The School Committee on Tuesday, May 29 voted to indefinitely table the purchase of land to the rear of the WHRHS property now being sold by an abutter.
Committee members had indicated at a previous meeting they would like to negotiate a donation of the acreage — which includes some wetlands — but the owner has since advised them she would prefer to sell it. The asking price is currently $50,000.
“I’ve said before, we’re pretty strapped from a financial standpoint so I question that,” said member Christopher Howard, who also indicated he wanted to see more information on how the district could possibly use the land.
Chairman Bob Hayes said the real estate broker contacted the district when the land went on the market to suggest it might be something the district could use. The property is land-locked, he noted.
“I think the idea of a donation is probably not something that the sellers are interested in,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Gilbert-Whitner. “If this is something you want to pursue more, things are always subject to negotiations, but that’s the cost of the land that we talked about at the last meeting.”
Member Fred Small made the motion to indefinitely table the issue.
“If there’s any interest in going after it [and negotiate] the price tag, at least that allows us to say we put it on the burner,” Small said, noting the only possible usefulness for it would be to swap the wetlands somewhere else.
Member Michael Jones said he walked the property about a week after the issue first came before the committee and found it was not all wetlands.
He wondered if a counter-offer of $20,000 might be acceptable to the seller. Member Dan Cullity suggested the issue was more suitable work for the facilities subcommittee to pursue. Gilbert-Whitner said she would place it on that subcommittee’s agenda.
Member Robert O’Brien asked if the land was useful to the district.
“I don’t think we’ve even looked at that,” Gilbert-Whitner said. “My understanding is that someone said it could maybe be used for parking or something, but these are wetlands around us so you really have to be careful.”
The Committee voted to ratify the unit A collective bargaining contract by a 6-0-4 vote.
Members Howard, Christopher Scriven, Robert Trotta and Chairman Bob Hayes abstained because they have family members who teach in the school district. Hanson Town Administrator Michael McCue, represented the two towns’ boards of selectmen. Member Michael Jones was able to vote because his wife is a substitute school nurse and not covered by Unit A. Alexandra Taylor was not present.
The committee was advised that Hanson’s 200th anniversary celebration committee is seeking the district’s support and involvement in events being planned for 2020.
In other business, the committee reorganized following the May 19 annual town elections in which incumbents Hayes and Small were re-elected and Whitman resident Scriven was elected to fill the vacancy left when Kevin Lynam opted not to run again.
Gilbert-Whitner opened the meeting, presiding until a chairman was selected and leading a moment of silence on the day after Memorial Day to “remember those who have given up their lives so that we may live as we do in this country.”
Hayes was then unanimously voted to return to the post of chairman in his 16th year on the committee. Trotta was elected vice chairman, by a 5-4 vote over Small, who was the vice chair last year. Trotta, Scriven, Howard, Jones and Robert O’Brien Jr., supported Trotta while Small, Hayes, Dan Cullity and Steven Bois voted for Small. Small was unanimously voted in as secretary/clerk.
Cullity was elected treasurer with Howard selected as assistant treasurer.
Subcommittee assignments are:
• Negotiations — for unit B, C and D contracts: Hayes, Small, Cullity, Trotta and Scriven;
• Facilities — Small, O’Brien, Jones, Scriven and Cullity;
• Policy — Trotta, Howard, Small and Scriven;
• Warrants — Cullity, O’Brien, Trotta, Howard and Jones;
• Pilgrim Area Collaborative — Bois; and
• Legislative — Small and Jones.
Incoming Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Szymaniak, who starts July 1, was appointed to the North River Collaborative and PCC boards of directors.
Bois was named the MASC/MASS Joint Conference delegate with Trotta named an alternate.