HANSON — Voters at Town Meeting on Monday, May 4 defeated proposals to require two-thirds Town Meeting votes to approve capital borrowing for Hanson school buildings and to increase the elected Board of Health from three to five members.
Voters accepted a donation of former Lite Control land and buildings, authorized borrowing to implement a desktop virtualization and “cloud” computing method throughout the Whitman-Hanson regional school district, and endorsed a nonbinding referendum to discontinue the use of federal Common Core education standards and associated PARCC testing in Whitman-Hanson schools.
When Town Meeting was called to order in the Hanson Middle School auditorium Monday night, 202 Hanson voters were present, according to Town Moderator Sean Kealy.
Voters disposed of all 56 warrant articles over the course of four hours.
Finance Committee Chairwoman Barbara Arena thanked voters for coming out and participating in the deliberations.
“This is very important and it validates what we do as a town,” she said.
An article to petition state lawmakers for special legislation to require a two-thirds vote by Town Meeting, instead of a majority vote, to approve borrowing for capital costs for regional school projects in Hanson failed by 70 to 90 votes.
Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young said the measure would have restored the public’s trust in their government by keeping the school department in line with other town departments and closing a loophole that lets school borrowing questions bypass Town Meeting voters.
West Washington Street resident Joseph O’Sullivan said requiring majority vote is the right way to act because it takes half of the voters to stop a school capital borrowing measure. A two-thirds vote would be the wrong way to act, he said, because in that case a lesser number of voters, one-third, could stop it.
“That’s undemocratic,” he said. “Everyone should have a chance to vote on it.”
Voters approved a home rule petition for special legislation that would let the selectmen negotiate a contract for up to three years with the appointed highway surveyor.
An article that would have increased the elected Board of Health from three to five members failed by 72 to 80 votes.
Petitioner Helen M. Vess of High Street said, “Having a five-member board would create more transparency.”
Board of Health member Richard Edgehille said a five-member board would have worked better and be more professional than a three-member board and there would be no shortage of candidates.
Board of Health candidate Kimberly King said there are two health board candidates running and there is a great deal of interest in two additional positions.
Town Clerk Elizabeth Sloan said she opposed the measure and believes there would be a hard time getting candidates to fill a five-member board.
“To increase this board from three to five members is only going to make the situation worse,” she said.
By a voice vote, Town Meeting accepted a gift of land and buildings from Hubbell, Inc., a portion of the former Lite Control property on Hawks Avenue.
Hubbell is offering Hanson two acres of land, an 18,000 square-foot building that could be used for a highway department barn and a 15,000 square-foot building that could be used as a salt storage building.
The balance of the 10-acre property is being donated to the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for the Burrage Pond wildlife management area.
Hubbell is demolishing buildings and cleaning up the site and working with the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The two buildings being donated to Hanson are steel buildings built in the 1990s, with a modern septic system, are fully insulated with gas heaters and have a sprinkler system, according to Selectman William Scott.
Scott said Hanson would need to spend an estimated $1.5 million to renovate the buildings for highway department use.
The current highway department facilities do not meet required state and federal mandated codes for environmental and safety standards.
It would cost an estimated $744,000 to upgrade the current facilities and bring them up to code, Scott said.
Scott said Hubbell would take full responsibility for cleaning up the property to the satisfaction of the state Department of Environmental Protection, and Hanson could reuse the current highway department site for an added baseball field, football field, playground or for additional parking. The land donation, Scott said, is like a gift that would keep giving to the town.
The Finance Committee recommended Town Meeting pass over the article.
Arena was on the Lite Control committee, and said there are enough significant capital projects that Hanson is responsible for, and to add additional buildings is not the best fiscal use for the town.
Finance Committee member Stephen McKinnon said the town has not done its due diligence on the measure and finance committee members saw Scott’s presentation for the first time Monday night.
“Let the buyer beware,” he said.
Monponsett Street resident Jim Egan said the town already owns property it cannot maintain.
“The cautionary tale is Plymouth County Hospital,” he said.
Voters approved borrowing of as much as $633,500 to buy and upgrade computers in Hanson’s elementary and middle schools, and for Hanson’s portion to do so at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School.
Network equipment is 10 years old, at the end of its life, and no longer supported by the vendor. Instead of removing all desktop computers now being used and replacing them with new desktop computers, the same method that has been used for two decades, the plan implements a method called desktop virtualization.
According to a school district Town Meeting handout:
“After conducting a pilot program this year, virtualization was determined to be the best way to keep us current and on pace with ever changing technologies, rather than replacing each old computer with a new one. With virtualization, we anticipate a 10 year life span while replacing computers one to one would be four to five years. Virtualization centralizes the individual’s hard drive and operating system in the district’s data center, creating an on premise ‘cloud’ network. This enables users to access technology, anytime, anywhere, and with any device or platform whether they are at school or at home.
“The existing school desktops are reused as ‘thin clients’ because only the keyboard, mouse and screens are needed. Because individual hard drives are no longer needed, replacement device costs are less than $200. All items under the virtualization project will be covered under a three-year contract.”
No action was taken on an article that would have removed Hanson’s elementary and middle schools from the Whitman-Hanson regional school district.
By a voice vote, Town Meeting approved a nonbinding referendum to discontinue the use of federal Common Core education standards and associated PARCC testing in the Whitman-Hanson regional school district, and instead use pre-2009 Massachusetts standards and MCAS testing.
Article petitioners distributed a handout that included a memo to Hanson voters from state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, who has co-sponsored a billed called “An Act Relative to a Moratorium on High Stakes Testing and PARCC” (H.340).
According to Cutler, the bill would put a three-year moratorium on the use of PARCC, the test used with Common Core standards.
The bill would also put a three-year moratorium on the use of standardized testing to determine high school graduation, evaluation of teachers and assessing performance of schools or districts. It would also establish a task force of stakeholders to meet during the first 18 months to measure the use of high stakes tests as a high school graduation requirement, in evaluating educators and in assessing schools and districts against the paramount goal laid out in the Education Reform Act of 1993. Six statewide hearings would be held and a report issued at the end of the period.
“The substance of testing is a mater I believe is best left to local educators, parents and community stakeholders to determine,” states the Cutler memo. “High standards and a comprehensive assessment system for students and teachers are a critical part of our education system, but there must be an appropriate balance. I believe this legislation will help to restore this much needed balance.”
The bill is awaiting a Joint Committee on Education hearing date and has garnered broad, bipartisan support in the state legislature, according to Cutler, who has also co-sponsored another bill, H.351, which would place a broader moratorium on any new education program mandates from the state.