Major outreach plan will provide citizens with information leading up to Special Town Meeting

Hingham Police Department Rendering

August 5, 2022 By Carol Britton Meyer

In an effort to ensure that voters at the Nov. 1 Special Town Meeting are fully informed, a communication/outreach plan has been created that includes public information sessions, tour dates, information about project costs and associated tax impacts, and the permitting status for the proposed new Foster Elementary School and new public safety facility.

There are three warrant articles on the STM agenda -- to raise funds to construct a new Foster School and a new public safety facility and to transfer available reserve funds into a "Capital Project Cost & Debt Service Stabilization Fund" for excluded debt payments and/or bonds issued for both facilities to help lessen the burden on taxpayers.

"We'll continue [to get the word out] in as public a way as possible so citizens will be well-informed," Town Administrator Tom Mayo told the Select Board this week.

The projected Foster School total cost is estimated at about $113.3 million, with possible partial funding under the Massachusetts School Building Authority reimbursement program of between 36.87 to 40.52 percent.

The total cost for construction of the public safety facility was last estimated at $38 million, a figure that will be adjusted for inflation and other factors.

An affirmative vote to fund the new public safety facility at the STM and subsequently at the ballot box, would pave the way for potential senior center renovations and an expansion into the space currently occupied by the police department.

Voters at the 2020 Annual Town Meeting authorized funds for professional services related to site design associated with the senior center.

The outreach plan includes issuing press releases announcing major project milestones, reminding residents of key dates, and videos.

Up to three public information sessions will be held -- a mix of in-person and Zoom -- and up to five open houses will be scheduled for four locations -- Foster School, North Fire Station, the police department, and the senior center.

Two local debt exclusion questions will appear on the Nov. 8 state election ballot regarding the proposed Foster School and public safety facility projects.

A debt exclusion is a temporary funding measure that excludes certain debt from counting against the Proposition 2-1/2 limit on year-to-year property tax levy increases.

In order to secure the requested funding for both projects, two-thirds of the voters at Town Meeting would have to vote favorably on both warrant articles, while the ballot questions would each have to pass by a majority vote.

Foster Elementary School Rendering

In other business at the meeting

*Pleasant Street resident Beth Rockoff asked for clarification of the current water restrictions and asked why private wells aren't included in the ban since the water comes from the same aquifer as the town's water supply.

Rockoff has also observed that the irrigation system at the high school has been operating at times and wondered why "the town is not abiding by the same rules and why private wells are excluded" from the restrictions.

Select Board member Joseph Fisher asked that Rockoff and the three board members be provided with an update concerning Rockoff's inquiry.

*Tyler Herrald and Benjamin Lee were interviewed for the opening on the Hingham Municipal Light Board by the Select Board and members of the light board. Both candidates explained their background in the field and why they would like to serve on the board.

"The choices we have to make over the next 10 years could be among the most important ones the town has made in the last 30 years due to changing market dynamics and [in consideration] of achieving the climate goals set by the town," Herrald said. "We should be extra-careful about how we contract for [energy] supply. The devil is in the details.

Lee said he supports the town moving toward using as many renewable resources as possible. "This ultimately has to be a community decision [as to the future direction of Hingham Municipal Lighting Plant]. There are a lot of technical decisions to be made, and we have to get the community to agree that it's worth the investment because ultimately that's where the money has to come from."

A decision as to which candidate will be named to the board will be made at a future meeting, at which time another candidate may be interviewed.

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