HANSON — The Board of Selectmen has lost patience with JJ’s Pub owner Patricia Harrison on her continued failure to meet court-ordered Dec. 15 clean-up deadline regarding debris from the July 5 fire that destroyed the building.
Selectmen authorized Town Administrator Michael McCue to give Town Counsel Katherine Feodoroff the green light to go back to court on Monday, Dec. 17 to seek enforcement of the clean-up order until it is cleaned or the property is sold to someone who will clean it up.
“From what we’re hearing, the property is under agreement,” McCue said during the Tuesday, Dec. 11 Board of Selectmen’s meeting. “I don’t disagree with this board [that] we want to see something in writing, but all that being said, it’s my strong opinion, along with the Building Commissioner [and] town counsel … that it’s not going to be cleaned up — and we’re not entirely sure that the new person who is supposedly buying this property is going to clean it up.”
Feodoroff recommended that Selectmen authorize her to go into court Monday, but was not necessarily seeking that OK yet, as she was trying to reach the potential buyer’s attorney to determine their real intentions.
“If there really is a buyer, that buyer is going to want to clean it up” McCue said, suggesting he come back with more information at the Tuesday, Dec. 18 with Feodoroff ready to go to court Dec. 19, if necessary.
McCue had argued against wasting more time and money going back to court against the current owner, and waiting until it can be determined if the property has been sold.
Selectmen were not feeling as lenient.
“We can’t control that, and I think this board has voted enough on that,” said Selectmen Chairman Kenny Mitchell. “If it’s not cleaned up on the 15th, send [Feodoroff] to court on Monday morning. If the property’s conveyed to a new owner, then we deal with that.”
Mitchell said that would not be a bad idea in any case, because a new owner would likely clean it up. He said the board was behind “Whatever it takes to get the damn fence up” or the debris cleared.
Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett agreed.
“Let’s get on with it already,” she said.
She said residents are fed up with the continued presence of the pile of burned debris at the site.
“You’re saying all the hearings and [court] orders and everything else that we’ve had with the current owner are going to be right out the window if that property is sold to somebody else,” FitzGerald-Kemmett asked McCue. “We’re going to have to start all over again?”
McCue said that would be the case if the property changes hands.
“How do we know if it’s in the process of changing hands right now?” she asked.
“We don’t know,” he replied. “Through the Building Inspector, we have it on rather good authority that it is going to be sold and I can’t confirm that.”
Mitchell said Harrison’s lawyer sat in a Selectmen’s meeting in October, saying the property was going to be conveyed.
“I want Kate in court at 8:30 a.m. on the 17th,” he said. “We don’t want to talk about it anymore. Keep moving forward until somebody can bring me a deed that’s conveyed with a new owner. Then we can stop.”
McCue said a vote authorizing court action is required each time the property owner fails to comply with a previous order.
In other business, Selectmen voted to authorize McCue to explore a potential sewer district along Main Street (Route 27) in South Hanson with the city of Brockton and other state and local entities.
McCue has already attended one meeting with legislators and area officials “to start the conversation.” FitzGerald-Kemmett had also raised the issue at a recent meeting of the Old Colony Planning Commission (OCPC), McCue noted. OCPC indicated they would be willing to assist with evaluations and other groundwork, but the town will have to apply for a technical services grant.
“I think we’ve reached the point where, not only do I want the board’s support in going forward with requesting this grant — which we will get — but I want the board to, on a more official level, support the exploration,” McCue said. “You’re not making a commitment to go forward with a sewer district, but it is a rather massive undertaking.”
Brockton and Whitman — for carrying costs through Whitman’s system — are among the area communities involved, along with state legislators and other state government officials.
“I think it’s an extremely worthwhile endeavor in moving forward our vision for that particular stretch of road in South Hanson,” he said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said she has also talked with state Sen. Mike Brady, D-Brockton, and state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, and OCPC to find out what they can do collectively to help.
“There’s a lot of hurdles, we’re not looking to bankrupt the town of Hanson to do this project — so it’s all about state funding, grants — and because it’s contiguous to a lot of very important bodies of water, and I have reason to believe that there might be some grant money and then we can talk about how the rest of this project could be funded,” she said. “This is just a preliminary discussion.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett said that, while the issue has been raised before, Brockton had not been open to allowing new connections in the past but are now revisiting it.
“Brockton has had the capacity,” McCue agreed. “They’ve had a great deal of capacity for years, but for whatever reason … wouldn’t allow any hookups.”
Selectmen also approved a request for proposals on the reuse of Maquan School. Survey responses from residents overwhelmingly favored use of the building for a community/senior center, but the Reuse Committee is not opposed to leasing at least part of the land or other underused properties in town.
“People want us to keep some playing fields there and they would like that community center/senior center,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “We keep hearing the middle school-aged kids have got nowhere to go … they’re getting into trouble, and I think with the opioid epidemic and all the other dangers out there, we can’t really risk having nowhere for them to go.”
The library has already begun studies on expanding at their existing space, but the Senior Center officials have expressed interest in using a portion of Maquan.