HANSON — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, June 13 voted to appoint Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett as the board’s liaison to work with the town administrator in formulating a proposal for a committee to explore transition options for the Maquan School building.
“I feel a sense of urgency on this because we don’t have much time, and I know government has a tendency to kind of work slow,” Selectmen Chairman James McGahan said. “There’s got to be a timeline on this. If we don’t act on this timeline, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) stuff can’t be transitioned and the building formally closes, then there’s really nothing you can do with it. We have to have a plan.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett will meet with Town Administrator Michael McCue as a point person, over the next two weeks, in formulating an ad hoc committee for the board to vote on at the June 27 meeting.
“One of the main topics at the next meeting is going to be boards and committees, so this should fit in nicely with that, as opposed to just doing it on the fly right now,” McCue said.
The School Committee officially informed Selectmen by letter May 22 of its April 12 vote to return the school building to the town due to declining enrollment. The district has also updated parents and guardians of administrative changes for the school’s final year — the 2017-18 school year.
The committee will be charged with recommending what the town should do with the building, including whether to sell or lease it — or to tear it down, McGahan said.
With the upcoming retirement of Indian Head School Principal Elaine White, effective June 30, Maquan Principal Dr. Elizabeth Wilcox will serve as principal of both schools next year. John Riley will continue as Indian Head School’s assistant principal and Director of Science Mark Stephansky, a licensed principal/assistant principal, will be based at Maquan where he will also serve as assistant principal.
Maquan Administrative Assistant Susan Andrews will remain in place next year and will move to Indian Head for the 2018-19 school year. Indian Head Administrative Assistant Joan Maloney is retiring, effective June 30, and a temporary assistant will be hired for next year. Maquan’s Early Childhood Coordinator Patricia Collins and School Psychologist Joan Joyce will continue to assist with administrative responsibilities.
Selectman Kenny Mitchell said he wanted to see a feasibility report, but McGahan said the report made during the former School Building Committee’s work is still available.
“If we don’t act soon enough, we could miss a window,” McGahan said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said she understood Mitchell’s concern, but noted the committee would not make a final decision, it would “simply ferret out all the information that this board would need to make the decision about what they would propose to Town Meeting.”
She said residents must be informed of the pros and cons of the available choices — including whether to lease, sell or raze it.
“There’s only so many options,” she said.
“If we were going to sell it, I think we would need a commercial realtor to come in and put a value on it to see what it’s worth,” Mitchell said. “Is that something the community would do?”
FitzGerald-Kemmett also said the building’s proximity to the Indian Head School should also be taken into account in what the building might be used for if it is sold.
McGahan said the town should also take into account the need for playing space for indoor youth sports teams such as cheerleaders and basketball.
“My biggest concern is the pitfalls to be unwary of [include] when does that ADA get triggered and when do all the required code upgrades get triggered,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “Is it if we sell it, is it if it starts being used at all, if it’s leased does that grandfather us in? We really need some help maneuvering through all those kinds of decisions.”
In other business, the board began hearing suggestions from members for its goals for the coming year. FitzGerald-Kemmett outlined her concerns about some ongoing projects as well issues she would like to see the board take on. McGahan also listed some issues of concern, with other Selectmen due to submit their lists in the coming days.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said she wanted to see updates on the sale of town-owned properties and planning for the Plymouth County Hospital site as well as a cost estimate on razing and site cleanup of the existing highway barn as part of the project to place a new facility at the former Lite Control site.
New goals she listed included: exploring the use of the former Plymouth County 4-H building at the food pantry site for a potential use as a senior center; work with the Capital Improvement Committee and department heads to get a clear picture of the status of town buildings; Main Street development; better public outreach to inform residents of programs, town needs and upcoming meetings and elections; and formulating a performance measurement format for McCue.
McGahan asked for formulation of a sidewalk plan, aiming at 1,000 feet per year over the next 10 years, to protect pedestrian safety as well as exploring the potential for placing solar panels at the food pantry to help defray utility costs.
Selectmen also voted to empower Selectmen Don Howard to vote for the Plymouth County Commissioner’s budget, except for the line item that would increase commissioners’ salaries by $13,000 per year. The board is asking for that increase — which returns the three commissioners’ pay to the $28,000 that was paid the position before 2008 — be phased in over three years.
The pay had been cut under pervious commissioners, when a previous administrator was displeased with their job performance. Plymouth Selectmen has already unanimously voted not to support the increase.