HANSON — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, July 7 voted to form a De-Regionalization Feasibility Committee.
“People have been talking about it and it’s something we at least have to explore,” Selectmen Chairman Kenny Mitchell said about his decision to place the issue on the meeting agenda. He argued the board should decide how many and what type of members they should name to any committee.
Mitchell advocated at least one selectman and a member of the Finance Committee and three residents at-large be named to the committee.
“Don’t make it big and cumbersome,” Selectman Wes Blauss said, favoring a five-member committee. “Keep it as streamlined as possible.”
Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett suggested the committee title — it was originally referred to as the De-Regionalization Committee.
“I think, if you name it a de-regionalization committee, it seems as though it’s a foregone conclusion that we’re going to de-regionalize instead of that you’re going to look at the feasibility of de-regionalization,” she said. “We are not advocating for de-regionalization, we are looking into the feasibility. Just to be clear.”
Mitchell said naming the committee was one of the discussion topics he had in mind.
FitzGerald-Kemmett agreed with a five-member committee.
“Keep it lean and mean,” she said.
Selectman Jim Hickey volunteered to represent the board, and he Finance Committee will be asked to name a member. The vacancies for the at-large seats will be posted on the town website (hanson-ma.gov) for those interested to use in applying.
Indicating that she is aware of several people interested in serving, and acknowledging that other selectmen no doubt do as well, FitzGerald-Kemmett asked about the appointment process. Mitchell suggested a date be set next month for the board to review applications they receive in the intervening weeks — as is the normal practice for filling vacancies on appointed boards and commissions. Town Administrator John Stanbrook will meet with applicants first.
Hickey suggested it could take two-to-three months for any kind of report to come back to selectmen. He has already spoken to officials in Pembroke, which pulled out of the Silver Lake Regional School District, and is waiting to talk to the Finance Committee.
Mitchell suggested a cutoff date of Aug. 4 for applications with the aim that the board would make appointments on Aug. 11.
“I don’t want to make up figures,” he said. “We know what [the W-H region] is going to cost this year, but what’s it going to cost next year? What’s it going to cost in year three? By the time we get to year five is it so much money to Hanson that we don’t have a choice?”
FitzGerald-Kemmett said that, in addition to financial considerations, the committee will need help from Town Counsel Kate Feodoroff about the legal ramifications of disbanding.
“Two to three months is ambitious, but go for it,” she said of the work Hickey envisions ahead.
Selectman Matt Dyer suggested giving the committee until the spring 2021 Town Meeting to present a report and wondered if a School Committee member should also be appointed. FitzGerald-Kemmett suggested a resident active in the schools, but not a member of the School Committee should be appointed.
In other business, the town received a letter from a national lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceutical’s bankruptcy case relating to the opioid epidemic. Hanson is included in the class-action suit and were required to opt out if Selectmen don’t want the town included by July 15. Hanson could receive more than $6 million, but only a small amount of claims in the $2 trillion would likely be received by the town. No action was required to stay in the lawsuit that would cost noting to stay in.