HANSON — Selectmen voted to close and sign the warrant for the Monday, Oct. 1 special Town Meeting, which will include three new articles — two dealing with potential future uses of the Maquan School building.
A half-dozen other agenda items were tabled due to the illness of Town Administrator Michael McCue, including those involving votes on adoption of an Economic Opportunity Area designation for Main Street, a contract with an auctioneer for tax title properties, possible appointment of an IT director, an intermunicipal agreement with East Bridgewater and a committee appointment policy. The items will be added to the Tuesday, Sept. 18 agenda.
Selectmen voted, on McCue’s recommendation, to remove a Highway Department cul-de-sac maintenance article. After the department received quotes for the cost, they determined the project could be funded within the current budget, according to the Selectmen’s Administrative Assistant Meredith Marini.
Replacing the Highway project as Article 10 will be an assessment of the Senior Center, one of the board’s goals recently suggested by Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett.
“This [also] came up in the Maquan Reuse Committee,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “One of the things we’re thinking about is somehow could a portion of Maquan be used for the Senior Center, but of course we don’t want to move forward with that until we have a needs assessment done by the Senior Center and we know what it is they need.”
The article was placed, but no vote has yet been cast on recommending it until a dollar amount is available. Another placement without recommendation pending a dollar amount is one to protect the school building over the winter.
“Mike has now changed the [article seeking funds for] demolition of the Maquan School to securing and winterizing the building and conducting a hazardous [materials] assessment of the school,” Marini said. “We’re not going to do demolition at this time, but we’re going to button it up until some decisions are made regarding the building.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett said the winterizing and assessment article stemmed from a conversation at a recent meeting of the Maquan Reuse Committee based on preliminary work she and McCue have done. Requests for proposals and for possible plans from commercial real estate brokers were not provided and demolition estimates had run between $600,000 and $700,000.
“None of that sat right with us,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “The more we talked about it, the more we all agreed that, because of where that property is located and the emotional attachment to that school and the property [being] contiguous to the library, senior center and the [Indian Head] school, we really want to maintain control over that property.”
Among the possible uses is keeping the gym/cafeteria area for community use, while razing the rest to use the property for playing fields or accessible playground.
“Fundamentally, it just doesn’t feel right to not try to use some portion of that building,” she said. “Right now the plan is to mothball — winterize — the building so it doesn’t deteriorate.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett noted the town is negotiating with the school district on extending the turnover deadline from Sept. 30 to mid-October.
The senior center assessment could also help in determining how a portion of Maquan could help both the center and library with their space needs.
“I’m really hopeful we’ll have something by spring Town Meeting,” FitzGerald- Kemmett said. “It’s ambitious, but we’re going to try.”
Marini said the estimate for insuring the vacant building was $26,000 and suggested that cost may “put a fire under everybody” to have a recommendation within the year.
“We don’t want it to turn into another High Street situation,” Marini said. McCue has also added an article designating an Economic Opportunity Area as Article 23, which Selectmen voted to place and recommend, after Article 15 — seeking an assessment of the transfer station has also been pulled, this one by the Board of Health, pending an opportunity to meet with Selectmen on the issue.