HANSON — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, April 28 — via GoToMeeting teleconference viewable on Whitman-Hanson Community Access TV — discussed the potential formation of a deregionalization study panel and reviewed the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve had a couple of people reach out to me and ask when are we going to be forming a deregionalization feasibility study committee,” said Selectmen Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett.
She said it was her recollection that selectmen wanted to give the voters a say on the issue.
“I think we knew, financially, it probably wouldn’t be in our best interests, at least initially,” she said. “Also, we knew it would be a two-to-three year process, conservatively, to deregionalize.”
They had supported a Town Meeting warrant in the past, but she wanted to touch base with the board on whether it needs to be done now.
“I think, right now, we can put this on the back burner,” Selectman Matt Dyer said. “I don’t think forming a committee would be productive in our talks with regional assessment at this time.”
He argued that the issue could be considered for the October Town Meeting, if necessary.
Selectmen Kenny Mitchell, noting the School Committee was slated to discuss whether it should rescind the statutory assessment methodology at its Wednesday, April 29 meeting, agreed that Hanson could hold off on the issue. Selectmen Jim Hickey and Wes Blauss agreed.
FitzGerald-Kemmett also stressed that she and Dyer are still working as part of the regional agreement committee.
“Forming a deregionaization committee in the middle of while we’re trying to have diplomatic talks is probably not going to sent the right message,” she said. “There’s a time and place for everything and now just might not be the time.”
State Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Pembroke, also attended the virtual meeting to report on state developments regarding coronavirus and its potential economic effects on the state.
Aside from noting Gov. Charlie Baker’s extension of the stay-at-home order and closure of non-essential businesses through May 18, Cutler briefly discussed the reopening advisory board chaired by Lt. Gov. Karen Polito.
“The governor did stress this is really going to be guided by the [public health] data at the end of the day,” he said. “If that continues to trend in the right directions then I think we’ll see some reopenings after May 18. If that takes a sudden departure in any direction, then obviously that could change.”
Gov. Baker has also signed a virtual notarization law to help process legal documents, and a law to protect homeowners and tenants from foreclosures and evictions as well as credit reporting non-payments.
Cutler also reminded selectmen that town meetings may be postponed for 30 days at a time, if needed.
The Legislature is scheduled to hold its first virtual session on Thursday, April 30 to cast roll-call votes on bond legislation that requires a vote in formal session. The session could also lay the groundwork for meeting processed for work on the budget.
“We’ve heard from some economists and budget experts on what we call our consensus revenue forecast last week, and we heard some fairly dire predictions, ranging from a potential hole from anywhere from $3 billion to $6 billion for the next fiscal year,” Cutler said. “Obviously, it’s hard to pinpoint that because we’re still in the middle of the acute period here.”
He said economic recovery trends can be summarized in four letters — V, L, U and W. The V would mean a steep, rapid recovery after the economic decline during the pandemic. The L, would illustrate no immediate recovery, the U would mean a recovery after a plateau and the W, would mean a secondary downturn after a quick recovery.
“Those are the different scenarios we’re looking at, based on what’s happening on the ground and revenues,” he said. “[There’s] a lot of fluid activity, but I think Thursday’s formal process will help us on the path toward hopefully getting some form of consensus around this.”
He said a specific timeframe on budget numbers is not yet possible.
In other business, selectmen approved a placeholder article for a potential Proposition 2 ½ override.
“With no budget in place and no idea of what assessment number might come our way, I thought it was prudent to at least talk about it,” Stanbrook said. “It is not forced upon us or a reality yet.”