Seeks Hanson officials’ help for utility costs
HANSON — Town officials will crunch the numbers to determine if more can be done to help the Hanson Food Pantry pay its utility bills.
Under the current lease agreement, the town picks up half the cost of utilities for the pantry, which is located in the former Nurses’ Building on the former Plymouth County Hospital site. The arrangement also keeps the pipes from freezing in winter in the front of the town-owned building, a space vacated last fall by the Plymouth County Extension Service. The Plymouth County Beekeepers Association also contributes funds toward utilities.
But the pantry, which has also been planning fundraisers to address the problem, is already facing a $4,000 deficit.
Fundraising Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett and Pantry Director Sharon Kennedy brought a request to renegotiate the lease, with the town underwriting all utilities, before the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night.
“What we’re here to talk about is the state of the union, if you will, with the Hanson Food Pantry — and we’re here to ask your help,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “Already it’s become abundantly clear that the utilities and some of the additional expenses that come with being in your own building are more than this little fledgling food pantry had anticipated and more than they have in their coffers right now.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett estimated the additional cost could be $2,000 per month, but noted that is an estimate as the pantry has only been in the building since January. Grants are also being looked into, she said.
The revenue “we can absolutely count on” each year is $4,500, according to FitzGerald-Kemmett.
“This could turn into quite a dire situation,” she said. “If we had know earlier we would have told you earlier.”
Town Administrator Ron San Angelo said the timing is difficult as the fiscal 2016 budget had been finalized for the July 1 start, but indicated a willingness to work with the Town Accountant and pantry officials to see if a proposal can be drafted and brought to the October Special Town Meeting.
“Let’s get a handle on what’s actually being spent by who and how much,” said Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young.
FitzGerald-Kemmett’s committee is planning to begin an annual appeal letter as well as a Pack the Pantry Auction at the Hanson AA in September. They are also visiting churches and civic groups about scheduling each for an annual fundraiser on a specific month and collection cans are being placed at town stores.
“One thing I learned the day that you guys opened over there was that monetary donations were better than … food because [you] can buy the food cheaper,” said Selectman Kenny Mitchell.
He urged people donate money to the pantry.
“A dollar can be magnified by 10 times by us purchasing where we purchase,” Kennedy said. “We can buy [food] much cheaper that the average person.”
She said that, while people get a tangible satisfaction out of donating a food item or items to the pantry, if people can afford to give cash the pantry can do so much more with it.
“This is an important resource for the town of Hanson,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. The pantry serves 3,500 people each year, most of which are from Hanson. As a USDA-grant recipient pantry they cannot — and do not — turn away people who are hungry.
“Hunger doesn’t know any town borders,” she said, noting that, historically, the out-of-town clients have been Pembroke residents referred by Hanson churches with which they are affiliated. The food pantry has its roots in the town’s churches.
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit is staffed by volunteers.
In other business, Selectmen approved and signed a new 10-year license agreement for cable television services with Comcast by a vote of 4-1, with Selectman Don Howard against.
The contract includes provision for fiber optic improvements between Hanson Middle School and Town Hall in order to provide clearer transmission of public, educational and government access programming.
Howard’s objection was based on Comcast’s rate structure, which he said prices out many seniors on fixed incomes.
Selectmen also welcomed new Hanson Police Officer Jarod Meegan, who was sworn in during the meeting. Meegan comes to Hanson from the Wellfleet Police Department.
“I was very impressed with members of the Wellfleet Department saying he was highly respected,” said Hanson Police Chief Michael Miksch. “They described him as responsible, motivated, dedicated and loyal.”