November 16, 2020 by Carol Britton Meyer
At the outdoor June Annual Town Meeting, participants dressed lightly for the hot weather. On Nov. 21, those attending the Special Town Meeting -- to be held again on the Hingham High School multi-purpose athletic field -- are likely to bundle up.
The chairs will be placed 10 feet apart, and if more room is needed, there will be socially-distanced overflow seating in the bleachers. Face masks are required. There will be hand sanitizing stations, and the microphones will be cleaned before each use.
"We realize that we need to accommodate every single resident who wishes to attend the meeting, and we are prepared to do that. We want to make sure everyone feels safe and is comfortable," Selectmen Chair Mary Power told the Hingham Anchor. "As we decided in June, we believe that holding the meeting outdoors is better than indoors for this Special Town Meeting as well [due to COVID-19 considerations and requirements]."
Whereas attendees were encouraged to wear sunscreen and to dress for hot temperatures at the earlier Town Meeting, Power advises those planning to participate in the Special Town Meeting to "dress accordingly, wear comfortable shoes [no heels allowed], and bring a blanket" -- as well as their copy of the Special Town Meeting warrant, which was mailed to every Hingham household.
At least 200 voters are required to be present before the meeting can begin. The usual quorum is 300 but was reduced due to the current COVID-19 state of emergency.
At the Nov. 21 meeting, citizens will be asked to consider one warrant article -- asking for approval to move forward with the $5.5 million purchase of a parcel of land at 335 Lincoln St. for potential use as a new combined Hingham Police and Fire Department public safety building. A two-thirds vote is required for the article to pass because a borrowing is involved.
The total cost of the project will not be the subject of a vote at this Special Town Meeting -- the most recent estimate is about $40 million -- nor will voters be asked to approve or to fund the building of the facility at that time. The price tag would be lower if the scope and size of the project changes.
Warrant article approval would pave the way for the outgrown Senior Center to expand into the space currently occupied by the police department.
The meeting can't be postponed, Power said, because the deadline for executing a purchase and sale agreement between the town and the seller is Nov. 30 "or we lose the land."
The Special Town Meeting will begin on Saturday, Nov. 21, at noon. The gates to the venue will open at 10:30 a.m. Every attendee is required to check-in, with social distancing in place. The rain date is Sunday, Nov. 22 at the same time. If the weather doesn't cooperate that day, the meeting will be held inside.
Town Moderator Michael Puzo is looking forward to another "safe and efficient meeting," as was the case in June.
"As citizens of Hingham, we must never take for granted the privilege of self-governance that we enjoy," he told the Hingham Anchor. "Self-governance is at the heart of open town meeting, which allows us to gather as a community to make thoughtful decisions on matters of common concern. Please aim to arrive early, so that we can start the meeting promptly at noon."