October 26, 2022 By Glenn Mangurian
Stew·ard·ship: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care
Will you be attending the Special Town Meeting on November 1 to consider authorizing borrowing for the Foster School and Public Safety Building projects? I hope so. Now is the time to be a Hingham steward and be a participant.
Our Participation Is Democracy in Action
On Tuesday, November 1 (7PM indoors at Hingham High School) residents of Hingham will gather for a Special Town Meeting (STM). The attendees will deliberate and vote on whether to invest in replacing the aging Foster School and combining the old North Fire Station and Town Hall located Police Station into a new Public Safety facility to serve the town for the next 50+ years. The results of the Advisory Committee review are for a “yes” vote on both projects. Their commentary and rationale are included in the Town Warrant which you received in the mail last week. There have been several outreach activities and information shared on the town’s web site describing the urgency of the need for both projects and the cost impact on property taxes for the 30-year term of borrowing.
The Compelling Need for Both Projects
The North Fire Station was originally build in 1941 and is decades beyond its useful life. Similarly, the Police Station moved to the Town Hall complex in 1998 into the confined space of the old Central Junior High School wing. Neither serves the needs of a 21 st century fire and police force. We compete with other towns in recruiting and retaining the best public safety professionals. Antiquated facilities hinder our ability to train professionals in the latest and most advanced standard. Our first responders deserve better.
The Foster School opened in 1951 and has been subject to several expansions and renovations over the past 71 years. The 2006 Facilities Master Plan identified the need for Foster to be rebuilt. Since that time the school has continued to deteriorate and during the peak of Covid, Foster students had to be bussed to a rented facility in Weymouth. The 2017 Town Meeting authorized funds for planning and established the School Building Committee. Since then, the Building Committee has been working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) that will provide $25 million in financial support for actual construction.
These are both very complex projects that have been designed and reviewed by external professionals as well as town volunteers. In particular, reviewers have used the “value engineering” approach to seek the most cost-effective way of producing the building functionality. Past Town Meetings have authorized funds to purchase the land for the Public Safety facility and for design development and construction documents for both buildings. The final step is now for residents to approve the borrowing so construction bids can be solicited and construction can start in early 2023.
The Case for a “Yes” Vote on Investment for the Future
Construction of these facilities will satisfy the town’s needs for at least the next 50 years. As an example, every six years a new cohort of 400 students attends the Foster School. With an expected life of sixty years, over 4,000 students will benefit from the new facility. Over 80% of these children have not been born yet. Like other recently reconstructed schools, a new Foster School will allow these students to thrive in a 21 st -century learning environment. We owe them the best opportunity to achieve their full potential.
Funding the replacement of the town’s infrastructure is a shared responsibility. The combined borrowing for constructing the two buildings is $136 million and will be financed over 30 years. The Town’s Aaa bond rating – the highest rating possible – allows for the most favorable borrowing terms. The 10-Year Average Projected Tax Impact for both the Foster School and Public Safety Facility Projects is $592 annually for the median assessed property value (currently $739,400). Half of the resident tax bills will be lower and half will be higher. To support our financially-challenged residents Hingham offers 12 property tax relief programs. All things considered I believe this is a good and necessary investment for the future of our town.
We Are Stewards of Hingham
Others have made investments in the past for which we benefit today. Regardless of your age or length of residency, the stewardship mantle is now ours. Choices we make and taxes we pay are a form of “Pay it Forward” to preserve and improve upon the town which has been entrusted into our care for those that follow our path. It takes a village to care for the village. I’m a steward and so are you. Be a participant at the STM on November 1 and vote in the State election on November 8. I’m voting “yes” for both projects on both days