies each license plate application,” Soares said this week.
The 1,500 number was actually reached a few weeks ago, but Pecoraro told selectmen the nonprofit wanted to be sure it had a buffer before making the announcement. That’s because, when the names are submitted to the state Registry of Motor Vehicles, applicants who are not in the state’s good graces will be rejected.
Is this really a big deal? The manufacture and sale of these plates will not make or break the organization’s efforts to produce a world-class commemoration of the anniversary of the town’s founding in 1620. But since the planning began, the license plate promotion has become symbolic of the nonprofit’s struggles and successes.
Selectman John Mahoney echoed that sentiment Tuesday in his comments to Pecoraro, recalling nostalgically the first meetings with the late Rev. Peter Gomes to discuss the anniversary.
“I don’t know where the time goes,” Mahoney said. “I can remember sitting here in ’08 or ’09 with Reverend Gomes. My hats off to Cheryl Soares and all her work, all the times she set up tables at Town Meeting. And, though it was hard, you got there, my God, you got it across the finish line.”
And now, Mahoney asked, when will the “auction of the sexy numbers take place?”
Certain low numbers and others considered special have been set aside and will be auctioned to the highest bidder.
In 2008, when the RMV did that with its Cape & Islands plate, the high bid for #1 was $147,000.
But though Plymouth 400 hopes to hold that auction in the spring, Pecoraro said there are still quite a few details to work out before the first batch is produced.
“A team of volunteers is working diligently to help us finalize applications, which we will submit with a required $100,000 bond, to the RMV as soon as they are complete and accurate,” Pecoraro said.
The plates could be manufactured as early as May or as late as August, she added.
“But it doesn’t end there,” Pecoraro continued. “Once the plates actually go into production, the RMV requires that another 1,500 plates are sold over the next two years. That process will be completely different, as the RMV takes over the sale of the plates, promoting them on its website and in Registry offices statewide.”
Pecoraro said the second 1,500 will actually be much easier to sell than the first. During the second phase, car dealerships will be allowed to have Plymouth 400 plates on hand and Plymouth 400 plates will be on display at the RMV, alongside other specialty plates.
In addition to the license plates, Pecoraro recounted a long list of Plymouth 400 successes in the past few months, including the first official sponsorships (PartyLite, Crabbies Ginger Beer and Opthalmic Consultants of Boston), the launch of the Plymouth Bay Cultural District, the first Midnight Masquerade New Year’s Eve celebration and many others.
But Selectmen Chairman Ken Tavares wanted to highlight one of the nonprofit’s biggest disappointments.
Several years ago, under the leadership of then-Senate President Therese Murray, the state offered Plymouth 400 a $250,000 matching grant.
The 400 fulfilled its end of the bargain but the state first lowered the grant to $125,000 and now has apparently reneged on it completely.
“This was important funding, money that would allow the 400 to bring staff on board,” Tavares said, “and I think it is incumbent on this board to write, to the governor on down, to convince those on Beacon Hill that they made a commitment that must be fulfilled, a commitment that was etched in stone.”
Tavares asked board members to support his motion to write to state officials asking them to meet their commitment.
Pecoraro was in full agreement.
“Securing state funding for Plymouth 400 is imperative as we begin outreach to potential sponsors and donors,” Pecoraro said. “The Commonwealth of Virginia was the largest monetary supporter of Jamestown’s 400th commemoration in 2007, where the events and programs generated $1.2 billion in sales and created an estimated 20,621 jobs.
“Plymouth is a much more visible and well-known entity (than Williamsburg), so the potential is huge,” Pecoraro said.