HANSON — Selectmen on Tuesday, Aug. 18, closed the warrant for the Monday, Oct. 5 special Town Meeting, placing and recommending 26 articles while placing holds on three others and removing one, which called for $1.5 million in raising or borrowing to demolish the Plymouth County Hospital.
“One of the most important things for anything to do with town meeting is where’s the funding going to come from,” said interim Town Administrator Richard LaCamera. He and Executive Assistant Meredith Marini had worked during the day on Aug. 18 to outline the funding source for each article for the board’s review.
“We’re fortunate that we received FEMA reimbursement from the [January] storm of $135,500, which means the tax levy now becomes available because we had to use the tax levy in order to offset the cost of those storms,” LaCamera said. “The Assessors notified us today that the new growth is $118,000 more than was used at [annual] Town Meeting.”
He explained that means there is $303,000 available through raise and appropriate that will not have to come from free cash, which has not yet been certified, to fund some articles.
LaCamera said, however, that the town should have about $200,000 available in free cash for the October Town Meeting. Another $302,441 is slated to come from raise and appropriate with the remainder of expenditures to come from other sources such as the Water Department.
Regarding financial issues surrounding the PCH demolition, LaCamera said demolition bonds must be paid in five years, not the 20 years Selectman Don Howard had argued might be possible to clear the site for possible development. Razing and renovation, by contrast, could be bonded over 15 years.
“We need to focus on the highway building first, and then focus on Plymouth County Hospital,” Selectman Kenny Mitchell said in advocating removal of the article. “We can’t take on two big projects all at once.”
He noted there are too many proposals on the table now. Selectman Bill Scott agreed, also arguing the town should more aggressively market PCH to potential developers.
Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young suggested the town might help fund demolition of the PCH building by auctioning off other tax title properties.
Selectmen voted 4-0-1 to remove the article and revisit it for the May Town Meeting to further research the financial issues and reword the article, with Howard not voting.
Among the articles placed on the warrant and recommended by selectmen were: $12,100 for Hanson’s 41.7-percent share in reimbursing the school district for a new water heater at WHRHS; $79,841 to reimburse the school district for repairs not covered by insurance in repairing damage cause by a clogged waste pipe at Hanson Middle School in the spring; and a by-law restricting service of selectmen.
Among the holds placed, for Town Meeting voters to decide, was an article to spend $10,000 for a study of Wampatuck Pond; investigating Main Street water flow and utilities for the food pantry.
The Hanson Food Pantry is seeking $10,000, but the article is for $25,000 due to a shortfall in the utility line item stemming from other town issues from lighting retrofitting. While the board supports leaving the issue to voters at Town Meeting, Scott expressed concern that the town might be setting a precedent for other nonprofit requests in the future.
Howard, who said Wampatuck’s water quality has improved a bit over the years, and Mitchell questioned the pond study article. Mitchell argued grant funds should be sought.
Selectman James McGahan argued that the DEP does not require specific action resulting from a study, so it would be something worth doing on such a heavily used pond.
“If you’re going to test one, you should test them all,” Howard said. He suggested a hold to further investigate a letter from state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, which notified the town of state grants for pond testing.
In other business, the board voted 5-0 to appoint Hanson resident Roberta Bartholdson as assistant director of elder affairs, a 19-hour per week position. Former Town Administrator Ron San Angelo made the recommendation after a group of five candidates — from a field of 23 applicants — were interviewed by San Angelo, Director of Elder Affairs Mary Collins and Marini.
“They were all great applicants. Any one of them could have done the job, but [Bartholdson] seemed like a perfect fit,” Marini said.
“I know her — a very good selection,” said Young.
“Her resume is quite impressive,” agreed McGahan.
Collins said Bartholdson would have to give a two-week notice at current employer, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care where she has worked as an executive assistant for 25 years, before she could start.
Selectmen also accepted the donation of a new shed, valued at $2,500, to the Senior Center from a couple who volunteer at the center.
The meeting was broadcast over Whitman-Hanson Community Access television.