HANSON – Camp Kiwanee is working to restore and return a camp store, to sell snacks and drinks, and possibly town and/or Kiwanee merchandise beginning next summer.
Camp Kiwanee Commission Chair Frank Milisi and Town Aministrator Lisa Green will also work on determining the legal ramifications of selling merchandise at the store as the board voted to support the project with that caveat at its Tuesday, Jan. 23 meeting. The board approved a motion to approve the store once the questions cleared up.
The location is an elongated strcuture between the lodge and the camp fire house, Milisi said.
“We have [the] budget to fix it up as a store,” Milisi said. “We have the idea of selling pre-packaged snacks there during the summertime and also stuff for camping – wood, mosquito repellant – [and] we have the idea of selling some Camp Kiwanee merchandise up there – sweatshirts, hats, some of the bumper stickers that the hikers throw on their stuff.”
The commission is also discussing the option of having the store open when weddings are booked at the camp.
He said that, while it would not be full-fledged this year, it would be used for small things during when Cranberry Cove opens up, including the sale of passes.
“It’ll bring some revenue into the camp,” he said. “We’re working with the Board of Health already to get their blessing on going ahead and doing that.”
They have also spoken with the building inspector and contacted a contractor to do any structural improvements needed, including any necessary electrical upgrades for putting in refrigerators.
“We’re excited for it and kind of want the Select Board’s blessing to move ahead with that,” he said. He also said he was not sure if a business license was necessary.
Chair Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett raised the need to look into regulations that may pertain to the sale of town and/or camp merchandise.
“You’re going to need to talk about the town selling merchandise,” she suggested. “We don’t want to run afoul. … You may need a friends group.”
Milisi said he knows other towns with shacks at beach areas that do sell things, but he did not know the specifics of their arrangements.
“I’m sure we can get there,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “You’re just going to have to be thoughtful and make sure we don’t have any pitfalls.”
The board voted to approve and sign the annual partnership agreement with the Lakeville Animal Shelter to house dogs taken in by the Hanson animal control officer. This year, includes an assessment fee of $250 to help fund improvements to the shelter as required following inspections by the Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources.
“Basically, this is an agreement to get us through the next year,” said Town Administrator Lisa Green noting the assessment would be paid out of the animal control budget line. “This will hold us over until we’re able to, hopefully, open up our own shelter.”
Green said the town had not been assessed a fee in prior years. Dog owners pay a $25 per day boarding fee when they retrieve their dogs from the Lakeville shelter. A $20 drop-off fee had not been billed to the town, Green said, in response to a question from Weeks about language in the agreement. She said it is unclear whether the animal control officer has been paying that out-of-pocket.
“He has not come to us for reimbursement,” she said.
“He also said he hasn’t been dropping a lot of dogs off there,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “He said he’s essentially been our shelter.”
Weeks said he asked because the Lakeville Shelter’s fee structure opens up opportunities for Hanson to explore, such as a $50 late fee, immunization fees and “a lot more than just $250.”
“It doesn’t spell out necessarily who pays what, but … there are opportunities here where we can kind of adopt some of this stuff and apply it to ours, if we don’t already have some of this.”
Board member Ed Heal also suggested that more information be obtained about the fees and who is expected to pay them.
“It would be good to have some numbers,” he said. “How many dogs are we sending to Lakeville in the past five years and how long are they there for and who’s paying the fees. Do we have anything [on that]?”
Weeks said even if Hanson Animal Control Officer Joe Kenney is paying the fees out of his own pocket, “I still don’t feel right about that.”
“Whether he’s paying it, or he’s keeping the animal, neither of these options are long-term sustainable,” FitzGerald-Kemmett agreed.
Weeks said that, going forward, there should be some kind of an escape clause to prevent the town being billed for being absolved of financial responsibility of Lakeville does not send a bill in a timely manner.
WHITMAN – The ranks of the town’s public safety departments officially increased on Tuesday, Jan. 23 with the swearing-in ceremonies for new firefighter-paramedics Justin Everson and Joseph Lasko as well as new police officers Roger Kineavy and Alyssa Andrews as part of the Select Board’s meeting, in the Town Hall Auditorium.
Fire Chief Timothy Clancy thanked the board and Chair Dr. Carl Kowalski and Town Administrator Mary Beth Carter for the evening before introducing his new personnel who had been hired off the Civil Service list after completing the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy and one-year probationary period with the department.
Everson started Aug. 8 2021. Having grown up in Pembroke, he is now a resident of Abington.
“Justin has proved himself to be a great addition to our department,” Clancy said. “One thing you can say about him – he’s committed to training. You always see him out there working on skills.”
He was Clancy’s first official hire as chief of the department.
Lasko started Nov. 14, 2022. He grew up in Marshfield and also now resides in Abington.
“I believe they’re neighbors,” Clancy said of his new crew members, and like Everson, Clancy described Lasko as an asset to the department.
“We see Joe out always training, reviewing equipment and looking to better himself,” Clancy said. “Most recently, he approached me about becoming a member of the regional technical rescue team.”
Lasko also holds an associate’s degree in fire science.
“Both these firefighters came to our department as an unknown, which is kind of different for our department we usually know the people we’re hiring,” Clancy said. “I can say they have proven themselves to be great additions to our department, the service of our town and a benefit to our community.”
After being administered their oath as firefighters by Town Clerk Dawn Varley, Justin Everson’s mother Elizabeth Dwyer pinned on his new badge and Joseph Lasko’s new badge was pinned on by his mom Karen Lasko.
Police Chief Timothy Hanlon said both had attended the 75th ROC Plymouth Academy.
Alyssa Andrews, a graduate of W-H, lives in Whitman. She holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Southern New Hampshire University. Before attending the police academy, she worked for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Logan Airport.
Roger Keneavy lives in Whitman with his wife Bryn and their 6-month-old daughter. A graduate of Weymouth High School, he attended Quincy College and Petersburg College in Florida. He is a Marine Corps veteran, who served one tour of duty in Afghanistan and received the distinguished Purple Heart. He had worked for four years as a Plymouth County corrections officer before attending the police academy.
They both began their field training with the Whitman Police Department after graduating last week from the police academy.
After Varley administered their oaths, Andrews’ badge was pinned on by her grandfather, Wayne Andrews, and Keneavy had his badge pinned on by his wife.
WHITMAN – Considering that the whaling industry has been outlawed in the United States since 1941, whaling culture still has an impressive hold on us.
The blue, green and white logo of the erstwhile Hartford Whalers NHL team – now the Carolina Hurricanes – is still widely thought to be one of the best logos in sports. The H for Hartford sitting atop a stylized W for Whalers, both toped with cetacean flukes has always been eye-grabbing.
During the COVID lockdown of 2020, the stir-crazy global community became enthralled with a certain New Zealand whaling sea shanty, “The Wellerman,” which was written about a whaling supply ship owned by the Weller Brothers. Written in perhaps the mid-1800s – the Weller Brothers were bankrupt by the 1840s – the song relates how eagerly whaling ship crews looked forward to its ships’ visits bringing much sought-after sundries like tea, rum and perhaps letters from home.
What started as a single-voice work by Scottish tenor Nathan Evans, saw successive singers add bass, baritone and other vocal ranges as well as instruments – and the video blandishments of several popular memes.
People were bored and it was a catchy tune.
Whaling crew descendant, and New Bedford Whaling Museum docent Charles R. Chace brought a different taste of whaling’s hey day and decline to the Whitman Public Library on Saturday, Jan. 27 by way of a talk titled “Whales and Whaling History.”
“Ever since man has lived next to the seashore, they’ve been using whale products because whales die and wash ashore,” he said. “Then they learned how to hunt them a very long time ago.”
At first, that meant sending boats out after sick or dying whales close to shore and hunting them. By the time 20th-century factory ships were created, they were killing 50,000 to 60,000 whales a year, mainly to feed the post-WWII starving peoples of Europe.
A global moratorium on hunting was imposed in 1983. But Japan has since begun hunting again, Chace said.
Chace, whose grandfather Jonathan Chace and great uncle, Capt. Charles A. Chace of Westport, were both whalers, and whose great aunt had been a first mate on some of her husband’s voyages, combined tales of his family’s eexperiences with notes about whale biology and the demographic changes of whale crews to weave a story about some of the final years of whaling in America.
President of the Descendants of Whaling Masters, Chace was named for his great uncle, who spent 40 years making whaling voyages.
“I grew up listening to his stories and I learned some things about whaling from him,” Chace said, noting that his grandfather was the first member of the family to go whaling, followed by three brothers and his son, Charles. Chace’s great aunt Emily married Capt. Ed King and went to sea with him several times. Capt. Charles A. Chace’s wife Rachel went to sea as an assistant navigator on several voyages before they began their family.
Chace’s great uncle had also been a docent of the whaling museum before him.
Chace himself has developed a love for whales and has been a supporter of measures to protect them from the threats of the modern world and a changing environment. As an educational docent at the Whaling Museum, he has been trained to discuss the exhibits, the feeding, breeding and birthing of several whale species, and the equipment and methods used to hunt and process them. His talk was sponsored by the Friends of the Whitman Public Library.
“My grandfather died young, and he raised my father, [Stuart]” Chace said of the whaling captain for whom he was named. “He lived to be 93.” The elder Charles Chace died a month before he was invited to another instance of whaling in our culture, the debut of the movie adaptation of “Moby Dick,” starring Gregory Peck in 1956.
“Gregory Peck was going to pick him up and take him to the movie,” Chace recalled. Instead, he and his mother attended, sitting two seats behind Peck in the theater.
His talk focused on the differences between baleen and toothed whales, their ranges, eating habits and ways in which whale’s bodies helped them survive the ocean depths. He also discussed the mechanics of different types of harpoons.
Baleen whales swim along the surface, taking water in and then pushing the water back out through the baleen, licking small zooplankton caught in it, and swallowing. Baleen was used for women’s corsets, umbrella stays, buggy whips – many things that would be made of plastics today. Baleen sold for about 80 cents a pound in the 1850s.
Blue whales, humpbacks and fin whales, however, have lower-jaw skin that expands as they take in water expelling the water to sift out zooplankton as they breach.
Right whales, he noted, got their name because the now-highly endangered breed was considered the “right whale” to hunt.
“We’re trying hard to save them,” Chace said of the right whales, of which there are now only about 350 left. “They are slow swimmer, easy to catch and float after they die. Grey whales fight back – they called them devil-fish.”
Sperm whales, the largest toothed whales, live in harems and feed on the giant squid that live at depths of a mile and a half. They find their prey by sonar and swallow it whole, returning to the surface in stages because they are subject to the bends, as humans are.
To dive down there to begin with, sperm whales have a hyper-efficient bloodstream with a higher factor of hemoglobin than humans to help store oxygen. Their spines are also not directly connected to their ribs, allowing them to exhale before sounding, as their rib cage folds inward to protect their lungs.
Sperm whales are capable of sounding for more than an hour.
They were hunted for the spermaceti in their head, which is part of their sonar.
Chace offers more tales of whales and the whaling industry – including terrible food and living conditions of crews – visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum [whalingmuseum.org].
WHITMAN – The Select Board on Tuesday, Jan. 23 voted to begin drafting an energy aggregation plan with Good Energy L.P., a Municipal Energy Aggregation consulting company, for a competitive energy pricing plan for residents.
John P. O’Rourke, director of marketing and municipal affairs at Good Energy LP, , briefed the board on the service before their vote, which backed up a Town Meeting vote last May in support of the pricing approach.
He said Whitman is about a year away from being approved by the Department of Public Utilities.
The goal is to provide more competitive choices and longer-term, stable electricity rates, normally contracts are from two to three years, he said, noting that National Grid, changes its rates every six months.
“Aggregation only impacts the electricity supply side of the bill, the relationship with National Grid does not change,” O’Rourke said. “The only thing that changes is the name of the supplier on the bill and the rate charged. All other relationships that residents have with National Grid now stay in place, also any low-income or discount services also stay in place – that may be important for some of your senior citizens.”
Infrastructure, administration, billing and outages or problems with service are still taken care of by National Grid, O’Rourke explained.
Good Energy LLP is a national energy aggregation firm based in New York.
“Being a national company, we have plenty of backup to our team here in Massachusetts,” O’Rourke said of the company which has 20 years of experience on the national level and combined it with local experience, entering the Bay State market in 2014. It now has 68 client communities – with 52 active plans, three that were just approved by DPU four more pending approval soon, more plans in development and two new committed clients for which they are starting to develop plans – in the state.
Several of those communities, including Marshfield, Norton, Rockland, Scituate and Carver, are located in the South Shore area.
“It recently became the largest aggregation of its kind in the country,” he said. “Good Energy is active in all states that have municipal aggregation.”
The company does “all the heavy lifting” through the Department of Energy Resources (DER) and DPU approval process, and then monitor and manage the plan, providing officials with a portal to determine how it is functioning in real time, he noted.
Board member Shawn Kain asked about consultant fees, which O’Rourke said are 1 mil per kilowatt hour – about 1/10 of one cent per kilowatt hour – paid by the competitive supplier, not the town.
“That’s our fee,” O’Rourke said.
Kain also asked if an agreement could be amended mid-term for a better cost.
That is not allowed for, O’Rourke said, but said a town could make adjustments at the end of the term and the town picks out the plan that is most advantageous to residents. Contract renewals are begun about six months before expiration.
Select Board Vice Chair Dan Salvucci, who said he frequently seeks out more competitive rates online, how the plan is selected, and customers are informed.
“This is an opt-out plan,” O’Rourke said. “Once the plan is launched, there’s a 30-day period where the residents get a customer information letter. It explains the program and, of course, before that, there’s more information that comes out.”
Customers can either do nothing and become part of the plan, or opt out of it, which affects only those under the basic service of National Grid. It does not affect anyone who has already chosen a competitive supplier.
“They are not notified at all,” he said.
The town is provided with a matrix including three or four suppliers bidding on the town’s electricity load, and offer a grid of pricing over different time period from 12 to 36 months out. The town selects the one they feel is most advantageous to residents, who then can decide whether to opt out.
About 10 to 12 percent of most residents in any community already actively seek out alternative energy suppliers as Salvucci does.
“Most people are still on basic service,” O’Rourke said.
“I think what everybody is looking for is lower electric bills,” Salvucci said. “It’s that simple.”
Anyone who comes into the aggregation can get out of it at any time without penalty or termination fee and go back to a third-party supplier or go back to the utility, O’Rourke said. Last year, when National Grid was 33 cents per kilowatt-hour, Good Energy was in the 10 to 11-cent range.
“It was a home run during that period of time,” he said.
“It seems like your program fills in the gaps for people that are afraid to go out and look, because it’s a very scary world and there are a lot of scam artists,” Select Board member Laura Howe said, adding that she liked the fact that people could get out at any time.
O’Rourke said they also go out for bids at the most advantageous times of the year.
“We’re not going to go out to get a bid in a market that isn’t good for you,” he said. “We sit on the same side of the table as you.”
Good Energy is also researching getting into the natural gas market for customers, as well.
Board member Justin Evans, who noted he has a potential conflict of interest letter on file with the town clerk because he works for the DPU – although not on aggregation – and has asked for an opinion from state ethics, said he can be involved on the municipal side.
He said he and Town Administrator Mary Beth Carter researched the issue and liked Good Energy because of its large customer base, which can lead to more competitive pricing.
Small businesses and school districts can also be included in the aggregation and could be negotiated separately for better rates at their level, but they do not want to interfere in any relationships with municipal or school accounts unless they are approached.
HANOVER – With budget season heating up on both the municipal and school committee sides of the ledger, South Shore Tech is scheduling meetings with an eye on the calendar.
The SST budget must be certified 45 days before the first town scheduled to hold Town Meeting, which takes place April 1. But a simultaneous process involving the new school project, may be on the same track.
The next public forum on the building proposal is slated for 7 p.m., Jan. 25 at Abington Town Hall. The School Committee/Building Committee also meets on that date at 5 p.m.
Regarding the fiscal 2025, budget, Superintendent/Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey said the district is at the point where they are waiting for Gov. Maura Healey’s budget numbers to be released, which is anticipated to be just before the Jan. 25 meeting. The public hearing on the budget is also scheduled for that meeting agenda.
Hickey said he would consult with the committee chair to determine if a budget certification vote.
“It might be in our best interests to certify – to go on record – essentially, setting a [budget] ceiling,” Hickey said. “A budget certification does not mean anything more than [that] we’re not going to increase it from this point foreward. It can always go lower.”
If the budget is not certified at the Jan. 25 meeting, a remote meeting can be convened in early February to do that, he said.
The Committee also, on Wednesday, Jan. 17, voted to approve a revised educational plan, which had already been approved by the committee.
Vice Chair Thomas A. Petruzelli of Abington chaired the meeting in the absence of Chair Robert Heywood of Hanover.
According to Hickey, the revision is part of the MSBA’s normal process after the authority provides feedback on educational plan.
“They asked a series of questions that we provided clarification to … and we must embed those answers in [the original educational plan] document,” he said. “These edits don’t substantially change anything. They just clarify [points], which will make this process easier when our project eventually comes before the [Massachusetts School Building Authority].”
Hickey did not ask the committee to vote on a five-year bus lease that had been listed as an agenda item. Instead, it will be back before the committee for a vote on Thursday, Jan. 25.
The district initially leased propane-fueled buses in 2017. Hickey is planning to replace that fleet in fiscal 2025 or ‘26 with a newer fleet of buses.
“We have an opportunity to do this with a statewide contract with propane buses,” he said. “We would be trading in our existing propane buses, with equity, so that we can then replace them.”
The upcoming vote would encompass a longer-term lease-purchase contract, which triggers the need for a vote. At the end of the lease the district would own the buses. A dollar amount for the buses will also be included in the vote.
Ordering the buses in January increases the chances of getting the new buses in time for the new school year. Hickey said he was thinking of purchasing 13 buses and trading in 12 to increase the size of the fleet by one.
“That should give us enough capacity for at least the next two, possibly into the third fiscal year,” he said. “I think we’re projecting that, if we couldn’t afford it, we could get away with [using the current buses] for another year,” he said.
Whitman member Dan Salvucci noted that, should the new school, be approved, the district would be seeing an increase in demand for the bus as more students are expected to attend SST.
“I think it’s a waste of money to lease them.” he said.
In other business. Principal Sandra Baldner introduced Student of the Month Stella Glykis of Hanover, a culinary arts senior doing her co-op assignment at Scarlet Oak Tavern in Hingam, where she is works the line, but is fully trained to take on any station in the restaurant.
“I know from personal experience that South Shore Tech staff members seek out her culinary expertise when they go and dine there,” Baldner said. “She’s surrounded by industry professionals who share her drive and creative nature.”
“Her job has not only taught her how to cook, but how to be an asset at the restaurant,” Baldner quoted Glykis’ teacher Charles Doucet as saying.
Glykis is described by the restaurant’s executive chef as a “great team player” who performs at an advanced level and will do great at culinary school.
“She has an open mind and is willing to try new things,” the chef said. “We have seen tremendous growth in Stella and we are glad to have her here.”
Glykis is “laser-focused on her career” and plans to attend the Culinary
Institute of America.
“I would also like to showcase Stella as an outstanding student who represents us well,” Baldner said, adding that the previous week, she was among students asked questions by the South Shore Leadership Group with the South Shore Chamber of Commerce during a luncheon program.
Baldner also shone the Staff Spotlight on the Metal Fabrication/Welding program.
HANSON— The Select Board on Tuesday, Jan. 9 opened the warrant for the annual Town Meeting as Town Administrator Lisa Green announced she was sending out a memo to department heads the next day, giving them until Friday, Feb. 9 to submit articles.
Guidelines on how articles will be established, including supporting information necessary and that all articles must be reviewed for accuracy.
Frank Milisi said the Capital Improvement Committee plans a Feb. 26, asking if a placeholder article could be drafted until they can finalize its language.
“We may have some ARPA money that’s available for capital improvements,” Chair Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett sad. “I suspect because we are drawing the line quite early – intentionally so because everybody procrastinates and then it ends up being a real burden on our office – that we will get a number of place-holders, and that’s fine, as long as people vet [articles] and flesh it out and make sure that the get the details to us in time.”
The board also voted to formally agree to a new contract with Town Accountant Eric Kinsherf and to appoint Kerry Glass as local building inspector.
Green said that the board entered into a new contract with Kinsherf in November, who had been hired as an interim to provide accounting services to the town, and “never quite took that away,” she said.
“This, basically, is a formality to appoint Mr. Kinsherf as our town accountant, not our interim accountant.”
His term, which began Dec. 21. 2023 runs through to Nov. 30, 2024.
In Glass’ case, when the board went through its appointments in May 2023, Glass was appointed as an alternate building inspector retroactively from July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2034.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said that was the role Glass had before former Town Inspector Robert Curran left. Glass had then been appointed to the post.
Hanover Building Commissioner Joseph Stack has been serving as the town’s alternate inspector as well, which Town Clerk Elizabeth Sloan had brought to Green’s attention. Sloan has to file the building inspector’s name with the state, as well as that of the alternate.
“What we’re doing here tonight is correcting that we don’t have two assistant local building inspectors,” Green said. Glass will be the local building inspector and Stack will continue to serve as Hanson’s building commissioner until Glass obtains his proper certification.
Glass is already licensed by the Division of Occupational Licensing and the Board of Building Regulation Standards said Green, who described the Stack’s main duty in Hanson as mainly to sign occupancy permits and Glass is a licensed building inspector with a updated license and can perform inspections, providing Stack with a verbal indication of whether or not permits should be signed. But Glass still must take more exams to have the title.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said the board would like a timeline for when that might be accomplished. There is also no charge for Stack’s signing of the permits.
The School Committee had an early look at the fiscal 2025 budget on Wednesday, Jan. 10.
“I feel very comfortable that what I’m presenting here today is what the district needs next year,” Szymaniak said. “We are not adding any programs to the district next year.”
“This is a first presentation, so we all need to understand [that],” said Chair Beth Stafford.
Preliminary calculations put the fiscal 2025 budget – at this point – at $63,565,154. That is an increase of $3,079,996 or 5 percent over the current budget, as voted at town meetings of $60,485,158.
A $63.5 million budget would mean increases to the operating assessments of 11.2 percent for Whitman and 9.98 percent in Hanson. He also offered calculations on budget increases of 4, 3 and 2 percent [see page 3].
“I kind of want to call this a preview, like when you go to a movie, there’s a preview and I don’t know if this is going to be an action-thriller or, as we go forward, or a comedy or all of the above, but it’s budget time in Whitman-Hanson,” said Superintendent of Schools Jeff Szymaniak.
In a more serious tone, he described it as a pre-preview of what he will officially present to the School Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 7. He also noted he was invited by the Whitman Finance Committee to meet with them at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 6, he said that, while he will meet with them at that time he will not share the whole presentation that the School Committee will hear the following night.
“I’ll give them some data backing what I’m talking about today,” he said.
He has already met with administrators of both towns in November to discuss the budget outlook.
“We talked about formulating relationships with both towns and seeing where both towns were at,” he said. “Both TAs told me they were going to earmark a 5-percent increase of the assessment for next year, and I kind of looked at them and said, ‘That’s going to be kind of difficult for me, knowing that we’re coming off of [federal] ESSER [funds] and knowing our cost of living raises and steps and lanes as we move forward.’”
The budget is being drafted “rolls in everything that is in-district today –every person, every program, everything,” Szymaniak said. “It is a mirror image of what we have today.”
That includes all staff that were included in the budget through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund. While the Student Opportunities Act (SOA) is supposed to provide school districts with more money, Szymaniak said he does not know and can only “low-ball guesstimate” the amount for this budget presentation.
“We don’t want to over-shoot,” he said. “Last year, we over-shot in transportation reimbursement, this year we earmarked at 70 percent. If it’s up, it’s up, if it’s down, we’re not overbudgeting for it.”
The budget also maintains the current curriculum cycle of “highly instructional materials” while keeping the same number of staff hired to do instructional interventionists to help support all students, which is not only important for post-COVID, but for students on the whole.
In explaining how the cuts to get closer to the towns’ 5 percent outlook would affect the schools, Szymaniak emphasized that he did not intend to take anything out on anyone.
A 2-percent budget increase would mean a $63.325 million or an increase of $2,839,000, leaving a shortfall of $1,630,293 to be cut from the district’s budget. Under that budget, Whitman’s assessment would be 5.51 percent and 5.41 percent in Hanson.
A 3-percent increase – at $63,325,354 – would mean Szymaniak would have to reduce the general fund by $1,025,441, which would increase Whitman’s assessment by 7.59-percent increase to Whitman’s assessment and 7.11-percent increase for Hanson.
A 4-percent budget increase – at $63,325,154 – would mean a $420,000 cut and would increase Whitman’s assessment by 9.67 percent and 8.8 percent in Hanson.
“I show you these numbers because they’re real,” Szymaniak said, noting he is still hoping for state funds, but is not holding his breath.
“I understand that the pie is going to be divided and that is why we’re going to have conversations,” he said. “We will also look at it to make sure it is as efficient as possible while making sure our students have what they need.”
He also said he would not knock the towns because they have already provided a lot of what the schools need, but added those needs continue to grow and it costs more every year.
Committee member Fred Small asked how the past use of excess and deficiency funds as well as one-time funds from the towns have made a difference in the budget bottom line.
Member Dawn Byers noted that some of the increase was due to contractual obligations, but increases in expenses have also been seen.
“When I think of what you’re going to present, there’s a way to reflect what the contractual percentage increase is as a piece, while consumables would vary line-by-line,” she said.
Szymaniak said teaching applicants are also becoming hard to find.
Member Hillary Kniffen also suggested a breakdown of the increase in English Learner population, which has grown over the last few years, and the staff required to service that population.
Stafford also noted there are only three retirements planned this year, all of which are at the high school.
In other business, Christopher Szkutak, coordinator of the WHRHS after-school program, and the new middle school after-school program at WMS, briefed the committee.
“The high school, for many years, has had a successful program for kids who want to engage in some things after school – extra help, culinary [classes], all kinds of fun stuff, but engaged here until 4 p.m.,” Szymaniak said. “Last year, Chris took it upon himself to apply for a grant from the state to engage our middle schools.”
The district began the program at Whitman Middle School.
“Hopefully, this that grant opportunity will be open that we can do this at Hanson Middle School,” he said.
Szkutak said the federal 21st Century Grant program, administered by the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), is focused on providing enrichment opportunities for students after school and ensuring there is equitable access to after-school programs for all students. There is no cost to students and transportation via late bus is available to students who need it.
“We want to make the after-school experience as equitable as possible for all students,” he said. “At the high school, we’ve had this program for at least 10 years and we have approximately 60 students that are enrolled.”
Culinary programs, a Community Connections Club which works on improving school climate, support classes for students re-taking MCAS exams and a World Cultures Club that brings newcomer students together with other students at school to blend and learn about each other.
W-H was only allowed to apply for a grant for one middle school at a time, and applied for WMS last year under an application for 65 students – they now have 160 students taking part. They are applying for Hanson this year.
The grants are for five years.
“We have a lot more interest and a lot more students involved than we expected, which is not a bad thing,” Szkutak said. “We had to expand to two late buses just leaving from Whitman Middle.”
There are nine different clubs open to students, with most students attending two days a week. The state’s guidelines aim for each student to take 90 hours a week of activities.
Ten WMS students spoke about the clubs they are involved in. A seventh-grader, Sophia, involved in Uplift described it as a safe space for girls to talk about issues they encounter at school, such as bullying, as well as lighter topics of skin care and makeup.
Other students spoke of their involvement in a musical theater program, as well as E-Sports Club, D&D Club and a Diversity in Tutoring program. Theater is the most popular club.
Szkutak said he is always looking for other funding sources and has a couple more grants in the pipeline to help expand the program’s reach.
Esports are a program that DESE “almost requires,” he said. There are scholarships available through it, and students are able to connect with one another.
“There’s teamwork, the social-emotional learning you get from working competitively, and the gaming club we offer at the high school is also during enrichment,” he said.
Unlike some other after-school programs, the grant-funded enrichment programs are not permitted to charge a fee for participation.
HANSON – The town is finding many hands make more efficient – if not lighter – work when it comes to enforcing codes and running recreational outlets.
The Select Board voted on Tuesday, Jan. 9 to create an Inspectional Services Task Force for code enforcement. It is not a committee, but several town officials working together in furtherance of their day-to-day jobs, Chair Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
Fire Chief Robert O’Brien, Deputy Chief Charles Barends, Building Inspector Cary Glass, Health Agent Gil Amado and Green have been meeting regularly on Monday mornings to discuss code violations in town.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said it should not be limited to those officials as Conservation Agent Frank Schellenger or other officials might be included from time to time as their boards or commissions have jurisdiction.
“[It’s] mainly focusing on commercial/industrial code violations,” Green said. “We’ve found these discussions to be very helpful, beneficial – it’s the departments working together addressing complaints that are received and following up and making sure all our businesses are following all the codes – it’s been very helpful to go out to these businesses as the inspectional task force.”
She said they talk about solutions together and with business owners to ensure compliance.
“We would like the board to officially vote to accept this new Inspectional Services Task Force so that we could come up with a mission, some goals, provide the board with some reports of our progress …it allows us all to work together,” Green said.
Amado agreed the task force works well.
“We do have a lot of code violations in the town,” he said. “I think this will work out very well … maybe stop some of these things before they start.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett said the board has expressed a number of times in executive session how impressed they have been on the amount of progress Green has been able to make on some long-standing issues in town.
“It’s been very clear that, when you guys work together and you’re sharing that information, it’s so much more powerful in terms of enforcement and in terms of getting the message … resources and in terms of each of the enforcement disciplines feeling support and not feeling as though they’re on their own trying to … fight the windmills on their own,” she said. “It’s the best of Town Hall working together and I would love to see more of that happening on other things.”
The board also approved the drafting of a warrant article and budget to create the Hanson Recreation Commission.
Vice Chair Joe Weeks had presented an outline to the board to establish some form of recreation committee and what it might be and how the committee would work, how facilities would be maintained and around overlap with other committees and commissions.
“This is just the beginning, it’s just to start the process,” he said. “I don’t know if we specifically want to name things like High Street Park oversight in this, although it might be a good idea, I just want to give a layout at first.”
He suggested a five-person committee that reviews policy, programs, procedures and recommends fee structures to the Select Board, when applicable, with committee input welcomed. He also drafted mission and vision statements to be discussed by the board.
Weeks asked if a committee should be given specific oversight over certain jurisdictions like High Street.
“I guess this is the starting point to figure out what we want to do,” he said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett agreed that the High Street Committee was formed to form the blueprint of the park location [at the former Plymouth County Hospital grounds] but, in doing so, she added, a lot of programming questions have cropped up.
“I don’t have a problem with giving them programming responsibilities at High Street,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “Where it gets weird is [whether] they would be responsible for programming at Camp Kiwanee or working with the Camp Kiwanee Commission.”
Camp Kiwanee Chair Frank Milisi said it would be a cooperative working arrangement.
“That’s one of the joys of a town department, we will work together with you for literally no cost,” he said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett pointed out that it would take a Town Meeting warrant article to create a new Recreation Committee.
“I think this is exactly what I’ve always heard people saying that we need,” she said. “We’ve just never to put pen to paper for it.”
Board member Ann Rein said she was a bit confused about the difference between a commission and a committee. The rest of the board agreed that they did not know the difference, either.
High Street Committee member Alex Stewart said he Googled the terms.
“A committee operates as an internal regulation while a commission is more external,” he said.
“So it’s really a [recreation] commission,” FitzGerald-Kemmett adding the change on paperwork could be easily made.
Milisi said a budget line item for any commission would also be needed in drafting a warrant article.
“You will need money in that account to run those programs,” he said. “That’s the one thing that we weren’t [prepared for] at Camp Kiwanee. You need money for everything. Recreation doesn’t come free.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett suggested some coordination with the Cultural Council, which is funded through the state, the Library and Senior Center.
The Board approved Treasurer-Collector Lisa Clark’s employment contract agreement, which compromises on the use of vacation time. The position comes with a total of 25 days’ vacation time, Green said.
“What we thought was a good compromise on this would be to break the vacation accrual into two separate times,” she said. “Basically, on July 1, 2024, she would receive 12.5 days and then on Jan.1, 2025, she would receive 12.5 days. This way, she’s not being front-loaded the full amount … and there is a clause in the contract that she would be allowed to carry over up to 10 days.”
The Board approved a further modification suggested by Weeks that an additional five days could be carried over, if necessary.
The Select Board had been concerned that someone might use the month of vacation time and then leave the position.
The three-year contract runs through to Dec. 31, 2026.
HANSON – Town Administrator Lisa Green told the Select Board on Tuesday, Jan 9, that they should seriously consider increasing the Animal Control budget to $72,000 for fiscal 2025 – to include a full-time animal control officer, while supplying vehicle equipment to lift heavy animals, such as deer, from the roads and reopening the town’s animal shelter as a temporary holding facility.
That would be an increase of $43,034 from $28,966 for salary and costs ($2,500 for expenses; $800 for supplies; $1,800 for vehicles, none of which have ever been used) with some expenses reduced and others increased ($2,500 for supplies, $15,000 for building repair, $5,000 for utilities, and $5,000 for expenses). Green said those expenses could be adjusted if some supplies and labor were donated.
The Select Board voted to support a warrant on the matter and to explore the placement of the ACO under the auspices of the police department.
“This is not a want, this is now a requirement,” Green said.
The reason – tremendous growth of housing stock now under construction in town and the often-accompanying problem of abandoned pets when tenants move or are evicted.
“Hanson is growing tremendously and Mass. General Laws state that each town must have an animal control officer,” Green said. “We can’t ignore it anymore.”
There are now four apartment buildings going in on Main Street. Liberty Wood will have 56 units; Station Landing will have 49 units; Dakota Partners, which has been open for a year, has 48 units; Cushing Trail will have 40 units, there are nine new houses going in on County Road – a total of 206 housing units.
She said that prior to the opening of developer Dakota Partners’ Depot Station apartment complex, abandoned animals had not been a focus of the town. When there was a need, they have used the Lakeville animal shelter for the last few years.
Hanson has been sharing animal control services with other communities, which has worked well until recently, Green said, calling it a “complex area” because of the range of calls that come in, from animals of all sizes hit by vehicles to dog bites or attacks, bear sightings or livestock in crisis.
“It’s a 24/7 job because they’re on call,” she said. “Animal Control officers generally don’t patrol because, basically, we don’t have the resources to do that.”
ACO Joe Kenney, who has been working with Hanson since 2019, has done so on a part-time, 16-hour per week basis. Hanson does not provide any type of equipment for the work or resources for where to put carcasses or shelter confiscated animals or the protective apparel he might need.
The vehicle that was being used for animal control has been used recently by the Highway Department and will be redeployed to Kenney’s use.
“With the arrival of these multi-unit facilities, we’re facing new challenges,” she said, citing the example of evicted tenants. “They leave their pets behind. … It is, under the law, the town’s responsibility to remove that animal.”
Making a problem more difficult is the fact that most area shelters do not accept cats, so Kenney has been bringing abandoned felines to his home until he can find a shelter to take it in.
“We can’t have our animal control officer bringing these animals to his house,” Green said, citing liability to the town if he was bitten. He also ends up bringing abandoned or confiscated dogs to his house if Lakeville’s shelter is full. Hanson has an animal shelter, but it has been closed since 2012. Hanson pays Lakeville a rate per day for the time a dog is kept there, and that town is discussing raising the cost to $250 per dog per day when they do have room.
“Not to mention he’s not getting paid for taking care of the animal at his home,” Chair Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
Kenney said most of Hanson’s dogs are usually claimed because they are someone’s pet – at times before he has completed the 40-minute drive to Lakeville. Farm animals for which he is called cannot go to Lakeville anyway.
“I think the time has come, as the town grows, to seriously look at reopening that shelter,” Green said.
She has increased the ACO salary in the fiscal 2025 budget and allotted funds to reopen the animal shelter, working with South Shore Tech to have students fix it up, as well as funding the supplies Kenney needs.
“He is an excellent animal control officer, he knows the laws, he works very well with the people, he loves animals and I think we need to pay attention to this, increase the budgets, reopen the shelter and possibly partner with Abington,” Green said.
Abington also lacks a shelter, she noted adding that she has already reached out to the Abington town manager to perhaps begin discussing a partnership toward sharing costs.
Most South Shore towns either contract out, work with Boston Field Services or partner with other towns for animal control, but Green said those arrangements do not always work out.
“It has not historically worked for us,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “We’ve done Whitman, East Bridgewater, now Lakeville, and there’s always some issue.”
She also said that, since Kenney has been the ACO, she has heard very few, if any complaints about responsiveness or any of the problems the town has had in the past and that, compared to others in the region, he is not paid appropriately.
“And yet, here he is, doing his job and not complaining about it and doing it well,” she said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett asked for an estimate of the cost to rehabilitate the shelter building an whether ARPA money could be used. The ACO salary is currently $20,566 for the year, Green said. A full-time position would be budgeted for $41,000 for the increased hours.
Green said she will look into the ARPA question, and that Town Hall facilities staffer Charlie Baker is gathering quotes to repair leaks in the roof; it should cost about $350 to clear overgrowth at the rear of the building; she is looking into having SST remove kennel fencing and gates to restore and rustproof them; and is calculating utility costs.
“I have put a budget of $15,000 in for rehabilitation of the building,” Green said. “What’s good about animal shelters is there’s a lot of interest from volunteers … so we’re reaching out to different resources for helping get that animal shelter back up and running.”
WHITMAN — Chief Timothy Clancy reports that the Whitman Fire Department responded to a partial collapse in a vacant building on South Avenue on Wednesday Jan. 10.
A 911 call reported a collapse at a one-story building at 356 South Ave. at 9:32 a.m., according to Clancy. Upon arrival, firefighters found that a portion of the front wall had fallen over. No injuries were reported. That portion of the building is vacant and unoccupied. It is attached to a two-story building, which was not damaged.
Firefighters quickly secured the building. National Grid and the building inspector were notified. Crews cleared the scene at 10:13 a.m. Traffic was not affected. The cause of the collapse remains under investigation.