HANSON — The annual Town Meeting kicked off a smooth outing Monday, May 1 by honoring longtime Selectman Bruce Young, who is retiring from public office this year. State Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, attended, discussing the impact that Selectman Young has had on the Hanson community.
“The gentleman we are here to recognize has served the town of Hanson in many ways, dating back to 1977 as a Finance Committee member, a Historical Commission member, as a Board of Water commissioner and most recently on the Hanson Board of Selectmen,” Cutler read from a ciation he presented on behalf of the Massachuetts General Court. “Be it hereby known to all, that the House of Representatives offers its sincerest congratulations to Bruce Young in recognition of your many years of service to the Town of Hanson.”
“Josh and I are a prime example of people on opposite political spectrums that get along,” Young said of Cutler. “Everyone is working towards a common effort to move in the right direction for Hanson.”
Young also called the Town Meeting “the purest form of democracy” and encouraged everyone to spread the interest in Town Meetings to those around them for this generation and future generations.
Selectmen Chairman James McGahan praised Young for taking him under his wing, adding that Young has been a big influence on him politically.
The Town Meeting officially began by voting on the articles in the Special Town Meeting, during which, in Article 9, the entire Maquan School engineering condition assessment was scrapped. With this section of the article abandoned, the total cost of free cash went from the initial projection of $78,667 down to $53,667.
Between the Special and Regular Town Meetings there was a brief time-lapse video presentation of the Plymouth County Hospital demolition. It was said that the vacant area will be covered in a field of grass in roughly six weeks.
Hanson voters rejected a temporary moratorium on the sale and distribution of marijuana in Hanson during the annual Town Meeting. There was disagreement between the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee, with the Selectmen voting 5-0 to recommend and the Finance Committee voting 5-0 not to recommend.
There was an amendment to this Article, moving the date this moratorium would end from June 30, 2019 to January 1, 2019.
“Our primary focus as a committee is to look at the financial impact and what’s in the best interest, in terms of financial interest, to the town,” Finance Committee Chairman Michael Dugan said in discussing the vote not to recommend. “We looked at this as if a retail location opened in Halifax, or any of the surrounding towns, this would, in effect, have a future impact limiting free trade in Hanson.”
Essentially the Finance Committee didn’t not want to risk future financial gains via taxes from a potential marijuana facility. This moratorium would prevent Hanson from gaining a financial benefit if neighboring towns choose to open a facility before 2019.
One resident asked how much money the town could potentially gain from a marijuana outlet. The Finance Committee said that the town has the right to add an additional 2 percent tax on top of the state tax for marijuana sales.
This close voice vote was challenged by a resident, the lone article among 52 that required a vote count. In addition to a vote count, it also required a 2/3 majority. 62 voted yes while 56 voted no, defeating the moratorium.
As was the case during the Town Meeting Preview, Article 14 was the primary source of drama for the night. The primary concern, as brought up by the speaker from the Capital Improvement Committee, was the cost.
He said, “It is not up to our committee to second guess the department heads, it is not up to the board of selectmen to decide what the people of Hanson can afford will afford and will pay. We simply put the facts as they’re given to us by the department heads as a point of information to the citizens.”
During the annual Town Meeting, Young was highly critical of the Capital Improvement Committee’s repair matrix in Article 14:
“The purpose of having a capital improvement committee is outlined in the general by-law,” he pointed out, “It’s true the department heads bring their requests to the capital improvement committee each year, but it’s up to the Capital Improvement Committee, as outlined in the bylaw, to coordinate the development of the capital improvement budget within the operating budget in the current fiscal year.”
He explained that capital improvement funds can afford between $800,000 and $1 million, therefore the town shouldn’t have $11 million or $12 million in the capital improvement matrix.
“The committee is charged with prioritizing department head requests into the matrix for the first year and then to the corresponding five years as they see fit,” Young said. “That way you don’t have the department heads dictating and dividing up where the priorities should come, you have an independent board called the Capital Improvement Committee, made up of seven members at large, who possess neutrality on the subject dividing up and prioritizing capital improvement funds.
“If you don’t follow these rules and you just list everything under fiscal year 18 then there’s no sense in having a Capital Improvement Committee, because they’re the ones in charge of prioritizing it and sending it to the board of selectmen for approval,” Young continued. “Thus, if I see a capital improvement matrix that doesn’t follow the capital improvement by-law and I go along with it then I turn my back on what should be done under the general by-law. If we have a by-law, like any other law, it’s supposed to be followed. Why should I go along with a committee that isn’t following the capital improvement by-law?”
Voters nonetheless voted to approve Article 14 even with the Capital Improvement Committee brazenly ignoring the by-law and Young didn’t hide his disappointment over the vote.
Articles 31 and 32, seeking donations to nonprofit organizations were deemed illegal by town legal counsel, because the town is not allowed to give money to an outside organization. The organizations are Health Imperatives’ Violence Intervention and Prevention programs and the South Shore Women’s Resource Center for deomestic violence intervention and prevention. During the Town Meeting Preview, the Selectmen emphasized that they support these organizations but could not recommend them as they must follow the law in this instance.