January 13, 2020 by Carol Britton Meyer
During a nearly five-hour marathon selectmen's meeting last night, the board voted to include articles in the 2021 Town Meeting warrant related to approving funds to create a climate action plan and for the design and bid process for the proposed public safety facility.
Brad Moyer, chair of the energy action committee, outlined a second warrant article regarding forming a climate action planning committee to oversee the planning process. "Hingham can be a leader in this effort," he said. "There's a groundswell of support behind this," as indicated by the 40-plus citizens who were on the remote call.
Such a plan would evaluate a wide range of carbon emission reduction strategies and propose measures to achieve a zero sum of these emissions produced and taken out of the atmosphere ("net zero") by 2040 within the borders of Hingham -- a townwide effort targeting the municipal, residential, business, and municipal sectors, according to Moyer.
As background to the public safety facility article, this summer's Special Town Meeting approved by a narrow margin the purchase of a $5.5 million parcel of land at 335 Lincoln St. for potential use as a combined Hingham Police and Fire Department public safety building.
Project supporters point to overcrowding of the police headquarters at Town Hall and the senior center and the inadequate size and deteriorating condition of the West Hingham fire station as the driving forces behind the proposal. If the project becomes a reality, the current senior center would expand into the space currently occupied by the police station.
The total cost of the proposed public safety facility project -- with is yet to be determined based on the ultimate scope and size -- was not the subject of the Special Town Meeting vote -- nor were voters asked to approve or to fund the building of the facility at that time.
"The 2021 warrant article asks voters to allow the town to move past the conceptual stage," Town Administrator Tom Mayo said.
Voters will be asked to appropriate funds to be expended by the Board of Selectmen to be used to pay the expenses for design, architectural, engineering, owner’s project manager, and other professional services and to issue construction bid documents and to obtain construction bids.
"This the next step. It doesn't authorize the construction but will identify what the costs would be to build such a facility," Selectman Joseph Fisher said. "We've purchased the property and need to move forward to design the building. The urgency has not diminished."
If Town Meeting 2021 were to authorize design funds, a request for construction funds could be put forth at a Fall 2022 Special Town Meeting. Foster School funding under the Massachusetts School Building Authority program would also be on that agenda, according to Selectmen Chair Mary Power.
"Voting to include this on the warrant is not an indication that we are prioritizing this project over others," Fisher said. "There are numerous projects on the table, but this is a necessary one for the police and fire departments and the senior center, and we should not shirk our duty to support them."
In other business at the meeting
* The selectmen approved an agreement with Rotti McGroddy Design Collaborative, LLC for architect/designer services for the South Shore Country Club maintenance facility and outdoor pool complex projects for a total of $583,405 -- including $264,590 for the maintenance facility; $22,100 for overall master planning; and $296,715 for design of the pool facility.
Town Meeting earlier approved the use of $500,000 of Community Preservation Act funds for the creation of design/construction documents for a new town pool at SSCC under the recreation funding category.
The SSCC operates as a self-supporting enterprise fund. Golf comprises 85 percent of the Club's revenue, and during the pandemic, many golfers have frequented the greens, enjoying the fresh air and a bite to eat at the Greenside Grille.
"SSCC is a valuable asset to the town, and it's important that we preserve it," Selectman Joseph Fisher said.
* The board approved an agreement with SAFE Boats International, LLC to purchase a new law enforcement vessel for Harbormaster Ken Corson, who with assistance from his staff -- in particular, Asst. Harbormaster Joe Driscoll -- submitted a grant application to the Port Security Grant Program seeking funds to replace Marine II and to improve the coastal camera system.
The town received an award of $243,749, which covers 75 percent of the cost. The 25 percent town match of $81,000 will be comprised of a FY21 capital outlay appropriation of $58,500 and other available funds.
Marine II, an aluminum hulled patrol boat, was purchased in 1997. "It patrolled our waterways for over 20 years, responding to countless calls for service," Corson said. "We are excited and honored to present this great opportunity to replace our aging vessel with Homeland Security’s support through this grant."
Power noted that Corson has secured $2.3 million in grants toward dredging, the Marine II boat, and for other purposes. "Your efforts bring state tax dollars back here to Hingham and make those dollars available for other items that might not be eligible for grants," she said. "You have made a tremendous financial contribution to the town."
* The selectmen began a review of the proposed Fiscal 2022 department budgets. "This is the time of year when our board, the advisory committee, and our school committee colleagues work to prepare and review all the budget proposals," Power said. There will be hearings leading up to Town Meeting.
"The Selectmen don't vote on the budgets until we hear them all," Power said. "And in particular this year, due to COVID-19, our revenue picture in not clear right now."
Interim Police Chief David Jones requested funding to add a part-time mental health clinician to assist the police department as needed. Power noted that some communities have clinicians on every shift to provide guidance and assistance when there are mental health considerations.
According to Jones, the HPD and Weymouth Police Department had the benefit of a shared clinician through a grant until recently, but she has left that position and a replacement is being sought. The clinician sometimes went on calls with police officers, and she engaged with them frequently. She also provided follow-up to police reports as requested.
Town department budget proposals and related documents will be posted on the town website today at hingham-ma.gov on the board of selectmen link.
* Power announced that a new resource, "Inside Town Finances," will be posted on the town website weekly, providing a one-page overview of different financial topics. "The idea is to present the information in bite-sized pieces," she said.