HANSON — In a Town Meeting that impressed even Town Moderator Sean Kealy with its smooth going, Hanson voters acted on 37 articles in less than two hours Monday, May 2 — with no discussion at all on the W-H regional school budget or override articles.
“This is great,” Kealy said at one point, urging the crowd to attend more town meetings.
After the meeting, School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes said he was not surprised by the lack of discussion on the school articles.
“It was pretty much cut-and-dried [as to] what it was going to do,” he said. “It’s got to go to the vote, and that’s what everybody wanted, anyway. The people of Hanson have always been good to the school district.”
Kealy had explained that the individual expenditures involved in the Student Success budget, listed in the warrant and read aloud by Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young, would not be a subject for debate.
“We don’t have control over it,” Kealy said. “We either give them the money, or we don’t give them the money.”
He explained School Committee meetings are open to the public and concerns could be expressed directly to them. Young also outlined that Article 6 appropriates the funds, but the ballot question must authorize spending.
After the article passed without discussion, resident Joseph O’Sullivan sought reconsideration in the hope that his motion would fail. Kealy asked for his reason, explaining the Hanson Town Meeting tradition required a “compelling reason,” such as correcting a mistake in wording or calculation.
“We have never done it to close out an issue,” Kealy said. “I do not want to set that precedent, so is there a compelling reason other than you just want no monkey business later on?”
“I want no monkey business later on,” said O’Sullivan, withdrawing his motion.
Kealy reported there were 268 voters present when the Town Meeting began at 7:40 p.m. The 10-minute delay was allowed so that people still in line to sign in by the 7:30 start time could do so. A few more voters arrived after Town Meeting convened.
The town’s free cash balance at the beginning of the special Town Meeting, which was conducted first, was $885,030.
One article that received some unexpected debate within the special Town Meeting was a proposal to spend $3,000 from free cash to pay for a person to come in and scan oversized Planning Board documents onto a digital format. The program was begun last year,
New resident David Pell of 33 Great Cedar Drive asked why the town didn’t buy its own scanner, which could save money in the long run.
“We’re paying $3,000 on an ongoing basis,” Pell said. “I think it would be cheaper if we bought ourselves a printer.”
Capital Improvement Committee Chairman John Norton pointed out that the town owns such a printer. The Historical Society worked with the Community Preservation Committee to obtain one, which is housed at the Hanson Public Library.
“If they walk over to the library, they can save $3,000,” he said. On a counted vote of 172-84, the Town Meeting took Norton’s advice and rejected the Planning Board’s article.
“Once again, welcome to town,” Kealy said to Pell with a laugh after the unanticipated exchange.
Discussion also cropped up in the annual Town Meeting regarding the Maquan School roof repair project under Captial Improvement projects on which there had been a hold placed by selectmen until the board’s pre-Town Meeting session .
Selectman James McGahan, in a meeting of the Board of Selectmen prior to Town Meeting, advocated leaving the figure at $322,000 in case the roof repair came in higher than the current estimates received from Gale Engineering.
“We expect this price to be less, but any difference between the price [goes] back into free cash,” McGahan said at the time, and repeated his reasoning during the Town Meeting session.
Young had argued for reducing it to $150,000. Hayes agreed with McGahan’s approach.
“Another issue to think about is we have to do this work in the summer,” Hayes said during the selectmen’s meeting, cautioning that under-funding the project could delay it because additional funding would have to wait for the October special Town Meeting. “If we can’t do it in the summer, we’re back to the next summer.”
One resident asked how the animal control officers’ hours, which she found inadequate, could be increased. Kealy and selectmen pointed out that, as a regional service, changes would have to be negotiated with partner communities Whitman and Abington. It was one of only four minor questions asked about the $22,621,024 budget article.
“It almost seemed too easy to get through that article compared to previous years,” Kealy said. “It might seem easy, but it’s not. It took a lot of effort by the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen with the help of all the town departments, the school board — a lot of work went into this and it’s really a testament to their hard work that we were able to do this so smoothly.”
Town Meeting also gave unanimous support to the establishment of a Memorial to John Ferry at the intersection of Winter and Liberty streets, also voting to support the expenditure of $2,000 for a marker there.
Veterans’ Agent Bob Arsenault said the highly decorated WWII veteran was worthy of the honor, not only for his wartime service to country, but also for a lifetime of service to community.
“John did many things for many people,” Arsenault said. “He was a quiet one. … Many people, for one reason or another, couldn’t afford to have their vehicles fixed. … John would put it on the cuff.”
He also said that Ferry was known to provide reconditioned used cars to some residents who could not afford to buy a car.
“He loved the town of Hanson and I think this is only appropriate for us to do for him,” Arsenault said, indicating a dedication ceremony is being planned for early September.
Voters were also given questionnaires on open space use preferences from the Conservation Commission prior to checking in at Town Meeting and a demonstration of electronic voting devices was also presented in the Hanson Middle School lobby.
“I’m not quite sure whether I’m in favor or opposed to [electronic voting] at this point,” said Kealy about the work of the special committee he appointed to report back to him, selectmen and the Finance Committee at the end of the year or sooner.