December 27, 2019 by Carol Britton Meyer (above photo by Irish Eyes Photography)
2019 was a memorable year for the Town of Hingham, from the retirement of longtime and well-respected Supt. of Schools Dorothy Galo to overwhelming Town Meeting support for acquisition of the water system serving Hingham, Hull, and part of Cohasset -- and many other major events in-between.
Photo by Tammy Hutchison
Volunteer participation on many boards and committees continued to make Hingham the well-run town that it is. And hats off to our local officials who work on behalf of Hingham citizens to make our town an even better place to live.
Various clubs, groups, and organizations did their part in continuing to make Hingham one of the most desirable communities on the South Shore -- from the Fourth of July Parade Committee and Lions Club (now working with the community to bring back the traditional fireworks and family celebration at the harbor in 2020) to the Hingham Downtown Association, which hosts the popular annual Christmas in the Square, Taste of Hingham, and Arts Walk events and related fundraisers to other groups -- too many to name -- who host community fundraisers for many good causes and all kinds of fun activities to enrich our lives.
One of the most important decisions in the town's history was Town Meeting's decision to acquire the water system on a 1,482 to 382 vote. The transition process continues, with full operation by the town expected to occur no earlier than April 1, 2020.
Photo provided by Hingham Farmers Market
One of the most popular events -- the Hingham Farmers Market, which operates from the Bathing Beach parking lot from spring through late-fall and just wrapped up its 43rd season -- continues to thrive as the state's third-oldest market of its kind.
Hingham had its share of development this year:
There was an air of excitement surrounding the completion of the mixed-use (residential and commercial) Lincoln Building in downtown Hingham; the start of a condo/retail development on the once over-grown former Settles Glass site at the corner of Station and North streets; and construction of the new bathhouse/snack shop/community room at the Bathing Beach -- complemented by other harborfront improvements that include an extended pedestrian walkway -- with an anticipated Spring 2020 opening date.
Another mixed-use development was approved for an acre of land at 11 Bank Avenue and 103 and 105 North St. while a three-story mixed-use proposal for a Central Street parcel behind Hingham Community Center was withdrawn without prejudice (meaning another plan could be brought before town boards at a later date); a Dunkin' Donuts was approved for Lincoln Street in front of the new Avalon II apartments, with an “industrial”-style design with a flat roof to better fit the Hingham Shipyard site, and historical graphics on the building reflective of the former use in keeping with other businesses along that stretch; and construction of the four-story, 220-unit Broadstone rental housing development on Beal Street -- which includes some "affordable housing" -- moved full-steam ahead.
A continuing challenge is maintaining economic diversity in town, with a good number of individuals and families struggling to make ends meet. This could prove challenging considering the $841,276 average assessed home value and accompanying $10,000-plus annual tax bill. Among the Selectmen's top priorities is providing some tax relief to help close the gap.
The town election featured three races, with Town Moderator Michael Puzo (challenged by Megan Buhr) elected for another term; incumbents Carlos A. F. DaSilva and Liza O'Reilly retaining their School Committee seats, and Nes Correnti winning the third available seat. Joshua Ross was the fourth candidate. Janine Suchecki won the Housing Authority seat in a race with long-term incumbent Robert D. Keyes.
Other 2019 highlights include:
* the Hingham Public Library board of trustees withdrawing a Town Meeting warrant article on a proposed major renovation project on a vote of nine to five;
* the dredging of Hingham Harbor;
* plans to raise the level of a number of harbor wharves in preparation for expected increased sea-level rise;
* Hingham Maritime Center's proposal for a new boathouse and other Barnes Wharf (town-owned) improvements through a fundraising effort and other sources;
* Derby Street corridor improvements and progress with the long-anticipated Rte. 3A project designed to enhance the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicular traffic as well as to complement ongoing Hingham Harbor improvements;
* public meetings to gain input from various constituencies for the next update to the Town of Hingham master plan -- the first since 2001. The master plan committee now includes a School Committee member;
* Hingham Centre residents meeting last summer to revitalize efforts to address the aging play equipment adjacent to the softball field;
* a single-use plastic bag ban effective Nov. 1;
* the Community Preservation Committee's consideration of which proposals to recommend for partial or full Town Meeting 2020 funding -- related to: the possible purchase of the historic Benjamin Lincoln House; an overall South Shore Country Club improvement plan that includes an outdoor pool with a potential "bubble" allowing year-round use and a major fundraising campaign; and an updated "Vision for the Inner Harbor."
* pro-active steps by town officials to address concerns centering around the increasing number of coyotes that have been spotted in different parts of town.
On the Hingham Public Schools front
* Dr. Galo retired after 56 years of working in various Hingham Public Schools positions. Those with whom she worked and interacted with over the years had high praises for her during many events leading up to her retirement. New School Supt. Paul Austin was welcomed with enthusiasm. He was selected unanimously by the Hingham School Committee from a pool of 19 potential candidates.
*School officials received the good news Dec. 11 when, following the submission of a Statement of Interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for the third time last April seeking partial state reimbursement for what they say is a much-needed major renovation -- or an entirely new building -- for Foster School, the Town of Hingham was invited into the MSBA's Eligibility Period. During this period, the MSBA will work with school and other town officials to determine the town's financial and community readiness to enter the MSBA Capital Pipeline. Upon timely and successful completion of the Eligibility Period requirements, the district becomes eligible for an invitation into the Feasibility Study phase of the MSBA Capital Pipeline, subject to a vote of the Board of Directors. Ultimately, the town would not be committed to filing for an application for funding with the MSBA unless through an affirmative Town Meeting vote.
* In response to the many concerns voiced about the condition of -- and other issues related to -- the town's athletic fields and basketball and tennis courts -- and thanks to $60,000 in Community Preservation Act funding, an independent comprehensive study of all of these facilities is moving forward to analyze associated program demands, deficiencies, and other aspects.
The Hingham Anchor team has enjoyed sharing "everything Hingham" news, lifestyles features, and a calendar with our readers this year and looks forward to another successful year in 2020, thanks to the support of all of you.
Happy New Year!