HANSON — Selectmen on Tuesday, Aug. 27 heard a report on the town’s Economic Development plan from consultant Frank Mahady, owner of FXM Associates of Mattapoisett.
Mahady’s study was funded by a budget amendment filed in the FY19 state budget by state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, and supported by state Sen. Mike Brady, D-Brockton. A Town Meeting vote authorized the appropriation for the study in the Route 27 corridor and — in the town generally — as a method of assessing general office, retail and industrial space, as well as rental housing needs, in town.
“The greatest demand [nationwide] for commercial space is in so-called industrial wholesale space because of … the need to establish distribution centers on a broader basis,” he said.
Mahady found that an increase in Hanson’s population and number of households is projected to continue, and already exceeds rates of Plymouth County and the state overall.
Hanson’s median household income is “substantially higher” — at $106,000 than Plymouth County at $79,000 and the state at $81,000 — and a higher number of employed people per household. There is also a higher proportion of residents in owner-occupied single-family homes.
At the same time, between 2007 and 2017, jobs in Hanson decreased by 1 percent while county job availability increased by 14 percent and 15 percent statewide.
It had rebounded some since 2011, Mahady pointed out, however.
“Looking at market conditions and trends …we projected that demand for office space in Hanson and surrounding towns is about 8,000 square feet per year over the next few years,” he said. “The vacancy rates are low.”
Mahady said demand for rental housing that can support new construction is substantial, especially in the area of high-end rentals in the neighborhood of $2,700 per month. Tax rates are competitive.
“We think there is a strong potential, from a market standpoint, for mixed-use office/retail/restaurant and residential development in the vicinity of the MBTA station,” Mahady said. “There is a retail gap right now.”
Zoning changes and addressing wastewater treatment issues are required, however, to make such development possible.
Selectmen Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said progress made by the owner of the former Ocean Spray building is moving in the mixed-use direction.
“No one should be afraid of rental housing targeted to young professionals and empty-nesters, which is what everybody is doing,” Mahady said.
He said while he did not interview Selectmen due to an oversight, Mahady’s firm interviewed a dozen interviews with business owners in town. While he could tell them who he spoke with, confidentiality agreements dictate that he could not give details about what they said.
The board also heard department reports from Police Chief Michael Miksch and Town Accountant Todd Hassett.
Miksch focused on the changes to come from joining the regional dispatch center in Duxbury.
He is leaning toward having police officers staff the station after the change, to prevent having a dark station.
Station counts determined that about 300 people a month walk into the station, which Miksch thought seemed high until he reviewed the traffic data.
“On a daily basis, just under 14,000 cars drive by that station,” Miksch said, adding that between 15,000 and 17,000 drive by on peak days.
“That would explain, to me, the number of walk-ins.”
About half of those people walk into the station because they need a police officer, he said. “Any of those tasks that the civilians can handle, I can teach a cop to do. The other 50 percent, I can’t have the civilian do — dealing with restraining orders, taking in firearms or ammunition.”
He said it also provides a deeper pool of officers to deploy and noted that civilians can’t be sent into the cell block to check on prisoners.
The fire department has also reported that about 15 people a year walk in seeking medical assistance. For his department, Miksch said the answer lies in hiring new officers.
Five dispatchers can be translated into four police officers, he said, two of which can be hired before the regional dispatch takes over on July 1, 2020.
“It’s never been a notion for us to have a dark station,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “That’s never been on the table.”
She said regional dispatch should be cost-neutral, to which Miksch agreed, and estimated that two officers could be in place by January.
Hassett provided a financial update to Selectmen as well, reporting that overall revenues to the general fund have exceeded budget by $550,000.
“We did particularly well with excise taxes, licenses and permit revenue,” he said. Pending additional information from the Department of Revenue, he also expects another $82,000 in intergovernmental revenue.
Overall budget returns for the year are just over $800,000. Hassett also told Selectmen he felt town facilities maintenance efforts should be consolidated under a single manager, but that the current issues surrounding education funding might delay any movement on that front.
The Board of Selectmen also reviewed warrant articles and voted to close the warrant for the October Town Meeting.
(This story was amended on Friday, Sept. 6 to clarify the funding source for the study.)