HANSON — Selectmen Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett is anticipating a record turnout at the annual Town Meeting due to the school assessment issue, and has asked Town Administrator John Stanbrook to discuss overflow accommodations with Town Moderator Sean Kealy.
She suggested the Hanson Middle School gym, located next to the auditorium, where town meetings are held, could be the best location for an overflow room.
“We’ll be having conversations with FinCom,” she said. “They’re already percolating — talking about what projects may or may not be able to go forward, and suggesting measures of austerity that we probably need to implement.”
The possibility of an override may also need to be assessed, but FitzGerald-Kemmett said she did not want to put together an override committee just yet. She is waiting for a “little more sharpening of the pencils” before that decision is made.
“I know people are very anxious about this and all I can really say is we’re telling everybody what we can tell them, at the time that we can tell them, about what we’re doing,” she said. “Just because we’re not talking a lot about what is being done doesn’t mean we aren’t doing anything.”
She stressed that the entire board is actively working with people in Whitman and Hanson finance officials and town counsel to look at a “multifaceted approach” to cover all the town’s bases.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said she is planning a presentation to feature Town Counsel Jay Talerman, members of the Select Board, School and Finance committees and Town Accountant Todd Hassett to answer residents’ questions about the school budget.
“I think it’s premature to have that now, because … we don’t have even a nearly final number,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot more whittling down before its anything we can respond to.”
She is thinking it may be late in March before that session can be scheduled, most likely at Hanson Middle School.
FitzGerald-Kemmett also questioned an amended cell tower agreement at Hanson Middle School, presented to the board as ready to be signed.
Stressing she did not wish to overstate the issue, FitzGerald-Kemmett said she was hearing from a few parents with “potential health concerns” about the tower’s location near the school.
Stanbrook, who said he had not attended a recent ZBA meeting at which a hearing was held, suggested there was likely a 21-day comment period for residents to express concerns.
“I do not want to stand in the way of a cell phone tower, but I want to make sure that we’re being responsive,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “How, as a board, do we know how those things have been addressed so, in full faith and confidence, we can sign on this thing and say that we know that our appointed board has done what they are supposed to do and has been responsive to people expressing concerns?”
Stanbrook agreed to research the question and bring the contract back for a vote at the Tuesday, Feb. 25 meeting. Selectman Jim Hickey suggested asking the ZBA to at least send a representative to that meeting to answer the questions.
“This has been going on for two or three years,” Selectman Kenny Mitchell said. “Cell phone coverage is a public safety issue.”
He agreed that the ZBA should come in, but noted that a lease agreement has been signed and the tower has already been moved to address other concerns.
“For us to hold it back, based on one or two opinions …” he said.
In other business, a 1986 fire engine declared surplus by the board, gave rise to a discussion on how the town disposes of surplus equipment.
“There were a couple of companies that specialized in taking things that towns would declare surplus, and shopping it around,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said of information she and Selectman Matt Dyer learned at a January conference of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. “I was very impressed with this process and I thought we need to get on board with this, or at least think about getting on board with it,” she said.
Munici-Bid is one such company.
Both Stanbrook and Administrative Assistant Greer Getzen, who have both worked with Munici-Bid before, said such services are sensible.
“It costs us nothing, and they do all the work,” Getzen said. “They take the photos, they post it, they do everything.”
“They do a great job,” Stanbrook concurred, referring to his tenure in Mansfield, which used the company. “We moved all the surplus inventory like that.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett said she talked to a couple people representing such firms, reporting that all costs are passed on to the buyers.
Stanbrook said that equipment is declared surplus and available for disposition, the town would contact the company, and information would be posted online and set up the online auction. Bidders must sign in and demonstrate that the money to pay for the item is available.
A bidding window is established and the high bidder gets the item.
The board declared the fire engine surplus and Stanbrook said he would take the necessary steps to get it sold on Munici-Bid.
Dyer advocated keeping a photographic record for the town as well to keep track of what is being sold.